With everything going on at Warner Bros. as far as the DC universe goes, it might be nice to go back to a time when the team was (maybe) thriving, all our favorites were (sort of) there, and things they seemed simple, more or less. Granted, the 1997 Justice League of America movie isn’t what most would call “good” and is almost in the “90s is unintentionally funny” category, but we’re here to talk about it 25 years later because this thing is an unrecognized piece of nerd history, no matter how poorly the original Batgirl treatment was received and swept under the rug. It’s less about the humble beginnings of the Justice League and more about tragic adventures in an alternate reality: that of a made-for-TV movie that never really stood a chance.
There’s no Batman, no Superman, and no Wonder Woman, those characters were attached to projects the company thought could really get off the ground, and the classic trio couldn’t have helped that project in any way. Instead, viewers find themselves seeing the heroes of New Metro City, which is like Metropolis, but obviously more Canadian and low-budget. An interesting, but not inscrutable team-up that sees Green Lantern, Flash, The Atom, Fire, and a surprise leading role for Martian Manhunter as comic book heroes brought to life off the page on a shoestring budget.
It seems like a solid lineup that should have been easy to work with, but there needs to be a point of presentation for the audience. Enter Tora Olafsdotter: Ice (Kimberly Oja), who we see getting her powers by accident, while the others are already active heroes. The origin stories that are explained seem a bit weak or contain laughable elements. In fact, all of these characters are presented as the softer alternate versions of a more relaxed world.
Here, several of the heroes live together and barely survive. Ray Palmer (John Kassir) is a high school teacher, not even a college professor, Beatriz Bonilla Da Costa (Michelle Hurd) is an actress who struggles when she’s not wearing green, and the world’s fastest man, Barry Allen (Kenny Johnston). ) is unemployed, even though he is supposed to be a genius and can’t find anything but work for the Postal Service. They wanted their own version of Joey from Friends, so he has to appear as a free-loading bum.
The real shame in this, though, is probably Guy Gardner (Matthew Settle), who served as a police officer, social worker, and bar owner in the pages of the comics. To make sure he’s the most sterile version of a Green Lantern Corps member, in this world he’s a software salesman who focuses more on his failed relationship than anything else.
None of them are particularly adept at using their powers or doing much with them, though there are some notable attempts at heroism when they do come out. The action scenes are abrupt and almost whimsical. Atom has an interesting transformation into himself shrunken, but he uses it to save a cat under a house from bad weather when he seemed perfectly safe there.
The inclusion of J’onn J’onzz (David Ogden Stiers) sees him in a more of a supporting role, often in the shadows or at his underwater base, and many have pointed out that while he’s played by a good actor, he doesn’t play a good actor. Don’t physically look the part. We see his shape-shifting abilities as he briefly transforms into the villainous Dr. Eno (Miguel Ferrer), who is poorly hidden as Tori’s boss, when in reality he is The Weather Man, a watered-down version of the wizard Weather. It’s one of the best parts of the movie, so it’s easy to let it slide. It’s also funny that Ferrer continues to voice Weather Wizard in the Superman: The Animated Series cartoon, which was a definite improvement.
To make sure no one takes this movie too seriously, the tone changes from the very first scene, which is sort of a real world style segment or MTV mock interview. The characters are dressed in casual clothing and talk about their current superhero escapades in the past, letting us know that they all survive. These segments have their real names and superhero names, as well as showing them discussing their issues and relationships, or cutting into each other, so the big question is: who are they for? Maybe they’re only known to audiences, or they’re set years after the events of the movie, but either way, those interstitials don’t flow with the rest of the content and even when they stop being jarring, these pieces always feel like they were. they added later to complete the runtime. By having subplots that show individual team members trying to protect their secret identities, these recorded conversations are quite rare.
This sitcom-like approach is probably one of the best signs of just how bad of a time the Justice League of America was. No one took superhero movies seriously enough to give a big budget to a TV project like this and it shows, especially in some of the visuals, the cheap costuming, and especially the writing. The film had two directors: the first was Félix Enríquez Alcalá, a man experienced with the role but incapable of giving much thought to what he was given, and that was before Lewis Teague was brought in to try to embellish and enhance the material. . . Teague said there simply wasn’t enough time or money to make the necessary changes and asked that his name be removed, which is always a good sign.
It can be hard to find information on how Justice League of America performed for CBS when it aired, since not everyone agrees on whether or not it aired in the United States. We know that the film was released, as planned, in many international markets, and some believe that it opened on December 28 of that year in the United States without promotion, in a time slot that caused most viewers to pass by. high failure. However, there is a large group of people who claim that the movie was never shown here, or if it was, not nationally as originally planned. This means that many local affiliates would not carry programming at all. Either way, he claims that very few people saw the film in 1997, and a decent English copy wasn’t available online in its entirety until 2015. That made the long-forgotten film hard to watch before, aside from a few international releases with English. subtitles and pirated copies sold at conventions. Even now, no one who owns the rights wants to acknowledge the masterpiece, as it has never been on any of DC’s official streaming services and is mostly on unaffiliated YouTube channels.
If the TV movie had done well, it would have acted as a mild pilot for an ongoing Justice League series, similar to the much better but still troubled one made for the previous year’s Marvel TV movie, Generation X. Hard to say that it quite needed a show, or whether leaving just this unique example of an early attempt at a Justice League movie was the best decision, but many fans were curious. The 1997 Justice League of America movie isn’t particularly bad compared to many other projects released around that time, but it’s about to cross that “so bad in some ways it’s good” line. There are some funny moments and just about enough time for viewers to learn to love these goofy versions of the characters, but when Fire’s somewhat creepy love interest story is just as exciting as what happens with the main villain, this isn’t a good fit. indicator. In the end, at least Justice League of American wasn’t DC Comics’ worst film release that year; they also gave us Batman and Robin six months early.