This movie isn’t merely ignoring the comic universe, it’s puking large pieces of colorful barf all over it.
Let’s do a little word association. If I said “direct to video,” you’d say “first, I want those nude pictures of Ted Danson you promised,” and I’d admonish you and have you dragged out of the room. But pretend I hadn’t led you astray with promises of a little Becker fantasia, and you’d be likely to say something like “failed TV pilot” or “knock-off of a big budget picture” or “installment #801 in my Columbia House Anime subscription.” All of these are valid responses, but you’ve overlooked a lesser-known but still important piece of the direct-to-video puzzle: the “someone will buy this without really looking at it” piece. And that omission is why you don’t get the Danson photos. Now get the hell out of my office.
We should not underestimate the importance of the “buying without looking” market, for they fill the very important niche of being there when a person has a need to buy any old thing they happen to see in a store. Take this here Justice League movie – you can set your standard as low as you like and this movie will fail to meet it. Often the creators know it’s a piece of junk and put it on the market simply to recoup a few of the bucks they sunk into a very not-worthwhile endeavor. But one day someone’s grandson is having a birthday, and Gran remembers he likes comic books, and there’s a Justice League movie sitting in the Clearance section, and four to six dollars are plonked down. The video usually then sits in the closet for a decade or two, while the plonked dollars go to fuel some horrid idea or other that eventually goes direct to video.
This diminutive tale begins at the Eno Meteorological Institute in New Metro, USA, and specifically on shy, plucky weather researcher Tori Olafsdotter. Ominous clouds and even more ominous synth music lurk above, but Dr. Eno wants not to study the clouds but to add echoey guitar overdubs to them. What could be causing the first hurricane in New Metro, USA’s history? Ah, Tori knows – it’s some guy called The Weatherman, hijacking the teevee and threatening a massive storm! Dr. Eno thinks they better “check this out.” No wonder they named the institute after him!
But just as every rose has its thorn, every villainous weather-manipulating scheme has a squadron of superheroes to thwart it, and we meet ours in a strange series of sit-down documentary interviews. Barry “Flash” Allen is up first – no, that’s some kind of pod, because the real Barry Allen isn’t an unemployed drifter who likes to “get some sushi… have a picnic or whatever.” (Later, Barry whines about not being able to find a job where he belongs. “What are my special skills,” complains The Fastest Man Alive.) And that pretty boy, hiring a string quartet and opening a bottle of bubbly… that’s “Guy Gardner, Computer Salesman”!?!
Guy Gardner knows this much is true, and can get you 10% off MS Word 97. Inset: The actual Guy Gardner.
This isn’t merely ignoring the actual comic universe, it’s puking large pieces of colorful barf all over it. Not that this is by definition a bad thing – how many times has Green Arrow “died”? – but turning beer-and-brats Guy Gardner into the guy from Spandau Ballet is not an improvement. B.B. Da Costa – also known as Fire – informs us that she “loves acting… you get these fabulous parts” – and to underscore the irony, she’s then spotted in a banana suit. These people should not be dissing the Fruit of the Loom gang, who can out-act anyone in this movie and probably have more super powers, too. (Purple Grape can fly, shoot rays of grape energy and can train dogs to use online bill pay.) Finally, Ray “Atom” Palmer and his nerdy bowtie show up to be laughed at, but that never worked for Rob Schneider, so… suffice to say we’re seven minutes into the movie and I’m already scouring the web for a Ball-Peen Hammer to Eye Socket specialist to just get this all over with.
Using the immense power of a white dwarf star, the Atom shrinks to microscopic size and lightly nudges a cat.
Now that we’ve got introductions out of the way, it’s time for catastrophe, and I don’t mean the script! The Weatherman’s evil storm causes minor storm damage, and the Justice League performs astounding feats of heroism that could be done by most municipal utility crews. Green Lantern uses his power ring to slightly move a downed phone pole. Fire rescues some dudes from a construction site. And the Atom helps a grandma get her cat out from under a porch. Lazy, stupid, bewildered-by-seafood Flash somehow comes up with a useful idea and counteracts the hurricane’s spin with super-speed. The Weatherman is reduced to shaking his fist on a large TV monitor somewhere, and the Leaguers all go back to their civilian lives. Which is, unfortunately, the bulk of the remaining plot – hanging around the Justice League’s apartment. Ever wanted to see the most powerful beings in the world watch reruns? Here’s your chance. We also get a lot of scenes where Guy tries to woo his impatient girlfriend with ice cream, and a creepy teen stalker follows B.B. everywhere she goes, but the less said about these the better.
Either I just acquired super ice powers, or I’m the lady in that Tom Petty video.
Tori is about to become a superhero herself, accidentally getting into some cryogenic whatchamajig at the Eno lab while Philip Glass and The Edge lay down some overdubs. This makes her turn everything she touches into ice – well, maybe not everything. About every sixth thing. Plus, she can now go fishing with indigenous Alaskans without needing to pack extra luggage. Tori catches the League’s attention when her ice powers accidentally save a skateboarder who’s drowning in about a foot of water. The League members suspect she might be the Weatherman – apparently none of them have super “noticing the villain’s name isn’t the WeatherWOMAN” powers – so they knock her out with gas, bring her to a secret lab and force her to answer questions posed by, um, Santa? God? Orson Welles? Whoever it is, he’s got David Ogden Stiers’s voice.
It’s more Donald Pleasance than J’onn J’onzz, really
The real Weatherman, as any regular human must know by now, is Dr. Eno, whose sinister criminal motive is to raise funds for his weather institute, and to make more albums with David Byrne. Tori catches him making another threatening video during an institute fundraiser – maybe that’s why they don’t have any money? She meets up with the League again, and this time they invite her to join, after introducing her to David Ogden Stiers, who is not a disembodied voice but the Martian known as J’onn J’onzz. J’onn explains that he founded the Justice League to protect freedoms that Martians don’t have (shouldn’t someone go help the Martians out?), and he teaches each new Leaguer to use his or her powers. He can also transform his appearance, which helps Fire out of a tight spot when her stalker figures out her secret identity, but creeps out anyone who hoped never to hear David Ogden Stiers talk about pants chafing his thighs. Anyway, Tori isn’t sure about becoming a superhero, but Atom gives her an astonishingly long support group-style “I’ve been there, man” pep talk and she decides to help after all. At which point the League goes off to fight the Weatherman without her. The League could really use someone with the power of super-continuity.
Now up to this point we haven’t seen the League really do anything close to fighting – and that’s because they really suck at it. At one point the Weatherman uses a heat ray on the League’s underground lair, and Green Lantern shrieks “We’re trapped!” UM EXCUSE ME BUT DON’T YOU HAVE A POWER RING, CLOWN? He finally finds Eno on a mountaintop, but then stands there looking confused while the supervillain sets off a city-wrecking tidal wave. It’s Tori who saves the day by turning the tidal wave into ice, which earns her a new costume and a flashy superhero name: Ice. Hey, at least with that name she can double as an American Gladiator. The first order of business for the new Justice League is for Ice and Atom to go on a lunch date.
Yes, they play “Limbo Rock” while Atom does the limbo under a laser beam. Yes, it’s stupid.
I just checked the expiration dates on everything I had for breakfast and it checked out, so I really did just watch that. And while it wasn’t memorable or enjoyable in any way, I did at least learn that you can make a superhero movie without a budget, special effects, or anyone doing anything remotely super. Very mildly recommended, and only then so because it’s so odd.