Justice League of America is an unsuccessful 1997 television pilot produced by CBS and directed by Félix Enríquez Alcalá, based on a team of fictional DC Comics superheroes from the comic of the same name. The film centers on a female meteorologist who gains superpowers and is later inducted into the “Justice League,” while the city of New Metro is held for ransom by a terrorist armed with a weather control device.
The film is interjected with mock-interviews of members of the Justice League, speaking about life as a superhero in a past tense, preceding the events of the film.
The film’s plot is based on the Justice League comic era of Keith Giffen & J. M. DeMatteis (writers).
Watching the clip below the movie, anybody else get that feeling of a mix of Melrose Place and Power Rangers rolled into one? That’s pretty much what I got mostly from that.
As far as this goes, there is no Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman in this show because this is based on the Justice League International series of comic books.
Writer J. M. DeMatteis was given the Justice League title after finishing the previous Justice League of America series. Paired with writer Keith Giffen and artist Kevin Maguire he set out to create a “big seven” title similar to the original lineup and Grant Morrison’s subsequent JLA title. However, at the time, Superman was being revamped by John Byrne’s reboot while George Pérez was handling the relaunched Wonder Woman and Mike Baron was handling his relaunch of The Flash. Aquaman was off limits as well due to the character being in creative limbo for some time. According to the introduction to the trade paperback of the series, Denny O’Neil took pity on the team and gave them Batman to be used in the series. Dr. Fate’s inclusion coincided with DeMatteis and Giffen writing a Dr. Fate series. Editor Andy Helfer (also editor of Green Lantern at the time) suggested using the newer Guy Gardner instead of Hal Jordan. The resulting comedic tone was Giffen’s idea; in terms of the industry, it served as heavy competition compared to Marvel Comics’ grim and gritty titles. The title would introduce new characterizations to old characters: Guy Gardner was now a loutish hothead, Captain Marvel was no longer a separate personality but retains Billy’s personality, Booster Gold was greedier and more inept than he had been in Dan Jurgens’ series, and Black Canary’s personality was written as a strong feminist. DC Comics Bonus Books appeared in issues #18 (October 1988) and #24 (February 1989) and featured extra stories of JLI members by new comics creators.
Justice League International was created after the 1987 company-wide crossover and limited series, Legends, when a new Justice League was formed and given a less America-centric mandate than before. Following the events of both “Legends” and “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, the new League also gave DC an opportunity to mix characters that represented different universes or histories prior to the mid-eighties. While Batman, Martian Manhunter and Black Canary maintained the connection to the former League, Blue Beetle was a recent acquisition from Charlton Comics, Doctor Fate was from Earth-2, Mister Miracle was brought in from (Jack) Kirby’s Fourth World and Captain Marvel was previously on a separate Earth populated by characters from Fawcett Comics. Doctor Light was a new addition, making her first appearance during the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” storyline, while Guy Gardner served as the legacy hero for Green Lantern.
The series would go on to become nominated as “Best New Series” in 1988 by the Harvey Awards but was beat out by Paul Chadwick’s Concrete. It would also feature Adam Hughes’ first work for a major comic publisher.
The term JLI covers several different names for the series, including the first six issues, which were titled simply as Justice League, and the later issues when the book was renamed Justice League America (without the “of”). Another spin-off, Justice League Europe, was renamed Justice League International (vol. 2) toward the end of its run.
So with that history lesson out of the way, let’s actually talk about this movie and…yeah, it’s pretty bad.
Because this was produced for CBS as a primetime show, you can start to see some of the problems coming into play because like what CBS did with Supergirl, they try too hard to simplify this story for older audiences for a show that is clearly intended for more younger audiences, kids and teens, and also they tried to copy the format of the most popular show at the time, Friends. One critic actually called this “Friends with superpowers” and it’s pretty much that only nowhere near as watchable as Friends or as funny.
The whole thing is a joke, nobody goes into this wanting to make something exciting or enjoyable, for 1997, there was a chance for this to be something groundbreaking and incredible but no, they took the cheap way out right down to the casting.
It says something when the biggest names in your show is the Cryptkeeper (John Kassir), Bernard The Elf from the Santa Clause movies (David Krumholtz), Cogsworth from Beauty & The Beast (David Ogden Stiers) and Amber from Clueless (Elisa Donovan). The casting in this makes no sense at all, Kassir plays The Atom, Ogden Stiers playing the Martian Manhunter…really? His weight isn’t even accurate to Manhunter and it shows here.
There is no love here for these characters, this Justice League Of America pilot is so studio driven to make it have universal appeal even if it means taking crucial elements of the comics out of the series, this is nothing but a bad clone of everything that was popular at the time, not just Friends but Melrose Place and Power Rangers. This is just a huge waste of time and money from people who clearly had no interest in making this great at all. Thank god the world was not subjected to a TV series based off of this shitheap.