DC may want you to forget about Zack Snyder’s divisive 2017 live-action Justice League film, but the comic book giant really doesn’t want you to see the 1997 television film Justice League of America. This film stands tall as an example of a superhero adaptation gone wrong. Everything that could go wrong with a superhero script pretty much does, and it actually is kind of worth watching for how bad it is.
Justice League of America manages to look more low-budget than Power Rangers (no shade; Power Rangers is great), and the costumes are abysmal. The story focuses on a meteorologist who gains superpowers and joins the Justice League, who must battle a terrorist with a weather control device that holds the city for ransom. If you’re expecting anything cool or good about this film, you’re definitely going to be out of luck.
However, that doesn’t mean that Justice League of America isn’t entertaining. The special effects are terrible, and many of the characters are nothing like their comic-book counterparts, but it’s definitely like a train wreck you can’t look away from.
The film features a cast that includes Kim Oja as Tori Olafsdotter/Ice, Matthew Settle as Guy Gardner/Green Lantern, Michell Hurd as B.B. DaCosta/Fire, John Kassir as Ray Palmer/The Atom, Kenny Johnston as Barry Allen/The Flash, David Ogden Stiers as J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, and Miguel Ferrer as Dr. Eno/The Weather Man. While you might actually recognize a few of these actors, you can’t really hold the film against them because the script, production, direction, and just about everything else is terrible.
One glaring issue that you’ll notice throughout your watch of Justice League of America is that the aesthetic is incredibly low-budget. That’s partially because the film was working under the constraints of being a potential TV series, as it was initially released as a pilot for CBS. Of course, this pilot failed spectacularly, and the TV series was never made.
Also, this was the late 1990s, so it’s not like there weren’t great examples of superhero films out there already. Years had passed since Tim Burton’s Batman films and the Richard Donner Superman films at that point, and Justice League of America came out just a year before Blade. There was certainly potential to make a good superhero flick, but it seems like the budget just wasn’t there.
It doesn’t help that there’s the aforementioned problem that Justice League of America just didn’t make good use of its source material. While you have major characters like Green Lantern (albeit the Guy Gardner version) and The Flash, none of them get satisfying character arcs or give anyone any reason to care about them. The lack of depth makes it challenging to engage too hard in the film for any other reason than to see the terrible low-budget effort.
Justice League of America definitely came at a weird time for superhero films, and we were quite a few years out before it became one of the most dominant film genres of all time. Still, it’s certainly interesting to see how things have changed. While DC isn’t necessarily at the top of its game right now, at least it’s not releasing any Justice League of Americas anytime soon.