Friday, February 5, 2010

JSA: Just Stay Away - Smallville: Absolute Justice

Smallville – “Absolute Justice”

I waited all this time for this? Months of hype. Cool trailers and pics. This Smallville “movie event” was absolutely DULLSVILLE.

First of all, Smallville "jumped the shark/kryptonite tank" at least four if not five years ago. Series star Tom Welling, playing "young" Clark Kent is starting to look OLD (he’s 33 this year). At this rate Clark will be over 40 by the time he puts on the red and blue tights. Is that what you want Smallville fans?

The CW network appears to be using Smallville as a testing ground for possible superhero spinoffs. They can essentially do a pilot as an episode or two of Smallville to gauge interest; that way they can save some serious money. Either that or they’re simply trying to bring every DC Comics character to the small screen.

In this story someone is killing off people with mysterious, and linked, pasts. We see these people – Wesley Dodds, Sylvester Pemberton, Carter Hall, and others – in black and white flashbacks. It turns out that Dodds and the others once went by different names: Sandman, Star Spangled Kid, Hawkman. And they all came together a generation ago to form the Justice Society of America (comics first superhero team). Just how long ago it was this happened is kept vague. But it has to be long enough for EVERYONE to forget they ever existed. So let’s charitably call it 30 years. However none of them looks older than 45, so they must have been the JST: Justice Society of Toddlers.

The superhuman killer uses ice spears to kill his victims; he is called – get this – Icicle. That is truly one of the lamest super-villain names ever (it sounds like the name of Santa's elf sidekicks). And the actor who plays him, Wesley MacInnes, comes across as a snot-nosed punk. And he's got a faux-hawk, which is the new mullet. Plus he seems to just appear and disappear at will. I guess cold gives him the ability to teleport?

There’s a ton of eye candy in this story, courtesy of writer Geoff Johns and the prop department. In a trophy case in the JSA’s mansion you can see original Flash Jay Garrick’s “FTD florist” helmet, Green Lantern’s lantern, Shayera’s Hawkgirl helmet, and other mementos for Mr. Terrific, Wildcat and more.

Hawkman is played by Stargate’s Michael Shanks and when he dons the helmet he does a poor Christian Bale "Batman voice" imitation for some reason. It was really silly. Dr. Fate is played by Andromeda’s Brent Stait and he comes across much better, although I wish they didn’t alter his voice so much when he wears the helmet. And rounding out these retro heroes is Brittney Irvin as Stargirl (Star Spangled Kid, version 2.0). She fits the part, with her blond all-American girl cheerleader looks, but as with a lot of Smallville's guest cast choices she's not a very good actress.

It turns out Popsicle Boy (there’s a name!) was being used by Amanda Waller (Pam Grier, looking old and confused about being in a superhero show), the head of a shady group called Checkmate. She wants to bring back the superheroes because there’s an apocalypse on the horizon. Or something.

I hate that this two-parter was just basically a set up for something else. Clark Kent was a bystander in the whole thing, not being necessary to this story one iota. Lois pops in late for some reason and gets the scoop on the JSA (mostly off camera). Chloe and Oliver do their Chloe and Oliver thing.

I just felt the storytelling was rushed and muddled. It was all about the JSA and not the Smallville regulars. It truly was a JSA pilot episode. There were a few cute bits, like Hawkman and Green Arrow getting on each other’s nerves (name calling and acting like 12 year olds being a superhero team-up tradition). Lois meets Dr. Fate and tells him, “Nice helmet.” “Thanks,” Fate quickly responds. Early on there were some Super-Friends jokes too. But there wasn’t much more to this episode.

There was no true sense of wonder to be had in the whole two hours; early episodes of Smallville were able to accomplish this. It all seemed like a response to cash in on the retro-heroes seen in the Watchmen movie; the opening credits of that film was heralded by everyone, regardless of how they viewed the movie itself. The Incredibles also did the "government hunted us old heroes out of existence" story as well, so there was no new ground covered in "Absolute Justice."

And I’m tired of characters TELLING Clark he’s "going to be something special one day," that he's "going to be a leader," that he’s "going to inspire people." One day, some day, schum day. Smallville is in its NINTH season and Clark is still LEARNING to be a hero and BEING TOLD he will become a symbol and inspiration. It makes you wonder what kind of education system Smallville and Metropolis have if Clark is so damn slow on the uptake. It really tarnishes the character of Superman to drag it out so incredibly long. (Not to mention Lois constantly sees Clark without glasses, so that little fairy tale device of not recognizing him as Superman has been effectively neutered.)

Smallville needs to spin off some superheroes, Clark Kent needs to become Superman. And the show needs to end. SOON.

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