Forgotten Films – Smallville: Absolute Justice (2010)
This is the 111th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
Superman is an iconic figure for me, as you will see when my next Forgotten Book column gets published. I grew up watching him on TV, in cartoons, and in the comics. So all the recent attention given to Man of Steel made me want to address the character again as well as some other favorite heroes.
When Smallville first premiered, I had high hopes for it. And they were soon dashed. Too much teen angst and introductions of characters who did not fit into the Superman timeline while he was a teenager. They played with the history of the character and it did not work for me. Obviously it worked for others since the show lasted ten years and over 200 episodes. This is not to say it offended my sensibilities or anything like that.
So, one day I was out with my nephew and we were looking at DVDs (something I really enjoy doing) and there was a stack of Smallville seasons. For some unknown reason I picked up Season 9 and read the descriptions on the reverse. It mentioned that the Justice Society of America made an appearance during the season. I am a fan of the JSA since I first read about them in the Justice League of America annual crossovers. In particular, I love Dr. Fate, the Spectre and Hawkman. Two of these characters were mentioned on the box and I suddenly found myself in possession of the discs.
The story is a two part segment filmed as one 84 minute movie type event for the TV show. It was written by Geoff Johns who has done some terrific comic book work. The directors were Glenn Winter and Tom Welling (who plays Clark Kent on the show).
The story begins with a man named Sylvester Pemberton being violently killed on the streets of Metropolis while Chloe (Allison Mack) cowers in a dumpster. OK, I’m already happy. Sylvester Pemberton was DC’s Star Spangled Kid in the Golden Age and not a particularly good one so killing him off works fine by me. Chloe hears him utter “Check …” before dying. At the police station she runs into Courtney Whitmore (Britt Irvin) a teenage girl who seems overly concerned about Sylvester’s death.
Investigation in the Daily Planet’s morgue reveals Pemberton was a criminal with a crime that did not seem to fit his personality. Soon another older character Wesley Dodds (Ken Lawson) aka the Golden Age Sandman is killed in a similar manner, stabbed to death with some unknown weapon and cold burns around the edges. I know this MO. This is the Icicle, an old villain of the JSA. Soon Courtney steals Pemberton’s weapon, an odd looking staff with a glowing stone.
Clark finds an old newsreel in the Planet’s file and sees a group of men who are all arrested for unusual crime such as embezzling from themselves. These are all the old members of the Justice Society – Wildcat, Green Lantern, the Atom, and the Flash. Some further checking leads Clark to Carter Hall (Michael Shanks), aka Hawkman who was the leader of the JSA, and Kent Nelson (Brent Stait) aka Dr. Fate, one of the creepiest Golden Age heroes.
Events lead to the formation of some teams including Dr. Fate and John Jones (Phil Morris) the Martian Manhunter and Hawkman and Green Arrow (Justin Hartley) who have some differences in style and temperament. They find themselves fighting the Icicle’s son, Icicle Jr. (Wesley MacInnes) who may be working for Agent Amanda Waller (Pam Grier!!!) who is heading up an organization known as Checkmate. Anyone who follows the DC universe in the last ten years knows this is someone not to be trifled with.
I won’t give away the entire story but it kept me entertained for the full 84 minutes. Dr. Fate was wonderfully creepy, Hawkman was violent (though I thought the wings should have been a little larger, they were still effective) and the transformation of Courtney into Stargirl was OK. Again, not my favorite character but still fun. She becomes the moral compass for the episodes which was not expected and I can see where future episodes could include her and Hawkman working with the SuperFriends.
In reviewing the extras on the disk I found out that in the previous season, there was an episode with the Legion of Super Heroes. I like those folks, so I guess I will be looking for Season 8 sometime soon.
Maybe I did not give the series credit for what they were trying to do. I will watch more and perhaps readdress the beginnings and evolution of the characters.
As always, these are just my views and your mileage may vary. Full season of Smallville are readily available across the web for reasonable pricing. Give it a shot.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.