ReviewsTelevision & Film

JUSTICE LEAGUE VS. THE FATAL FIVE: Warmed Over Leftovers?

Justice League vs. The Fatal Five (2019)
Directed by Sam Liu
Screenplay by Eric Carrasco, Jim Krieg, Alan Burnett
Story by Eric Carrasco

Based on characters appearing in DC Comics
Produced by Sam Liu, Amy McKenna
Executive Producers Bruce Timm, Sam Register

Rated PG-13

Has Bruce Timm lost his touch?

Justice League vs. The Fatal Five starts out interestingly enough: in the 31st century, members of the Legion of Super-Heroes are trying to prevent three of the Fatal Five from stealing a time ship. When they fail, Starboy (Elyes Gabel) jumps into the time stream with the villains as they make their way back to modern era to rescue their comrades from prison.

OK. Easy enough.

The key to the rescue is someone or something called “Limelight” — and we quickly learn that means the Green Lantern Jessica Cruz (Diane Guerrero). One year after the time ship’s arrival (and Starboy’s sabotage of same), our villains Mano (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez), Tharok (Peter Jessop), and The Persuader (Matthew Yang King) manage to escape and start to wreak havoc on Metropolis, where the time ship has been kept so it could be studied by Superman (George Newbern) and Mr. Terrific (Kevin Michael Richardson).

Susan Eisenberg and Kevin Conroy round out the Justice League as Wonder Woman and Batman, respectively, but there’s something … off about the performances. It doesn’t feel exactly like their characters from the animated Justice League series. And why they didn’t get Danicka McKellar to play Miss Martian is a mystery — probably a scheduling thing. Daniela Bobadilla does a creditable job, but it seems like a missed opportunity to promote the return of Young Justice

Anyway, the long and short of it is that Jessica keeps having nightmares about a shooting in the woods, where she barely escaped with her life. We get an establishing scene where she’s seeing a therapist about it, doesn’t want to put on the ring, reluctant hero, we get it. But… there’s no corresponding moment at the end of her arc to really resolve this. Yes, she steps up when it counts — what hero doesn’t? — but why are we constantly getting Green Lanterns who are so riddled with self-doubt?

There’s a time jump early in the story, and it’s not very clear when it happens. Batman rescues an amnesiac Starboy, who ends up at Arkham Asylum until he sees the Fatal Five on the news. Then he remembers pieces of his past, remembers he has powers, but they’re not stable because he has to regularly take a drug to keep him on an even keel, and that drug doesn’t exist in the present, his past.

The story moves forward pretty well, but it just feels a bit… sloppy. Maybe it’s the writing. Maybe it’s the fact that Andrea Romano is gone. But this feels like someone else is playing with Bruce Timm’s toys and isn’t quite getting it right. And I don’t know why I say that. There’s not one glaring moment I can point to as a basis for this. It’s just a feeling I get watching this film, something feels … not cohesive.

Maybe it’s the fact that Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are essentially reduced to supporting characters in a movie that’s supposed to be about the Justice League. It’s even in the title. I don’t know. Maybe I need to watch it again.

Starboy and Jessica have absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. The film doesn’t set them up in a romantic way, but tries to show us that they’re both broken, facing demons, but it comes off stiff and pedestrian. Neither of them have any real character development. They’re each full of tropes that we’ve seen before, and it starts to get predictable after a while.

The final confrontation left me scratching my head, too, as the structure of how it played out left blood on the floor and several bits and pieces of plot unresolved. Tiny moments, but enough to make me wonder “Hey, what about….?” But that gets into spoiler territory.

It’s an OK film. It’s not as good as Justice League from back in the day, but I guess we’re never going to have that show in exactly the same way again.

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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