'Smallville: Absolute Justice' review: Clunky, or funky fun?
Smallville‘s two-hour “event,” the introduction of the Justice Society of America to the world of Tom Welling’s Clark Kent, was alternately endearingly clunky and just plain old clunky. For viewers who only know the Superman/boy mythos according to Smallville, it must have seemed strange to have most of the series’ ongoing subplots put in storage for this week’s two-hour edition. Then again, since the villain of this piece was a faux-hawked foe called the Icicle, frozen plotlines were inevitable.
But I don’t think you had to be a regular comic-book reader to get of a small thrill out of seeing Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Sandman, and to a way lesser extent, Stargirl (sorry: plucky-cheerleader is not my idea of a fun character personality) come to life. Smallville rolled out these characters with enjoyably florid, extended flourishes, thanks in part to a script by comic-book and TV writer Geoff Johns. He conveyed origins stories through dialogue that only occasionally succumbed to portentousness. On the one hand, you got a Hawkman who said windily, “It wasn’t the throne that was important, it was my people!” On the other hand, Hawkman was also capable of fun funkiness such as fondling his mace and saying with relish, “It’s been a long time since I made someone bleed.”
Plot? Someone is killing old heroes such as the Star-Spangled Kid and Sandman. Oldies like Hawkman and Dr. Fate team up with Clark Kent (because Fate can divine that he’s the future Superman), Green Arrow, and John Jones’ Martian Manhunter (poor Phil Morris, saddled with the stiffest lines, which was only Geoff Johns doing his job, since MM also used wooden dialogue in his heyday). Their common target is the Icicle, who turned out to be a pawn of Checkmate agent Amanda Waller, who in turn may have been a pawn of, as she put it, the coming Apocalypse (or is that Apokolips?). Waller was played by Pam Grier, and seeing her just made me want to NetFlix Jackie Brown again.
The first hour contained the stand-out visual sequence: Dr. Fate donning his golden helmet and having an exciting smear of visions (including, at one point, seeing a Superman-red cape, a totem usually banned on Smallville). The second hour was more lumbering and its big fight-scene finale was unsatisfying for two reasons. First, it really didn’t seem as though it required the combined fire-power of Clark, GA, Hawkman, and Martian Manhunter to defeat a villain as lame as Icicle — even an Icicle with Dr. Fate’s super-duper helmet on. Second, I’m afraid big-budget superhero movies have made the CW-budget special effects on Smallville seem pretty skimpy.
Speaking of special effects and budgets, what did you think of the costumes? I thought Hawkman’s gigantic cowl looked as though it might break the actor’s neck (the actor being Michael Shanks from Stargate SG-1). But then, I continue to think Green Arrow’s emerald hoodie looks too lightweight, so I guess it all balances out.
If you didn’t care for Absolute Justice, don’t hold it against Johns, who’s doing some terrific action-writing in the comic books’ Green Lantern: Blackest Night series these days. If you did like it, I wonder what aspects of this two-hour extravaganza you found most appealing. Was it the sight of old characters come to TV-life? Was it the way Smallville‘s regulars (yay, Chloe!) interacted with the costumed heroes? Let me know below.
For a look at how great the Smallville: Absolute Justice ratings were, check out The Ausiello Files report.