I’m not a huge superhero fan now, but a few years ago I was obsessed with the Justice League. I no longer indulge my taste, but one of their movies I still watch occasionally. And I’m not sorry, because among superhero movies I think it’s a rare find. (Yes, I’m geeking out).
JUSTICE LEAGUE: Crisis on Two Earths.
It’s not a movie simply about the Justice League. In fact, they are not even the prime characters any more than the villains or non J-leaguers are. The set up is of a parallel universe (in Sci-Fi this is not uncommon) where each earth–and there are thousands– has its parallel, and that parallel has a parallel, and the original earth has another parallel, which has its own parallels–like a Fibonacci sequence. The story centers on two earths. On one, all the villains we DC comic fans are familiar with are actually the heroes, the Justice League, led by Lex Luthor. The superheroes likewise are actually the villains, forming a crime syndicate. Which is really nothing like the Justice League; the only similarity being the characters’ parallel selves. Ultraman heads up this syndicate and is known as “the boss of bosses.” Anyone who ever got in his way is dead (his words).
Then we have the DC world we’re used to. Or if you aren’t, you’ll get enough idea to keep up with me. The Justice League, at the moment consisting of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Martian J’onn J’ozz, and the Flash, are hard at work constructing a new watchtower that will orbit the earth like the moon, of course being much smaller.
Lex Luthor is in the opening scene reduced to being the last survivor of his Justice League. The Crime Syndicate; Ultraman, Superwoman, Owlman, Evil Green Lantern (for lack of a given name), and Johnny–the evil Flash (the evil Martian is killed early on and is of little importance) are all set to finish him off. But in a brilliant scientific last resort he vanishes to a parallel earth, clearly having planned this in advance. After getting the Justice League’s attention, he makes his appeal: “You people are my world’s last hope.” So it begins.
The unique factor of this story is its ability to make everything on the human level. Superheroes usually are so unevenly matched with villains that the villains have to have terrifying, horrible machines and unbelievable stunts to be a problem. Nothing feels real. In this imaginary world, the playing field is leveled. The villains have exactly the same powers as the heroes, and the regular government is not completely helpless. It has one small power over the Crime syndicate: nuclear weapons. Not much of an advantage, but enough to hold Ultraman at bay for a while. The syndicate bribes the Government (America’s in the story, though it could have been every government) to keep them off their case. Literally. Enter Rose.
Rose is my personal favorite character in the story. She is the daughter of the president, in the parallel earth of course. Rose hates how her country has surrendered completely to “vicious criminals.” To justify her case, the syndicate is shown with (probably stealing) chemicals, ship’s cargo, and looting Lex Luthor’s former hide-out. Not to mention Ultraman killed the first Lady to scare the president into complying with him. Oh, yeah, Superwoman is also a self-confessed murdering psychopath, and all the villains do damage every now and then to keep up their rule through fear. (Luthor tells us this.) So, Rose is very reasonably disgusted with the system. She’s begun making speeches against the syndicate and against her father’s policy. Respectfully of course. Rose has no powers, no protection save her required bodyguards, and no money to bribe the press or the people. She has no promise of safety. Her plea is simple: “Might doesn’t make right. It may seem that way sometimes, but in the long run it’s the other way around. We’re always stronger when we’re doing the right thing.”
Proverbs 28:1 says “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous is bold as a lion.” Rose makes me think of this verse.
Rose naturally supports the Justice League when they decide to take action against the crime syndicate. She’s not blind to the fact that the people need help, especially since her father won’t advocate standing up to the syndicate. The president tells her that having a chance is “a fantasy.” They can’t do it without risking the lives of millions. Which is true, truer than they know. Rose is unmoved and wonders at his cowardice. The Martian, J’onn, reads her mind and gently tells her, “He isn’t a coward. Men who have seen battle are often among those who hold life most dear.” (Her father was a war hero.) She is surprised, but it doesn’t change her mind. She’s still angry and refuses to stop her speechmaking. Later we see her making another speech and almost being shot by Archer (evil Green Arrow for you fans). J’onn saves her and keeps watch over her because she’s a target.
What is amazing to me is that Ultraman himself views Rose as a threat. Why? She inspires the police to take action (against Archer as it turns out), and the people to believe in the power of Good. The Justice League’s actions only confirm what Rose was already telling everyone. Ultraman may not be afraid of what Rose herself alone can do to him, but he is afraid of what she can do by believing in the power of Right and inspiring the others to believe in it. So he threatens her father by suggesting they’ll take her out if he doesn’t get her under control. The same way they killed her mother. Of course the president is angry, but Ultraman isn’t worried; see, his crew has invented a bomb. (More on that later.) So, he’s got firepower now. I guess his philosophy is he who has the biggest toys wins. (He ought to watch Big Hero 6.)
Returning to Rose, she isn’t much daunted by the attempt on her life thanks to her new friend J’onn. He was watching over her for some time without her even knowing it. Now he stays by her in case there is another attempt. Eventually as they discuss the problem, Rose ends up getting him the crucial information, the location of the syndicate’s base (on the moon), of which her father has known for years. The assault on her prompts her father to finally come through for the League. So Rose tipped the scale. One young woman who had the courage to speak out against evil. Rose is not what I’d call charismatic; she’s not skilled. She doesn’t shoot any villains. She doesn’t have to. Her firm stance on what she believed in was enough.
As a Christian, I know that doing the right thing does have power. But never human power, and it can never be completely controlled by a human being. I know that I too have a protector whom I can’t see, but He is there. Rose’s power lay in stepping outside herself, while sticking to her own values. She didn’t care about getting the glory, and she didn’t get any. But she is in my book of heroines in the fiction world.
I have lots more to get into in this plot, so if this was interesting, watch for my next post.–Natasha.