Courtney Whitmore is the Jane Every girl who stumbles upon an artifact from her stepfather’s secret former life as the sidekick to the Justice Society’s ‘Starman’.
Courtney Whitmore is the Jane Every girl destined to be a superhero. A fish out of water and newcomer to Blue Valley, Nebraska, She has a mother named Barbara (Amy Smart), her stepfather, Pat (Luke Wilson), and his son/her stepbrother, Mike (Trae Romano). With no friends and no means of fitting in, Courtney accidentally stumbles upon an artifact from Pat’s secret former life as the sidekick to the original Justice Society’s ‘Starman’ (Joel McHale).
The cosmic staff, a powerful weapon with special abilities and intentions of its own, soon champions Courtney as its new owner. Making her special but above all else: pushing her to fight evil.
Let me begin by saying this opening scene in the pilot is Epic. A huge bout between Starman (Joel McHale) and the Injustice Society of America. It’s a spectacle that’s shot like a modern DC film. With cold color palettes, stunning effects, and movie quality cinematography. We also get to see Joel McHale as a superhero of poise and hilarity, stealing every minute of the scene he’s in
And though it’s short and sweet, as Starman and the JLA perish, Starman gets to tell his sidekick Stripesy/Pat, that someone special will pick up his mantle as defender of Justice with the cosmic staff… albeit, definitely not him. He iterates. Several times.
From the pilot, the premise is all about successors. As Pat is, for some odd reason, seen as unsuitable for the mantle of Starman. So the story cuts away to Courtney, whose story is a bit dry in terms of setup, as we’ve seen this superhero trope hundreds of times. Despite this, Courtney’s story can be absolutely humbling to a young girl in a Spider-Man/Peter Parker type of way. A high schooler who does not fit in her new environment, Courtney is called to fulfill a heroic destiny.
Brec Bassinger nails this role perfectly. She’s vibrant, awkward, and somewhat tacky, as the new girl trying to fit in, but the story is grounded in enough realism where it’s passable for a pilot — albeit somewhat boring. Where Courtney really stands out is that she’s relatable as her regular persona, but as Stargirl, and while wielding the Cosmic Staff: She’s an Awesome tour de force — and we’ve barely broken into the series.
Seriously, I cannot stress enough how unbelievably cool these gymnastic and magic staff abilities are and can only liken it to seeing Spider-Man web swing for the first time or watching Wonder Woman don her magic Tiara and bracers. Because of this remarkable staff and her desperation to be special, Courtney desperately wants to find if Star Man is her father, as she starts to wonder why the staff choose her to be its legacy.
Speaking of which, I cannot stress how heartwarming Pat Dugan is in being the simple yet supportive father and former sidekick to Starman. It’s not easy playing second fiddle and being the anchor of support, the Jarvis or Alfred to the superhero, yet Luke Wilson knows how to play this character. Having been the sideman for numerous projects over the years, Luke Wilson yet is every bit as endearing and supportive, as his role calls for caring uncle Ben type — a natural father who’s just there to protect and be there for his family.
It is strange, but the setting to this story tries to resemble hometown America. Like Smallville, except like something straight out of the 90s, especially when that rendition of Hanson’s ‘MMMBop’ drops in the pilot. There’s this all-American midwestern town vibe that’s reminiscent of depictions of high school in a lot of outdated TV pilots and comic books, though we’ll have to see how the series utilizes the town.
Also, in Blue Valley, Courtney deals with typical high school melodrama: mean bullies, the inability to fit in, and the inevitable campy soundtrack means to encompass all these emotions. Which given the small-town roots, means everyone knows each other, and likely everything is somewhat connected.
Which brings me to one convenient issue in the pilot: that the bullies depicted in this Middletown America, are tied to the sons of some of the show’s villains by the pilot’s end. This seems way too coincidental for my tastes and detracts a bit from the story.
I’m also not that amazed by cliffhanger and I think it works only if you’re a fan of the comic, as it didn’t leave me all that compelled.
It’s a decent premise for a fun-to-watch in action, superhero. There’s definitely more that needs to be set up but so far the cast and people hit the right beats. We just need more razzmatazz in the next episode.