Friday, September 11, 2020

Return of the Champions of Justice

Return of the Champions of Justice (aka The Champions Five Supermen aka Vuelven los Campeones Justicieros)
Federico Curiel

Less than a year after Champions of Justice (1971), our band of luchadors are back…well some of them, Blue Demon, Mil Mascaras, and La Sombra Vengadora (now known as the Jalisco Thunderbolt) are all present and joined by, The White Phantom, and The Hornet. They are still shirtless and riding motorcycles during the opening credits and that’s all that is important. The little people are back too but more on that later. Rest assured that wrestling happens, car chases go on forever, and everything looks like it was shot in a high school.

"I am going to have the weirdest sunburn."

Where Champions of Justice plays out like a particularly deranged spy movie, Return of the Champions of Justice is a horror movie. The film opens a man killed in virtual darkness by a band of squealing little things. It’s an immediate statement that this film is not going to be a carbon copy of its predecessor. That doesn’t mean it's going to be any good, but at least it’s going to be a little different. Return of the Champions of Justice takes place in dingy buildings, abandoned dirt roads, and the ruins of churches. There is a gloomy atmosphere over the whole production, some of that is due to the rushed production and low budget, but it works for the film.

White Phantom and The Hornet are fun additions even if they don’t make big impressions. I would like to make a special shout to the Jalisco Thunderbolt for again being the biggest jobber on the team. In the previous film, he was captured and mind-controlled to fight his teammates, in this one, he is the lone lucha introduced getting the snot kicked out of him by random thugs. Blue Demon has to helicopter in to save him.

"Everybody thinks I'm Santo but nobody thinks you're competent."

Aside from wrestlers, the other signature element of Champions movies is little people, and Return does feature a team of dwarves. Return introduces Black Cat and her team of Micemen. The Micemen are little people in fursuits who have a poisonous bite. They swarm their opponents and a single chomp can kill. Effectively this pits our luchadores against the Killer Shrews. When the Micemen are hidden by darkness and bad camera angles they retain a little menace, but the moment you see their cute little furry costumes they become the height of ridiculousness. It’s this friction between silly and threatening when the Champions films really hit their stride. One of Return’s biggest issues is that it holds off on the Micemen for nearly an hour before really throwing them at our heroes.  

Return of the Champions of Justice does forge its own identity of sorts, but it never hits the loopy heights of the former film, it is a bit too slow and the relatively simple conflict comes across as muddled and uninteresting. Still, it is worth a view if you are a luchador fan. There are plenty of fun moments to keep things from becoming too dire. 

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