Fight for the Future
(NOTE: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.)
Crossovers are as integral to the comics world as flashy foil covers and weird Hostess Fruit Pie ads. Whether born out of a creative desire to play prominent characters off of one another or an effort to perk up sagging sales, the novelty of wrangling our favorite heroes and villains under the same roof is one that isn't about to run out of steam. Folks love a good team-up, and for fans of the CW's smash comic-inspired shows, DC's Legends of Tomorrow intends to be their dream come true. Disparate faces from "The Flash" and "Arrow" have been gathered together and sent on a rollicking mission across time itself, a concept that sounds like a hoot, until one runs into the first of many hiccups throughout the journey. During its sixteen-episode first season, Legends of Tomorrow just brings further attention to all those little plot holes and inconsistencies that we've naturally come to gloss over in far-fetched tales of fantasy such as this. This comes as a result of stopping constantly to remind the audience of rules that it's going to break in a matter of minutes anyway, amounting to a series that's ambitious but low on consequence.
In the year 2166, the world as we know it will crumble at evil's feet. The immortal tyrant Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) has completed his goal of global domination, an event that will pass by unheeded by a collective known as the Time Masters. However, Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a rogue member of the group whose family fell victim to Savage, refuses to allow this madman to win, stealing a decked-out timeship and coming back to our era to recruit some figures who just might be able to help him out. There's the White Canary (Caity Lotz), an assassin trying to put a damper on her urge to kill; temperamental bad guys Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell); the Atom (Brandon Routh), a scientist with a special shrinking suit; the reincarnated demigods/lovers Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) and Hawkman (Falk Hentschel); and Dr. Stein (Victor Garber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), who combine to form the nuclear hero Firestorm. Together, this ragtag crew joins Hunter on his quest to track Savage throughout time and try putting an end to his horror before it begins. But this job is easier said than done, as not only does the team contend with Savage's forces, they also end up grappling with their own doubts, struggling to prove themselves worthy of saving the future and becoming the legends Rip knows they'll be.
Being a network television show with only so much cash to spare, DC's Legends of Tomorrow isn't bursting with variety in regards to its time-hopping storylines. Save for the odd episode that features the gang tooling around the '50s or the Old West for a spell, Rip's crew spends a good stretch in whatever era their quest leads them to, and even then, period flavor takes a back seat to confining the action to nondescript clearings or warehouses. The routine becomes stale after a while, but it's all worth it, so long as the characters get compelling busywork in the meantime -- which is where the series runs into its next great stumbling block. It's only natural for Legends of Tomorrow's plots to indulge in the same sort of relationship drama and betrayals as its brothers on the CW, but with its truncated season order also apparently came the desire to blaze through said story threads. Though there's always something happening, none of it sticks around for very long, a hesitance to take time and develop matters hanging over each episode. Alliances change on a dime, romance boils down to a game of hot potato, and twists don't resonate much as they should; the show wants the shock that comes from shaking things up, only to take them back in one way or another immediately and lose the desired effect.
For as big a part as time plays in its premise, Legends of Tomorrow does little with the conceit that's legitimately clever. Bones are thrown in the form of a Pacific Rim-style throwdown with a giant robot or a shootout with futuristic weapons in olden days, but mostly, it's just Rip lecturing the team about not taking certain actions that might alter history, only for the show to then thumb its nose at continuity anyway. Stakes are nigh meaningless when you're sure some excuse is just around the corner, rendering the crew's trek across the centuries a lethargic crawl. As the actors go, most feel only committed enough to sell the metaphysical jargon and sciencespeak they must recite, though a few standouts emerge over the course of the season. Purcell and Miller have fun hamming it up (with the latter earning a surprisingly solid character arc), Routh comes across as appealingly nerdy, and with an accent that's hard to pin down, you can buy Crump's Savage as some dude who's spent millennia sowing evil's seeds all over the world. Easter eggs for DC fans are few, though viewers are likely to get a kick out of the show's cameo line-up, which includes a nice guest spot for Johnathan Schaech as everyone's favorite disfigured gunslinger, Jonah Hex.
For what should've been the comics giant's most dazzling, daring, and epic series to date, DC's Legends of Tomorrow plays things disappointingly safe. The season's last episode promises an even bigger romp through the publisher's canon of characters and worlds, but judging from how scattershot the quality of its sixteen installments were, whether round two's execution will do its scope justice remains up in the air. Far from the worst piece of media to bear the Distinguished Competition's initials this year, Legends of Tomorrow still succeeds in stifling an idea that could have easily been something big.
BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
-Footage from the show's 2015 Comic-Con panel.
(Released by Warner Home Video. Not rated by MPAA.)