Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow (Pilot part 1 and 2) review

    I was skeptical of this show. Very skeptical. Which is a strange thing because I'm overall very pleased with the DC television Renaissance which is going on lately. As bad as I think the direction they're taking the movies is, Suicide Squad exempted, I'm overall extremely pleased with their television shows. Some of them, honestly, are every bit as good as the Justice League animated universe which is not praise I throw around lightly.

    So why the skepticism? First of all, all of the characters are essentially beloved side characters from Arrow and The Flash. I very strongly enjoyed Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) and the White Canary (Caity Lotz) but their addition to the show seems like it's an attempt to use ones they no longer had much room for in their current narrative. The fact the Hawks (Ciara Renee and Falk Hentschel) are infamously known in comic book circles as boring characters troubled me.

Rory's time as the Last Centurion has taught him much about being a Time Master.
    Hawkgirl managed to move a bit out of that role but I wasn't sure if they could pull off the same level of energy as was in the JLA cartoon. Furthermore, I have long maintained Firestorm has the honor of being the Lamest Superhero of All TimeTM. Even the fact he's half-played by Victor Garber left me nonplussed. In fact, Then there's the fact two of Flash's enemies are on the team seemingly for no reason also bugged me.

    I couldn't help but think looking at this Justice League International-esque group that it was a bit front loaded as well. Nine characters is a pretty big number to manage for a show, even if the superheroes are going to be taking the place of the supporting cast for one another. Throw in the fact the other DC television shows had fairly grounded premises versus this one being centered around time-travel and you had a lot of hurdles to overcome for this to be good.

    So is it?
Caity Lotz is my favorite Canary.
    It had a very rough start in Part 1 and I almost quit watching. It started to come together in the end, though, and Part 2 really managed to work well. I'm actually excited about watching the rest of the season and very glad to have given it a chance. Unfortunately, my fears about the size of the cast proved to be prescient and I'm inclined to think they'll have to be very careful about managing character time.

    The premise is Vandal Savage, another character who never clicked with me, has conquered the world in 2116. During this time, he murders the family of Time Master Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) who begs the Time Masters Council to alter the timeline to remove Vandal Savage from existence. While we don't get to see their answer, it's pretty easy to infer even as Rip Hunter decides to go back in time anyway and recruit a group of "legends." Hawkman, Hawkgirl, the Atom, the White Canary, Firestorm, Captain Cold, and Heatwave. Of the group, only Captain Cold and Heatwave suspect something is up and that they're a less than legendary group.

    The rest of the episode takes place in the 1970s as they attempt to deal with Vandal Savage's attempt to acquire and sell a nuclear bomb. The team's inexperience and lack of comprehension as to how their actions might ripple through the timeline causes a number of disasters which they have to fix. Likewise, Savage finds their attempts against him laughable because he has five-thousand years of military as well as physical training.

Professor Stein meeting his pot-smoking laid-back self is easily one of the best parts of the pilot.
    The show lives and dies based on its chemistry with the surprising stand-outs being the anti-villains. Captain Cold and Heatwave have very little interest in being heroes so watching their pragmatic lack of giving two ****s is hilarious. I'm also a huge fan of Caity Lotz's Sarah Lance and seeing her character arc continued here after it was so rudely interrupted in Arrow is great. It doesn't hurt she's a fabulously fun to watch on screen whether kicking ass, making jokes, or simply being nice to look at.

    Victor Garber does the impossible job of making me actually like Firestorm even if Franz Drameh doesn't get much of a chance to show off by comparison. Professor Stein is a character who really-really wants to be a superhero but he's about three decades too late and deeply resents this fact. The fact he looks down on Ray Palmer and other characters despite their successes make him realistically flawed in a series needing rounded characters.

Casper Crump does an exceptional job embodying a very complex character (who chooses to be simple).
    As mentioned, I've never been a huge fan of Vandal Savage. I liked him just fine in the JLA comics but his concept has always bugged me in the fact he's had 50,000 years to take over the world and hasn't managed it. That's just careless. The show manages to do some arc welding and actually deal with most of my problems regarding the character.

    Vandal Savage is shown to be someone who doesn't like being in the spotlight, unlike his comic book counterpart, and prefers to work from the shadows. He also is continuously frustrated by the Hawks even if he's usually victorious. Casper Crump looks, acts, and feels the part with a few displays of actual human vulnerability despite the fact he's a violent psychopath underneath it all.

    As for the Hawks? I actually found myself liking their arc despite the fact it had a lot of unpleasant bits like the fact Hawkman kept trying to force his reincarnation romance with Hawkgirl. They do have a couple of good moments like dealing with the fact they had children in previous lives as well as their repeated failures to harm Savage in a meaningful way.

I don't know whether I love the Hawk's costume design, hate, or love to hate it.
    I probably would be a lot more skeptical of the group but for the ending of the pilot which is a gamechanger in their relationship. I, honestly, did not see the twist at the end coming and applaud the show developers for faking me out. It provides a substantial and interesting arc for the rest of the season to follow up on as well as addresses another complaint I had about the show.

    In conclusion, is Legends of Tomorrow great? No, not even close. There's a lot of very confusing and over-the-top comic book things going on which keep the show from being grounded. The show has excellent acting and chemistry between the main characters, however, as well as several stand-out performances. If you don't mind a somewhat campy and silly superhero show then this is definitely a good one to check out.


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