The premise of Legends of Tomorrow centers (initially) around a time traveler named Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) who gathers a motley group of heroes and villains to travel through time to track, and ultimately end, the rise to power of an evil immortal dictator by the name of Vandal Savage in the 22nd century. The group of legends that has been assembled have all been plucked from The Flash or Arrow universes: the Atom (Brandon Routh), White Canary (Caity Lotz), both halves of Firestorm (Franz Drameh and Victor Garber), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), Hawkman (Falk Hentschel), and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee). Darvill’s Rip Hunter is the exception, as he is a new character to join the DC Universe.
This review is based on the pilot of Legends of Tomorrow, and with that being said, there are some very noticeable kinks that need to be worked out before this series can enjoy a success similar to that of its sibling series (Arrow and The Flash). Until Justice League hits theaters, Legends of Tomorrow is television’s answer to a dynamic, butt-kicking superhero ensemble. However, a cohesive group of superheroes taking on a weighted evil foe may still be a long time coming.
Action and Effects
One of the few successes of the pilot episode were the special effects and action sequences. Legends of Tomorrow does a good job working within a television budget and timeline to deliver some pretty solid visual effects. All of the heroes’ abilities are visually believable and fit within the show’s landscape. Other special effects, such as the CGI, were a little less successful in some places, but overall they were well done and really helped make the universe feel real.
Arguably one of the highlights of Legends of Tomorrow‘s pilot episode was the unexpected friendship between Laurel Lance, Leonard Snart and Mick Rory. This butt-kicking trio steals the spotlight early on and was one of the most interesting and believable character dynamic so far. If the show fails these three could sell another, less altruistic, spin off.
Second Chance Heroes
The band of heroes and villains on Legends of Tomorrow have all, with one exception, been introduced at some point on Arrow or The Flash. Some have been born again, resurrected literally and mentally. This is the ship of second chances, and as long as the story arc mainly focuses on action (i.e. shutting down baddies) and not epic discussions and melodrama, there could be some real adventure and fun in this group of rag-tag heroes and antiheroes.
Firestorm’s Behaving Oddly
The series pilot communicates the character dynamic between Professor Stein and Jefferson Jackson (the two halves of Firestorm) in a very strange way. The oddness centers on Stein’s eagerness to leave his family and his life behind, but is furthered by an uncharacteristic act he commits to ensure Firestorm is on the spaceship. Jackson, on the other hand, inexplicably turns down his second chance at glory by refusing to be part of the fledgling heroic team, even though previous character arcs (The Flash) have focused on his quest to reclaim his former glory. It appears Legends of Tomorrow needs to get better acquainted with its appropriated heroes.
Hold the Cheese
DC’s Legends of Tomorrow reverts to early 2000s superhero cheesiness in the worst possible sense. Read: Affleck’s Daredevil and Maguire’s Spiderman. It’s okay for television shows to have a kind of light-hearted hokiness, it works in The Flash and Supergirl, but those shows are anchored with at least a little bit of believable darkness. Grit has depth and adds a realness that connects audiences and that is what Legends of Tomorrow is missing, a touch of darkness.
From the onset, this series seems to be set on a track—good guys heading full-steam towards bad guy. Not that there is anything wrong with a linear plot, besides the fact that it’s uninspired and generally boring. If Legends of Tomorrow can break away from this predictable path it may be able to survive the mid-season cut. Come on, including villains in a group of heroes—nothing will possibly go wrong there…
Too Many Characters
For fans of Arrow and The Flash, these characters aren’t new, but if they were new—the pace of introduction, along with little to no background information, was dizzying. Most of the superhero series that are on television right now center around one main hero and have a core set of support characters; this formula for storytelling has been quite successful. Legends of Tomorrow deviates from this frame, favoring an ensemble approach. Given the underdevelopment of the show’s characters in the first episode this may prove to be disastrous in future episodes. This approach also leaves confusion around who the “leader” of the group is. Rip? Surely not. Needless to say, Legends of Tomorrow‘s large cast may prove to be another chink in the show’s already dented artifice.
More Rip Than Hunter
Arthur Davill’s Rip Hunter is all flash and no substance, save a scene near the end of the episode in which his more personal motivation for hunting down Savage becomes clear. He may come to be pretty non-essential given that he has no super powers and his only discernible skill is flying a spaceship. Although Rip Hunter is an actual DC hero, his recent incarnation is a cheap knock-off of the Doctor (Doctor Who) and the prolific Captain Reynolds (Firefly)—the laser pistol is not going to cut it.
Lacks Chemistry and Group Dynamics
This group of eight legends was hand selected by Rip Hunter, but because the group didn’t come together on their own there is bound to be a certain amount of discord which, if properly managed, could prove to be an interesting storytelling device. Unfortunately, from the onset the group’s general awkwardness is overwhelming, even hardcore superhero enthusiasts can’t square it. Characters that should have chemistry, Hawkgirl and Hawkman, are simply awkward and in their case lacking romantic connection. As a group of heroes the characters don’t mesh and are only saved by the action sequences, because when they stand around and chat it gets weird quickly.
Unfortunately for Legends of Tomorrow, a good superhero story is only as good as its villain is evil. Vandal Savage, played by Casper Crump, is an incredibly lame bad guy. For those of you who saw his debut on the The Flash/Arrow December crossover episode and were expecting Savage to graduate into next level main evil bad guy territory, prepare to be disappointed. Billed as an evil immortal dictator, at the series onset we encounter Savage amongst a burning ruin of a city where he commits one evil murderous act. Aside from this act, and a bomb selfie, he is inactive for the entire episode. Viewers are left to assume Savage is evil rather than know that he is evil, and that completely undercuts the purpose of our heroic ensemble.