LEGENDS OF TOMORROW Premiere Review: Potential For a Ton of Fun
By Justin Carter
Legends of Tomorrow is something of a risk for DC and The CW (whatever that means in a world where we’ve had a movie about Ant-Man and soon ones for Aquaman and Cyborg). It’s certainly asking a lot of of viewers to be invested in the adventures of several characters Arrow and Flash have built up over their respective seasons — characters who have made sporadic appearances and have differing reception among fans.
As it turns out, that’s the show’s big hook: bringing together a bunch of people that are C-listers (if that) in the shows they originated from and elevating them to the A-squad with the leads of their sister shows. The success of this gambit is a bit murky, as the first half of the two-part pilot alternates between being dumb fun (that some may believe has been missing from comics in quite some time) and being burdened by having to split its time (heh) between its nine leads.
When our story opens, it’s 2166 and Vandal Savage is wrecking the world with war, forcing Arthur Darvill’s Time Master Rip Hunter to steal a ship and travel to the present day to bring a team together to stop him. Said team includes Ray Palmer’s scientist turned size-changing superhero Atom, Firestorm fusion buddies Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson, the very much still alive Sara Lance, reincarnated lovers and hawkpeople Kendra Saunders and Carter Hall, and element-themed criminals Leonard Snart and Mick Rory. That’s a lot of people to keep track of, and to be fair, the show does a good job of establishing who they are and what they’re about at a decent pace. The exposition may be clunky, particularly when it comes to the Hawks, but it doesn’t bring things down enough for it to be a deal breaker.
The other big question hovering over the show since Savage was revealed as a villain has been what would bring these characters together. After all, only three of them have a real beef with the guy. It makes sense where the Hawks are concerned, since he’s constantly pursued them through history to gut them thanks to his jealous rage. Savage being responsible for murdering Rip’s family was also a given, but the other six don’t have a real reason to even give much of a damn. Before the show’s premiere, I was a bit put off by the marketing decision behind calling them outcasts–only Sara, Rory, and Snart truly fit the description if we’re being honest — but then the show just up and reveals they were chosen because they largely don’t matter enough to affect the time-stream either way.
That’s a pretty good incentive for these people to stay together because it inspires them to actually do what they can to stand out from the crowd. Of all the characters who seem like they’ll benefit from this show, the Atom will surely take the crown. Brandon Routh has always been pretty good in what he’s been in, but his first shot as a superhero with the dud that was Superman Returns in some ways killed his prospects. This feels like a comeback for him, and whether intentional or not, his desire to mean something helps elevate his character from the rather obnoxious guy he was back in Arrow.
What also helps is how the show plays to the strengths of the majority of the cast. The faults of some of the newer characters admittedly carry over, like Carter’s dickishness undermining whatever it was Kendra sees in him and Jackson not having much to him other than “the kid” of the group. Kendra’s journey from barista to accepting her former life (well, lives) still isn’t entirely sold, even with her meeting her 1975 son and staying with him as he dies. It’s understandable that the show wants her to get on board with ending Savage, but there frankly isn’t enough time spent between her and her son Aldus for it to hit emotionally as it should.
But the other characters like Ray and Stein, fit their motivations perfectly, and the little moments where they talk science before Stein reveals he straight up forgot that Ray was a student of his are perfect. Caity Lotz and Wentworth Miller have a fun dynamic as Sara and Snart, and it’s a joy watching them and Dominic Purcell’s Rory beat down a bunch of bikers during the team’s journey to 1975. If the show continues down this path of letting its leads interact and just be themselves, it could definitely get by on that alone.
I’m not entirely sure how Legends of Tomorrow came to become a thing, but I think the CW could have something special on their hands. If they help some of the weaker characters grow and continue letting the better ones shine, plus keep giving some awesome comic book action on a weekly basis, this has the potential to be a ton of fun. For the moment, the first half of the pilot is solid, but definitely still feels like it’s finding itself.
- The secondary villain, Chronos, is alright, but not entirely needed in this episode. He looks intimidating and feels like he’s meant to be their Boba Fett or Darth Vader (they literally name drop those two characters, just in case you didn’t think the design was subtle enough).
- I’m convinced that half of Wentworth Miller’s lines are ad-libbed, and I love it.
- Stein drugging Jackson to get him to come on board feels like one of those things that was probably funny when writing, but doesn’t translate all that well to the screen.
- Snart and Rory’s motivations for going along with all this time travel because they want to steal stuff feels so in character and perfect that I feel a bit stupid I didn’t get that before the show came out.
- Legends of Tomorrow will be on Thursday nights at 8/7 Central, meaning that DC more or less has the entire week covered thanks to the CW, CBS, and Fox.