With Season 2 about to begin, Cal revisits The CW’s time-travel spin on their DC universe.
Another offshoot of The CW’s DC television universe, Legends of Tomorrow effectively plays out like the network’s answer to the Justice League, as it brings together a ragtag team of characters from Arrow and The Flash for their own separate action-packed adventure. And in addition to its Justice League influence, there’s also a welcome Doctor Who vibe to the material, which is no coincidence since co-creator Andrew Kreisberg is a lifelong fan of the iconic BBC program. Legends of Tomorrow certainly lacks the “pop” of The Flash and isn’t quite a homerun right out of the gate, but it’s a worthy addition to this superhero universe, and there’s plenty of lighthearted fun to be had thanks to brisk pacing and some impressive special effects. Still, it does fall short of snowballing into something memorable or remarkable.
In the 22nd Century, immortal tyrant Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) rises to prominence and conquers the world. A Time Master named Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) loses his wife and child at the hands of Savage, and becomes determined to defeat the genocidal maniac in the past to prevent the planet’s destruction. Alas, the all-powerful Time Council denies Hunter’s request to alter the timeline, compelling the time-travelling adventurer to go rogue. Needing help in his quest, Hunter rounds up an unlikely group of heroes: Ray Palmer/The Atom (Brandon Routh), Sara Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), Firestorm (Victor Garber and Franz Drameh), Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Mick Rory/Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), and Savage’s eternal enemies Kendra Saunders/Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) and Carter Hall/Hawkman (Falk Hentschel).
Suffice it to say, the mission to defeat Savage is not as easy as it sounds, prompting a battle that stretches across many different time periods and timelines. This allows each episode of Legends of Tomorrow to have its own distinctive visual style – there’s even an episode set in the Old West, while another adventure takes place in a grim futuristic vision of Star City. “Arrowverse” outsiders are advised to think twice before watching Legends, as the show is connected to both The Flash and Arrow, and a Supergirl crossover is on the horizon. The story would be easy enough for the uninitiated to follow, but the team of characters have a lot of baggage, and were effectively established in the other shows. (Hunter is a brand new character to this TV universe, however.) Not to mention, Savage was first setup in a two-part crossover event that ran across The Flash and Arrow. So yeah, it’s advisable to do your homework before watching this one.
Luckily, the ensemble cast is on-point, especially Darvill, who actually featured on Doctor Who as one of the Eleventh Doctor’s companions in the fifth and sixth seasons. He’s a smart pick for Hunter, and Darvill embraces the chance to play such a role, submitting a highly charismatic performance. He also handles the more dramatic material with ease. In addition, it’s nice to see Prison Break alumni Miller and Purcell here, with Miller in particular doing extremely well as the charming thief. Another highlight is the perpetually likeable Routh, getting a much-deserved second chance to play a superhero after the infamous misfire of Superman Returns, while Garber provides requisite gravitas as Professor Martin Stein. Out of the guest stars, it’s Johnathon Schaech who makes the biggest impression as Jonah Hex, and his single appearance will leave you wanting to see more of him. There are appearances from other Arrowverse characters, including Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), but there’s no sign of Barry Allen/The Flash (Grant Gustin) this season, despite his appearance in the early promotional trailer which actually suggested a whole different direction for this series.
Legends of Tomorrow was reportedly very expensive for The CW, with the series carrying the same budget as a twenty-three-episode season despite only having sixteen episodes. Especially considering the television origins and fast turnaround time, the special effects are consistently impressive throughout the colourful, enormously creative action scenes. And when the heroes are locked in action mode, the show often favours intricate tracking shots featuring many of the titular legends in one frame. Furthermore, the period recreations are fun, including many different decades in the 20th Century, as well as the aforementioned Old West. However, digital effects aren’t perfect – some of the rotoscoping work is noticeably rough at times.
On a less positive note, some aspects of the show are undeniably cheesy, and more often than not, it doesn’t feel as if the heroes are in any danger. While this does make for some enjoyable action beats, it also detracts a certain punch from the mayhem. In addition, some aspects of the season don’t really work or fail to gain full traction, including the contrived love tangents. Additionally, try as it might, Legends lacks the emotional punch of The Flash, an issue which is likely traceable to the sizable ensemble cast. Perhaps more pertinently, though, despite the constant change of scenery, there isn’t enough story material to fill these sixteen episodes (which is a shorter run than the usual CW programs in the first place). As a result, Legends does entertain, but it’s not as riveting as it should be – in fact, it often feels disposable. Season 2 of Legends (apparently a skin-of-its-teeth renewal, due to this season’s massive budget) will reportedly only consist of thirteen episodes, which may make for tauter storytelling. Fingers crossed that the story itself is more engaging.
If you’re seeking a gritty, Christopher Nolan-esque superhero show, Legends of Tomorrow is not for you. This is instead a bright, colourful series which remains bloodless for the most part, even though it does have its brutal moments, particularly in the last few episodes. I’ll certainly keep watching, especially if the roster of heroes continues to change up (c’mon, Constantine!). There’s room for improvement, but I still enjoyed this first season, corny as it oftentimes is.
- In the third episode, Rip Hunter says, “I’ve seen Men of Steel die and Dark Knights fall.” A reference to Superman and Batman, respectively.
- Amy Pemberton voices Gideon on Legends of Tomorrow, while Morena Baccarin voiced her on The Flash.
Rip Hunter’s ship is named Waverider. This is also the name of a DC Comics superhero who debuted in the “Armageddon 2001″ storyline, where he travelled into the past to stop a future dictator.