DVD Review: Crisis on Earth X
The annual crossover events of Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow are some of the most hotly anticipated episodes of the Arrowverse each season and this year is no different. Across three episodes Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow will encounter Ruby Rose's Batwoman this December, in a story that will also see Tyler Hochin reprise his role as Superman and feature the first appearance of Lois Lane.
But it has a tough act to follow. Last year's Crisis on Earth X was a huge success. Like the previous crossover Invasion! it is getting a DVD release on the 3rd September and we reviewed the DVD ahead of its UK debut...
Unlike Invasion!, the four episodes that make up Crisis on Earth X are presented as one cohesive story, with the same shared title sequence that makes it feel like a four-part event than an episode of each show featuring other characters. Using the annual Justice League DC comic events as inspiration, this is the most ambitious crossover in the Arrowverse to date.
I'll be reviewing each episode again for the DVD release, but you can also read our original 2017 reviews for each episode below...
Crisis on Earth X Part 1
Crisis on Earth X Part 2
Crisis on Earth X Part 3
Crisis on Earth X Part 4
Episode 1: Supergirl
The opening episode sets the scene, featuring two characters that have never shared a moment on screen together; Supergirl's Jimmy Olsen, AKA Guardian, taking on Arrow's Oliver Queen. The Earth X presented is wonderfully dark and garish, with blood red lights cutting through the black skyscrapers, making great use of the evil alternate reality concept in which this evil Oliver kills Jimmy. (I can't say I was too upset - Jimmy Olsen is generally quite an irritating character!) The episode then flits between the four locations; the Flash taking on recurring villain King Shark, Green Arrow fighting ninjas, Supergirl fighting a Dominator (with the very on the nose comment about it being "so last year") and the Legends taking on the Sheriff of Nottingham's men in historic England. It's all wonderfully over the top, each team discussing the invitations to Barry and Iris's wedding, which forms the focal point of the story.
Watching it again out of context of the rest of the series, it's easy to note the occasion reference to events taking place that would lose the casual viewer, but fortunately Crisis on Earth X keeps things relatively tight and self-contained. What we do get instead is a great set of character moments - Alex and Sara hooking up is incredibly amusing, while Oliver and Felicity's argument over his proposal at the rehearsal dinner is perfectly cringeworthy.
But there are some lovely moments that you only get in these crossovers; the female characters hanging out at Iris's bridal shower, Felicity waking up to see Supergirl hovering in the air in her sleeping bag, Oliver and Barry sharing a moment of male bonding as they try in suits, Stein working with Cisco to separate him and Jefferson (and rather tragically talking of his future plans with his family and new grandson) while Rory generally stomps around the proceedings saying anything that is on his mind.
But it is the wedding that is the highlight of the episode and indeed one of the best moments of the entire crossover. After a gorgeous renditions of Barry's song 'Duet' by Kara from last year's musical crossover, the wedding is interrupted by Nazis, the priest is vaporised and all hell breaks loose. Seeing all the team in action (Alex and Sara ripping their dresses in unison to fight the enemy hand to hand, Supergirl battling her evil self in the skies and Cisco sending Oliver through a portal are particular highlights. It's bold, bombastic and over the top and very, very fun. The only thing that doesn't work is the cliff-hanger reveal that the evil doppelgangers are Oliver and Kara - surely this was blindly obvious?
Episode 2: Arrow
The second episode deals with the fallout of the attack on Barry and Iris' wedding and take on a somewhat darker, more violent tone, fitting with Arrow itself. However, as with all the episodes on the crossover there is no significant change between each part; Crisis on Earth X keeps the feel of the story consistent throughout, right down to the title sequence and the theme that incorporates the music of all four shows.
Outside of the chaos of the wedding attack this is the first real example of our heroes teaming up together as they track the Nazi Oliver and Kara to a secret facility. The 'revelation' that these are evil doppelgangers is a twist that falls totally flat but thankfully Crisis on Earth X gets past this quite quickly with Supergirl, Flash and Arrow teaming up to save a group of innocents from a collapsing building site after evil Kara damages it with a blast from her laser eyes. The special effects are generally good in these episode, but the CGI is a little obvious here though.
However, the episode really starts to have fun with the slow mo sequence of Arrow, Supergirl, Flash, Alex, Firestorm and White Canary suiting up to take on the Nazis. It's cheesy for sure, but deserves its place in the context of the crossover. Being the Arrow episode, we get the introduction of Green Arrow's team mates Black Canary, Wild Dog and Mr Terrific as they take on evil Arrow after he attacks Star Labs.
The big showdown with the rest of the heroes is pretty spectacular, full of violence and cool tracking shots. This is something Arrow employs well, but there's something slightly unnerving about characters like Alex from the slightly sunnier Supergirl, doing round kicks and shooting Nazi soldiers in the head. The episode of gives a do-over of Supergirl villain Metallo too, looking much more Terminator-like in his Earth X version than his original debut on that show. The cliffhanger is also pretty decent too, with a collared Barry, Oliver, Sara, Alex, Jax and Martin walking up in the harsh lights of a Nazi concentration camp on Earth X.
Episode 3: The Flash
This is the episode that really explores the Earth X setting and the horrors in entails. There's some very grim reminders of the concentration camps, right down to prisoners with labels on their chests and the scene where the captured team are marched to a trench and ordered to face the firing line is perhaps the darkest moment of the entire crossover. The debut of Russell Tovey's Ray marks the first gay super-powered hero in the Arrowverse (though not the first LGBT character), as he encounters them in the camp and is then rescued by his boyfriend, the returning (if alternate) Leonard Snart (Wentworth Miller), who is as camp and fun as ever.
A trip to an alternate Arrow-cave gives us an alternate version of Supergirl's Winn, now a battle-hardened general doing whatever it takes to destroy the Nazi forces. This gives another story element to Alex, who is well-served by this crossover, as she tries and fails to convince him that he is a good man on her world.
Over in Earth 1, there is a bit of a Die Hard style adventure for Iris and Felicity as they try to take out Nazi soldiers that have occupied Star labs, while Kara is imprisoned under a red sunlight as the nefarious Reverse Flash prepares to cut out her heart and give it to evil Kara.
This is a lot of fun, but the real meat of the episode is the Earth X stuff, culminating in another thrilling climax as Oliver attempts to impersonate his evil self to gain access to the gateway, while Flash and Ray attempts to take down Winn's super weapon, an alternate (and again far superior) Red Tornado. The action is superb, the stakes high and the shocking shooting of Martin as he attempts to open the gateway to Earth 1 makes for a shocking and tragic cliff-hanger.
Episode 4: Legends of Tomorrow
The final installment of Crisis on Earth X is the best of the bunch, packing plenty of action, huge heroic moments and some real emotional drama. The opening escape from Earth X is gripping stuff, Martin being gunned down a second time as he races to activate the gateway is tragic, while the arrival of the Legends to rescue Kara is a blast; Ray Palmer's Atom making a fantastic entrance, stopping Thawne's knife from cutting into Kara's chest and then rising to full height to take down the Nazis.
With everyone reunited, part four takes a breather to deal with the death of Martin Stein; Victor Garber has been a staple of the Arrowverse since the early days of The Flash and his presence is greatly missed. His decision to severe his connection to Jax to save him is a powerful moment and the reactions of everyone to his loss is keenly felt - even if Franz Drameh needed lessons to convincingly cry on screen!
The shot of every hero - minus Firestorm - on the bridge of the Waverider as they face off against evil Oliver is a moment six years in the making and shows just how far the Arrowverse has come; this leads to the cheesy but fit-pumping moment as they march into Star City as the Nazis attack, leading to a fantastic epic battle. The tracking shot of every hero fighting is amazing stuff, from the Flashes zipping through the city, the Arrow's engaging in hand to hand combat on the street and the Karas battling in the skies while there is some great aerial battles between the Waverider and its evil counterpart (because of course there is). There are so many big moments, it could cover a while review of its own, but scenes like Killer Frost creating an ice path into the Waverider and Nate's Man of Steel' rescue of Kara are what the crossover was made for.
The final battle is much more satisfying than the previous crossover Invasion!, which felt more like a skirmish than a showdown to stop an alien invasion. And when the bad guys have been defeated, goodbyes have been said and Barry, Iris, Oliver and Felicity are all married, it really feels like a really earned happy ending to what has truly been the best crossover to date.
The extras are minimal on the release (would it have been difficult to include a few trailers or behind the scenes discussions of the cast and crew in action?) However, the DVD does include a 45-minute interview with the executive producers of all four shows.
'Inside the Crossover' is hosted Hector Navarro and features an in depth discussion with Marc Guggenheim (Arrow), Robert Rovner (Supergirl), Todd Helbing (The Flash) and Phil Klemmer (Legends of Tomorrow). For fans of the shows and the comics upon which they were based, this is clearly a passionate discussion and there are some real insights into how the crossover was comprised, the challenges and successes of putting together Crisis on Earth X, trying to beat the highs of previous crossover Invasion! and the decision to introduce the show's first openly gay superpower hero The Ray.
It does feel a little long and self-congratulatory at times, but it does give a real glimpse of how the creative minds - all huge fans themselves - worked to put together the most successful Arrowverse crossover to date.
Some Closing Thoughts
Crisis on Earth X is the perfect purchase for those who love the Arrowverse and the crossovers in particular but are not as interested in re-watching the full shows again and again. The ambition of this installment is obvious and it is a really huge success; there was a big challenge to beat the very fun Invasion! and Crisis on Earth X absolute achieves its mission. It will be a tough act to follow - though the introduction of Batwoman this year might help!
It is a shame that this wasn't released on blu ray; there are some huge moments, plenty of action and a ton of special effects on display that really deserves the high definition treatment. It would also have been wonderful to see it released as a full TV movie format, though apparently union issues nixed that idea. The extras are minimal but good for the fans and at around £7.00, the Crisis on Earth X DVD is a real bargin that stands up to repeated viewing.