Legends Of Tomorrow: 1.01, 1.02 Pilot Parts 1 & 2
How would you like to watch a TV show where The Doctor’s companion steals a TARDIS, kidnaps Superman, Dracula, the guy who built the Titanic and they all try to stop Highlander? Then you’ll love Legends of Tomorrow. Okay, so Brandon Routh isn’t really playing Superman, he’s playing Iron Man… sorry, Ant-Man…sorry, Atom and Dominic Purcell teaming up with Wentworth Miller is more Prison Break than Blade: Trinity but the point is, Legends of Tomorrow is a show about the other guys. The second fiddles, the back up. And that’s why I rather like it.
The two-part opener sets up the story pretty quickly, Arthur Darvill’s Rip Hunter has stolen David Tennant’s coat (seriously, it's basically his coat) and a time machine and, against the strict orders of the council of Time Masters for whom he works, has travelled back from 2166 to 2016 to enlist the help of a group of superheroes and villains with finding and stopping Vandal Savage. Savage, in Rip’s own time, brutally killed his wife and son - as well as tyrannically conquering the planet. He informs this miss-match of heroes in waiting that in the future they will becomes legends and only they have the abilities and strengths to stop Savage.
But it quickly becomes clear Rip might not be telling the whole truth. The ragtag collection of wannabes are all refugees from Arrow and The Flash and bring with them varying levels of powers and emotional baggage. The Atom (insecure about his abilities) and White Canary (came back from the dead with a blood lust) both originate from Arrow, while The Flash gives us Captain Cold (villain struggling with morality), Heat Wave (Cold’s hot headed muscle), Hawkgirl (recently told she’s a powerful immortal) and Firestorm (two men thrust into unwanted heroism). The two shows also co-introduced Hawkman (dunno, he’s really dull).
The premise is strong and the action pretty good. Within the first 43 minutes we’ve travelled back to 1975, consulted a historian expert on Savage and fought a crazy, time jumping bounty hunter. The show uses action to drive narrative and character in a great way; the first battle is successful but messy, with everyone working as individuals and not as a team. We also get a great bar fight sequence allowing the anti-heroes of the group to let loose.
The second part of the pilot involves the team confronting Savage at an arms auction, then his home, where we get some more back-story and plot along with a dose of action. This is all pushed forward by Atom losing part of his suit and Rip getting hypocritically angry about timelines and butterfly effects. Once the missing part is recovered and Savage has escaped, we learn the terrible truth: Rip picked this band of super-folks not because they were the best but because history wouldn’t miss them if they all died horribly. Bummer. All this does is spur our would-be-heroes on to do The Right Thing and save the world. So, despite the fact he kind of kidnapped them, they join forces with Rip to go on a most excellent adventure… sorry, travel through time fighting Savage.
It’s a well shot show with fun period settings and colourful special effects. The whole cast is charming and work well together. Stand-outs are Brandon Routh and Victor Garber, who have plenty of experience being good in silly things and, of course, Wentworth Miller. Miller stole the show every time he was on The Flash and sometimes even when he wasn’t. Here he gets to play the grey area of likable bad guy beautifully and it’s okay to root for him to win! The group's' various personal issues are all good story fodder, the most interesting perhaps being Ciara Renée’s Kendra (Hawkgirl). She is central to Savage’s obsessions and power. However, as a habitually reincarnating immortal she has no memory of her previous lives and powers or her equally immortal husband. Watching her thrust into a world of, more or less, fully formed super-people and playing catch up offers up some nice moments of drama.
The real letdown for me is Vandal Savage himself. No discredit to Casper Crump’s performance, which is fine but comic book Savage is a huge, terrifying, bear of a man, someone confident and imposing enough to go toe to toe with Superman and take a swipe at Batman. He is a God amongst men and a tyrant throughout time. Crump lacks the imposing physicality and performance to be really scary. We know he’s very bad because Rip keeps telling us he is but here Savage lacks the oomph to be anything more than a TV bad guy who happens to be immortal.
Over all, Legends of Tomorrow is hokey, cheesy fun that manages to be different from both its parent shows and even offers a couple of surprises in this first couple of episodes. Not as well constricted or plotted as The Flash but not as emotionally constipated as Arrow, it’s the kind of show our kids will be watching on Saturday morning repeats the way we did with Batman 66. Its definitely more Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman than it is Man of Steel.
Lets be clear, Legends of Tomorrow is rubbish. I think its most ardent admirer would admit to that but there’s something about it, almost like, as a show, it just doesn’t give a shit and that may be its greatest strength.