Saturday, February 13, 2016

TV Watch: Legends of Tomorrow

Oh, man.  So many mixed feelings about this show.

Here's what I think:  If I hadn't been reading superhero comics for 30-odd years, this thing would seem fresh as a daisy  Lots of superheroes having an adventure, living a little, learning a little, comparing and contrasting themselves, speaking entirely in exposition.  It genuinely has the pacing and plotless weaving of a real DC Comics crossover event comic, complete with all the clunky dialog and trying to do too much with too many characters in too little time, and you kind of stick it out through the parts that don't work (which are many), because when it does work, it's a lot of fun.  And, it may actually "count", depending on how well received the thing winds up.

The show is a spin-off of the DC Comics TV Universe, which includes The Flash and Arrow as regular shows and NBC's failed (and hilariously terrible) Constantine - and, in an alternate Earth, we know from press photos and Grant Gustin's social media channels that it will also include Supergirl.    A good chunk of the start of this season of The Flash was devoted to getting Hawkgirl and Firestorm set-up and situated, and last season they introduced Captain Cold and Heatwave as Flash's Rogues.  Add in some version of Black Canary- maybe Dinah Lance's sister? - and Ray Palmer (The Atom) from The Arrow (which I don't watch because I feel slightly dumber every time I do watch it), and a Time-Lordy version of Rip Hunter piloting a ship called Waverider, natch, and you've got your crew.

The acting on the show is wildly inconsistent as the cast is a diverse range of talent.  The young man hired to play Jackson, one half of Firestorm, is not out to win any Emmys this year, and while she looks the part, Hawkgirl's lines seem to be cut more with each passing episode.

But then you have a name actor like Victor Gerber who seems like he's trying so damn hard to carry his young cast along and the pair of Prison Break co-stars, Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell handing in performances (as Captain Cold and Heatwave) that should, by all rights, be awful but somehow wind up as totally fun and utterly watchable, and poor Brandon Routh - so clearly excited just to be there, and not half-bad at what he does.

But the writing is bizarrely, hilariously inconsistent - with a whole episode devoted to Gerber's Martin Stein (one half of Firestorm) learning he's an arrogant jerk and he can't do it all alone doing exactly that all over again in the subsequent episode with no comment from anyone.

The show started with a Carter Hall (Katar Hol/ Hawkman), fresh from an Arrow/ Flash crossover where Vandal Savage was introduced and shoved in as the big-bad from the Geoff Johns version of the Hawks' origin.  Frankly, our Carter Hall wasn't much of an actor either, and he wasn't getting much in the way of appearances in the promos, so I wasn't entirely surprised when he was removed from the show, leaving our Hawkgirl single and available.

I don't really know what to make of Caity Lotz (formerly of Mad Men) playing out a familiar DC and comics trope of "the killer inside" that's the Wolverine-bit every team has had to have in its ranks since the 1980's.  I certainly know the drill with the Lazarus Pit and Ra's al Ghul, but it's more that - that's all we get out of her character, and the problem is that ctoryline either resolves itself or it just drags on.  Endlessly.  And is as much fun as realizing you can talk to your co-worker about their relationship issues, but in the end, they aren't going to do anything about them.

Somehow our villain also isn't really so much of a great actor, and never really carries off menace.  I think he'd be great as Hook in a stage production of Peter Pan, but here he comes off as a guy acting as close as he can to what he thinks other people do when they're being evil super geniuses.  You want the appearances of your villain to mean something, and it feels more like everything slows down when he shows up.

Add in the fact that the story is based around time-travel, but - in classic DC Comics fashion - chrono-placement is treated like geography rather than chronology where they could easily go fix their own problems, and it's some absolutely terrible execution of the primary conceit of the show.*  And, they've had the bad-guy dead-to-rights at least twice and just let him go with literally no explanation when they could throw him in a vault and drop that vault into the Marianas Trench.  But they don't.  They just let him go.**  I can't even start to know what the showrunners are thinking.

So, really you're in it for the character interaction or you're just wasting your time.

The truth is, I don't think I actually like this show very much.  Except when I do.  Then it's fun.  But it's also very frustrating to watch all the effort go into a TV show and it comes off at about the same level as, say, DC's Judgment Day cross-over.  Like, it's kind of okay in concept, and you feel you need to follow it to know what's going on, but, man, it also feels a little like homework sometimes getting through it.

*Weirdly, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure may be the only thing I've ever seen in TV or movies that bothered with the logic of time travel and how they could help themselves out.  This is why I have no respect for your Back to the Future.

**or why they don't just go back to five minutes before Vandal Savage gained total, ultimate power and stop that.  You have a time machine.  Use it.


picky said...

So I haven't watched Arrow because of just how damn bad the actors are when they appear in The Flash - like SO bad. Granted, some of The Flash's acting (Iris) was a bit rough at first, but I'm so impressed with how the show has progressed. Then once in a while, Arrow characters appear, and I'm not only clueless but also annoyed this a teen show where I'm not supposed to care that I could probably have more presence on camera? Ugh.

I was pretty pumped for this show and then completely forgot about it. We may give it a shot.

The League said...

I think I've watched two episodes since this post went up, and I can't say it's gotten at all better. Maybe worse. This thing should have been 6-7 episodes and out. I'm not sure what to say about it. I assume people like bits of it, but it's terribly uneven from scene to scene. Whatever magic is there in The Flash that make sit work just isn't present here. I dunno. I want to like it, but I can't see myself watching this again in a second season.