By Josh Melo
‘Legends of Tomorrow’ Review – Ep.1 (Pilot, Part 1)
People have been preaching the end of the Superhero genre for a long while now, though over-saturation in the film department doesn’t seem to be an issue, it is quickly becoming a legitimate concern over in TV land. Luckily, Legends of Tomorrow doesn’t seem to be the doom bringer some made it out to be. Beautiful effects, a titillating premise and enough comic book camp (sometime a touch too much) are enough to satisfy even the most hardcore of fans. There are a few missteps along the way but the pilot does a great job of introducing us to the characters and world of Legends of Tomorrow.
As mentioned, the TV landscape is rife with comic book content. From Marvel’s Netflix/ABC partnership, to the CW’s championing of the platform, almost every major TV studio has their hands in the superhero cookie jar. With more and more titles being announced, there are only so many shows one can watch, let alone superhero shows. Cue Legends of Tomorrow, the sidekick spin-off coming out of Arrow and The Flash. While I can’t say for sure that the show marks (or doesn’t) the end of the genre, it does do enough to keep audiences engaged for its run time.
The premise is simple, take all of the supporting heroes from the CW’s other shows and throw them together in an epic team-up adventure through history. Collecting misfit heroes including The Atom (Brandon Routh), White Canary (Caity Lotz), Firestorm (Franz Drameh and Victor Garber), Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), Heatwave (Dominic Purcell), Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Hawkgirl (Ciara Renee) is Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill), a chrono-custodian tasked with assembling a team to rid the myriad timelines of Vandal Savage, an immortal wizard hell bent on seeing the world under his thumb. I told you it was simple.
The best thing Legends has going for it is the lack of time it needs for set up. Having introduced all of these characters (to varying degrees) through its sister shows; the pilot can get off to a running start. That isn’t to say there isn’t any set up. Each character gets a brief intro to help define their motivations and get new viewers up to speed on why they might join an inter-dimensional escapade at the drop of a hat. These expository moments do nothing compared to watching their original appearances but they get the job done. To new viewers, confusion isn’t out of the question. Juggling so many characters at such a brisk pace is challenging for a feature film, to shove them all in a 40-minute episode of television takes a stroke of genius to achieve, the fact that it makes any sense is a miracle.
After the swift introductions, the show ramps up considerably. Thrust into a futuristic world overrun by Savage and his goons, these heroes must learn to become a unit quickly in order to stop whatever time travelling hindrances come their way. This also happens to be where some missteps are made. Some of the dialogue is inconsistent with the characters we’ve come to know over the course of the last few years and other interactions simply fail to leave a favorable impression.
Two examples of the inconsistency come from Dr. Stein and Jax. I can understand his excitement for adventure but his willingness to drop his regular life at the drop of a hat seems a little strange, especially since he spent so much time as a confused hobo looking for his wife. Jax also seems a little off. He seemed to get over his hero anxieties in his intro episode on The Flash but here he seems just as reluctant as when we first met him. It’s a mixed message for people devouring all of the shows (me) but shouldn’t be an issue for new viewers.
Than you have characters that just don’t seem to work together. Captain Cold and Heatwave have always been over the top but pairing them up with a suddenly laidback Sara Lance just brings things to a whole new level of weird. Their scene in the 70’s bar was fun but completely unnecessary. It didn’t teach us anything about these characters and only served to elevate the show to fresh campy heights.
In terms of story, Legends provides a number of interesting twists and turns in its premiere episode that should have fans hooked right away. To any comic aficionado, labeling these eccentric heroes “legends” seemed more like lip service than anything but learning that Rip Hunter gathered them for their insignificance made for a shocking reveal. It also made their decision to keep fighting the good fight all the more impactful and went a long way in terms of cementing these disparate characters as a team.
Having the main villain tied so intimately with the Hawk people is an interesting decision but it does take away something from all of the other characters, Rip Hunter in particular. After hearing that only a killing blow by either Hawkman or Hawkgirl can ultimately end Vandal Savage, we now knows there will be no true revenge for Hunter (despite all of his claims to the contrary).
While on the topic of Vandal, he is perhaps the biggest weakness of the episode. He failed to leave an impression beyond his opening scene in the Arrow/Flash crossover and is even less of a presence here. Sure, he commands an army and people talk about all of the atrocities he has committed, but he just reeks of generic bad guy that undermines his backstory. For a guy that managed to take over the world you’d figure he could do more than shoot a gun. But with some dedicated development time this is an easy fix. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t turn into a Ra’s Al Ghul.
The Legends of Tomorrow pilot does a lot well: a great story, interesting characters and plenty of room for exploration. It just needs to break in the character interactions and tone down some of the superfluous action. Let it all flow naturally and Legends will do just fine.
Overall, the Legends of Tomorrow pilot gets a 7.5/10.