DC’s Legends of Tomorrow has been among the most highly anticipated comic book shows around. That’s not without reason, seeing as it’s the closest fans will get to a TV Justice League, and Doctor Who vet Arthur Darvill is starring. And while it employs many of the same silly mistakes that keep Arrow and The Flash from being top-tier, it’s far from disappointing.
The basic premise is this: Vandal Savage, an immortal Hitler of sorts, will take over the entire world in the 22nd century. Rip Hunter (Darvill), a time-traveling do-gooder of sorts, assembles a team of eight so-called legends to take on Savage and destroy him before he can make the world a simmering pile of ash. This team is comprised of some familiars: The Atom, Firestorm, White Canary (formerly the first Black Canary), Heat Wave, and Captain Cold, along with newcomers Hawkman and Hawkgirl. These last two have a history with Savage, as immortal beings that are reincarnated every time he kills them. The rest are simply heroes (or villains, as is the case with Heat Wave and Captain Cold) that Hunter nags from their respective places to take on the looming threat.
In addition to existing in the same universe as The CW’s two other comic book adaptations, Legends of Tomorrow takes significant influence from other major franchises. The Time Masters are clearly meant to emulate the Time Lords of Doctor Who, a bounty hunter similar to Boba Fett shows up (this similarity is pointed out), and the show’s first plotline has to do with going back to the ’70s, which gives it a distinct Days of Future Past feel. Two of those three things seem remarkably intentional, as though showrunner Phil Klemmer is having fun nodding to his favorite science fiction franchises. The intentional nature of these elements is such that the show is undeniably cliche, but in the fun way that Back to the Future: Part III is a hodge-podge of a half-dozen other movies, rather than a lazy rip-off.
As I mentioned, there are problems present. The pilot tries, like far too many of these shows, to pack too much plot into a regular hour-long program. It seems rushed to get to the big climax right out of the gate, rather than focusing on development and character building. Hawkman and Hawkgirl seem like characters already destined to be the soapy part of the show that’s practically a pre-requisite for every CW outing. And there are clearly too many characters, although the medium of TV makes that easier to overcome than it would be in a two-hour film.
For these shortcomings, however, the show is remarkably well-acted, for being somewhat silly superhero fare. The Hawk-couple’s dynamics are believable, the heroes all turn in a good performance, and Darvill steals the show, as he must in order for the show to work in any capacity. All things considered, it’s a fairly traditional superhero story of good versus evil, with the fun elements of time travel thrown in. Savage is unquestionably bad, and Captain Cold even seems to flirt with the idea of becoming a hero, even though his partner shares none of his doubts, which makes the potential for some interesting redemptive character development. It will never rise above the level of a common comic adaptation, but it will do well within that niche.
Consensus: 7/10. As much as you can expect for a CW show, the series is promising. It’s fun, well-done, and fairly-well written, even if far too crowded. A clean show, also, though we may not presume this certain to last.