Posted in: Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 1st, 2016
“In 2166 an immortal tyrant named Vandal Savage conquered the world and murdered my wife and child. I’ve assembled an elite team to hunt him throughout time and stop his rise to power. Unfortunately, my plan was opposed by the body I had sworn my allegiance to: The Time Masters. In the future my friends might not be heroes, but if we succeed, they will be remembered as legends.”
Marvel may have beaten DC to the superhero team-up film. But while Marvel continues to blow away the DC filmatic universe, DC has had its best and most brilliant successes here on television. DC Legends of Tomorrow is pretty much the first television comic book team-up, and it’s a direct spinoff from both Arrow and The Flash shows. In fact, Warner should have delayed this release until after those shows showed up at your video store. It’s in the early episodes of The Flash, and particularly Arrow, that this show has its setup. That works out even more crucially as the end of this 16-episode season leads directly into the season finale for Arrow, creating a bit of a spoiler alert if you haven’t watched those shows.
The main character here is a Time Master named Rip Hunter (Darvill). His family was killed in the 22nd century by the ruthless Vandal Savage (Crump). The Time Masters have forbidden him from interfering in Savage’s history, so he goes rogue. He steals his ship The Waverunner and gathers a ragtag team from 2016 to aid him in eliminating the threat of Vandal Savage.
The team consists of Ray Palmer / The Atom. This is the DC version of Antman with a little Iron Man thrown in for good measure. He has harnessed the power of a dwarf star to power a suit that allows him to fly and fire plasma weapons from his hands. The suit also allows him to shrink to microscopic size or grow into a 30-foot giant. He’s also a rich guy who owns a well-known tech conglomerate. (Sound like anyone else we know?) Of course, this isn’t the first DC legend Brandon Routh has played. Many of us remember him in the underrated Superman Returns film as the Man Of Steel himself.
From Arrow we get one of my least favorite characters and actors. Caity Lotz plays the newly resurrected Sara Lance, one-time Black Canary, now dressed lighter as the White Canary. She’s been a member of the League Of Assassins, trained by Ra’s al Ghul himself. So she’s the martial-arts fighter in the group.
The rest of the team came in twos. First up we get Kendra Saunders / Hawkgirl, played by Ciara Renee’. She comes with Carter Hall / Hawkman, played by Falk Hentschel. Their connection to Vandal Savage starts in Arrow. Both were killed by Savage in ancient Egypt. They were all exposed to radiation from a special meteorite that granted all three of them immortality. Savage just continues to live, but the Hawks continue to be reincarnated over 4000 years and always find each other. They are destined to always love each other. To try to love someone else always ends in disaster, as Palmer will attempt to test. They are the only ones who can kill Savage with any item that was present during their assassination, particularly a dagger that Savage attempts to keep under his control. Their story differs from the comics, where they are aliens from a planet called Thanager, a race that is mentioned in the show, but these characters are human. They don’t keep their wings spread as in the comics. Here they pop out when needed.
The next pair is the two characters that must merge to create the hero Firestorm. There’s elitist Professor Martin Stein, played by the phenomenal Victor Garber, who once had another partner as Firestorm. He’s the one who came up with the radiation formula to create the hero. He binds with the young and impatient Jefferson “Jax” Jackson. As Firestorm, it is Jax’s body we see in the transformed state. But Stein’s voice is a constant irritation in his head. Stein is a bit of an egotist who likes to put others down, including his Firestorm partner. He’s reluctant with a compliment even for his once-student Ray Palmer, who he claims to not even remember.
The final pair isn’t one of heroes at all. These are villains from The Flash. Prison Break brothers Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell are the cold-and-hot team of Leonard Snart / Captain Cold and Mick Rory / Heatwave. Both have guns that shoot either ice or fire. Cold is the criminal mastermind of the pair, while Heatwave provides the muscle. Those roles get challenged here, and one of them will pose a serious problem to the team with yet another alter-ego.
The episodes chronicle their attempts to stop Savage at various points in time where Hunter believes he may be most vulnerable. That gives us a chance to make stops in the Wild West, where we meet Jonah Hex (Schaech), the stylin’ 1970’s, Cold War Russia of the 1980’s, and to rock around the clock in the 1950’s, where two of the members of the team end up stranded together for two years while a third returns to her own roots, just 40 years earlier. The show does a pretty good job with the eras, and they can’t resist the opportunity to meet important people like Bill Gates’ father and HG Wells. I like the production design quite a bit. The CG stuff is a little obvious at times, but it’s the more practical effects used to create these eras that truly stand out.
Savage is not their only enemy here. The Time Masters send hit-crews out to stop Hunter and his team. These guys are more stone cold than Savage. They even send someone to kill their young selves in order to stop them. It’s all leading up to a season finale that takes us deep into the motives of the Time Masters and why they want to stop Hunter. Without revealing any spoilers, I think it’s safe to say you’re going to expect some betrayal here.
Character flashbacks offer us more background on the team. They also serve to bring cameos with Arrow and The Flash folks. That list includes Laurel and Quentin Lance, Oliver Queen, Felicity Smoak, and Cisco Ramon. We even have an episode that takes us to a dark future Star City, where Oliver has given up in his old age and there’s a new Green Arrow in town.
There are a ton of things you could nitpick about the new series. You likely already know that I think Caity Lotz is a horrible actress, and her joining this series hasn’t changed my mind. The rest of the cast is quite good. The standout performance here is Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold. This is one of the best comic book villain characterizations I’ve ever seen. I include the likes of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger’s Joker portrayals in that assessment. He has just the right amount of calculated criminal pathology with an “I don’t give a flying *&%$ what anybody else thinks”. But there is a softer and caring side that comes out when it comes to Rory. These guys have been buddies since they were kids, and this relationship is the most compelling on the show. It goes up and down, but both actors can use subtlety to make their point as well as the grand gestures. It could be their years on Prison Break that gives them such wonderful chemistry. Victor Garber is the other big standout in the cast. I’ve loved him since Alias, and he appears to elevate all of the actors around him. There’s surprisingly good chemistry with Franz Drameh as Jax. It’s not a likely pairing, but both fit together quite nicely. I’ve never really liked the comics version of Vandal Savage, but I must admit that Casper Crump adds a rather devilish aspect to the character that makes him far more interesting here than at any time in the comic world. If anything he’s underused a bit here, and his resolution is a tad rushed.
If some of this rogue Time Masters thing sounds familiar… it should. Too often during the show I felt like some of this was lifted too closely from Dr. Who. He’s, of course, a Time Lord who also went against his colleagues and stole his time machine, the Tardis. Both have a chameleon device that allows it to blend in with the surroundings. Rip Hunter’s wild west overcoat and personality also appear to be the kind of character that could just as easily been an American version of The Doctor. It’s likely my biggest complaint with the series. If it had been based on a comic, I’d have less concerns, but this is a new concept. The ship’s name is taken from an actual DC comic character instead of a ship. Obviously, there are some real Dr. Who fans in the show’s executive crew.
Though far from perfect, this series is a nice expansion of the DC television universe. Shows this crowded with heroes and villains are very tricky. It usually spells doom for the films. One need only look at Spider-Man 3 for the perfect example of that trap. Here we have a crew with several seasons of comic television under their belts, and it shows. I think you’ll find this was the best, most logical step forward, and one heck of a 16-episode ride.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec. This high-definition image presentation suffers from Warner’s decision to put 16 episodes plus features on just two discs. There’s a lot of nice production design that suffers from compression artifact and shimmer. There’s no place for that on a Blu-ray release. It’s twice the number of episodes that should be here, and I strongly urge Warner Brothers to reconsider this cheap alternative to doing it right.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 actually pretty aggressive. There are a lot of super-battles going on with laser guns, fireballs, and plasma blasts. All of this is brought to life quite nicely. The sub levels add a depth to it all. This is a pretty ambitious audio presentation for a television show. Through all of that explosive fun, the dialog manages to cut through just fine. Balance is the word of the day for this one.
2015 Comic-Con Panel: (18:49)
Gag Reel: (7:00)
Jonah Hex – Hex Marks The Spot: (6:57) A close look at the Jonah Hex episode and a little history of the comic book character.
A Fantastic Voyage – Touring The Waverunner: (8:53) This feature offers more than a set tour. This also shows off the conceptual art and f/x of the series.
History In The Making: (13:04) A look at bringing various eras to life.
Warner Brothers has a very strong slate of television shows with a very loyal following. They know that we’ll buy the discs. Stop taking advantage of that loyalty and display some to the fans. These shows absolutely deserve better, and you guys know it. The cost of an extra couple of discs is literally pennies. Warner charges a good premium for these sets without delivering the high-definition quality that price should reflect. This show was the most obvious example of a lot of money on production wasted on a disc that holds eight episodes. Yeah, the fans are buying them anyway…”But for how long?”