The CW’s “Arrow” and especially “The Flash” are as good as comic-book adaptations get, maintaining a sense of four-color fun while adding enough emotional depth to sustain a long-running series. But his track record has been getting shakier, and “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” the CW spinoff that premieres on January 21, doesn’t reverse the trend. Where CBS’ “Supergirl” began with a strong pilot that it’s had trouble expanding on, “Legends” gets off to a rocky start according to the first reviews, which is especially troubling given that “Flash” and “Arrow” have spent a substantial chunk of their fall half-seasons setting its wheels in motion. Even after “The Flash’s” embrace of multiple-universe wackiness, “Legends'” time-traveling plot, which involves convening a group of second-string superheroes to track the immortal villain Vandal Savage across the millennia, poses plausibility questions right off the bat, and the series’ apparent dedication to fighting a single Big Bad seems awfully constraining. But the bigger problem is in elevating characters, and actors, who’ve worked as supporting-character foils to lead status, and some of them aren’t equipped to carry the load. Caity Lotz’s White Canary and Victor Garber’s Firestorm get high marks, but the newly added Hawkman and -girl aren’t particular compelling, and Casper Crump’s Vandal Savage has more scowl than bite.
Even the most disappointed critics hold out hope for “Legends” to move past its clunky beginnings. But considering how expertly Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg worked up Barry Allen on “Arrow” before launching “The Flash,” it’s alarming that “Legends,” headed by “Chuck’s” Phil Klemmer, is off to such a rock start. Better luck, “Tomorrow.”
Reviews of “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”
Daniel Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter
Part of why none of these characters ever felt wholly engaged in their original shows is that they were always temporary, always being raised in a lab for a spinoff. It was great, for example, when Lotz’s Sara was kicking butt on “Arrow,” but fans of the comic always knew that Laurel was destined to be the Black Canary, so it wasn’t shocking with Sara was killed off — and when she was resurrected, we already knew it was just to go elsewhere. Similarly, when Ray Palmer was building a robo-suit and making sparks with Felicity on “Arrow,” he was just an impediment for the romance most fans demanded and once he seemed to die, he’d already been announced for the spinoff. Captain Cold and Heat Wave were OK recurring baddies for Flash to face, but their most recent appearances were dedicated to softening their rough edges to get them ready to be protagonists. There was nothing organic about the way Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim contorted to put “Legends of Tomorrow” together, but it seemed reasonable to hope that with the difficult work of introducing eight characters for a team-up series, maybe that would help the new show hit the ground running. It does not. Showrunner Phil Klemmer joins Berlanti, Kreisberg and Guggenheim as writers on a two-part launch that might as well be starting from scratch.
Jeff Jensen, Entertainment Weekly
The ambition is huge—and maybe too big for its own good. Panoramic, crowded scenes of superpowered fighting sum up the virtues and bugs of the first two hours. The production values are alternately spectacular and chintzy, the tone is wildly eclectic, the time-travel logic is whatever. Will every episode be about repairing the timeline due to a mission mistake, or blowing a clear shot at Savage? I hope not. Still, the charming cast and some poignant, surprising turns hooked me. If it can learn how to play well with all its toys, Legends of Tomorrow might pass the test of time.
Alan Sepinwall, HitFix
The many mismatched parts make “Legends” feel like several different shows competing for supremacy, with some more engaging than others. I would gladly watch a whole lot more, for instance, of Garber’s Martin Stein coldly dismissing the accomplishments and intellect of Routh’s Ray Palmer. (Routh was so much fun on “Arrow” last season that he seemed ready to carry his own show; instead, he’s fighting for elbow room with everyone else, even though Ray is given one of the better motivations for being part of this group.) The spine of the series, though, is the millennia-old feud between the Hawks and their immortal foe Vandal Savage (Casper Crump, who in a show where most of the actors chew the scenery, manages to enjoy the fullest meal every time he appears), and whether in the “Flash”/”Arrow” crossover that introduced them or in these two episodes, none seem worth the bother. We’re not at the comic book TV saturation point yet, but there are now so many of these shows that they need a reason to exist beyond filling a niche that’s already overflowing. “Jessica Jones” figured out how to a superhero story in a way that felt wholly new and gripping. At this early stage, “Legends of Tomorrow” feels more like “Agents of SHIELD” at its outset: a way to extend the brand by any means necessary, and worry about what the show actually is later.
Ken Tucker, Yahoo
More than any current TV adaptation, “Legends of Tomorrow” captures the feeling of what it was like to read a DC Comics team-up “special issue” during the Silver Age of comics in the 1960s. It also helps if you’re about eight years old. With the possible exception of The Atom, there’s not an A-lister in the bunch, but that’s part of what makes “Legends” fun, at least initially. Rip Hunter seems to have chosen this bunch by going to his local comic-book store and throwing a bunch of random 1960s issues in the air and seeing which landed first. There are elements that weaken the show. The dialogue is stilted (“Grant me the permission to change the timeline just this once!”), the acting, with the exception of the fluid Garber and the amusingly tough slouching of Lotz, tends to be stiff (although to be fair, you can’t really emote if you have the gigantic bronze headgear and the enormous wings Henschel and Renee must shoulder). But as heroic team-up shows go, the junky eclecticism of “Legends of Tomorrow” seems, based on the first two episodes, more engaging than the more solemn exploits of “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.”
Gwen Ihnat, A.V. Club
The groan-worthy dialogue’s a head-scratcher, as “Legends of Tomorrow” was developed by the team responsible for “Arrow” and “The Flash,” while showrunner Phil Klemmer is a veteran of quippy favorites “Veronica Mars” and “Chuck.” But the bigger mistake here might have been creating a show starring characters who wouldn’t be compelling enough to anchor their own star vehicle. The Marvel team movies work because almost all of those characters stand strong on their own in solo adventures. But if nobody wants to see a Firestorm or Hawkman movie, it’s likely that nobody really wants to see those characters as a part of a ragtag team of superheroes either. The Legends’ total sum turns out to be inferior to its individual parts.
Brian Lowry, Variety
Representing an ambitious and potentially risky expansion of the synergistic DC-CW-Warner Bros. TV connection, “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” not only assembles a super-team but casts it into an elaborate time-spanning plotline. As an added degree of difficulty, the group relies on somewhat obscure characters, albeit with the benefit of having introduced them in the context of its “Arrow” and “The Flash” franchises. The resulting hour is certainly impressive from a visual standpoint, with bountiful dollops of action. Yet based on the mix of personalities, this colorful series will have to improve significantly to achieve even near-legendary status.
Jesse Schedeen, We Got This Covered
Choppy pacing aside, this episode does a lot to endear viewers to the show. Right away it becomes clear that Legends of Tomorrow is a much different beast from its sibling shows. Not so much because it’s a team-based superhero series. Arrow and The Flash both lean pretty heavily on their ensemble casts as it is. It’s the sense that “Legends of Tomorrow” is less a colorful superhero epic than a rousing science fiction adventure. There’s a very “Doctor Who” quality to the show, which may be why Darvill was tapped to play Rip Hunter in the first place.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, ScreenCrush
If you’re along for the ride, there’s a tremendous amount of fun to be had here. Dialogue between nine or ten distinct personalities crackles throughout that gorgeous set, and there’s enough varied mission work for any number of unexpected pairings. The series stands tallest with room enough to “get weird in the ‘70s,” and let its looser characters simply start trouble for the hell of it. Once the initial fumbling setup wears off, the second hour even parades a heavy “Back to the Future” influence that feels much more in tune than its action-heavy B-plot, even if the corners cut to allow said homage might give you nosebleeds. They might even be worth it, for the fun of Sara Lance casually swiping joints, or exchanging bemused flirts with Victor Garber.