The Would-Be Legends Of Tomorrow

legends of tomorrow

Legends of Tomorrow is the latest superhero TV show airing on the CW network taking place in the so-called Arrowverse (named by the show Arrow, the progenitor of this shared universe) and is an ensemble show featuring B-lister superheroes from DC Comics. In many ways, it’s an ambitious program, one of the first to star a superhero team. A show of this scope should scream “difficult to pull off” just in terms of special effects, scope of the story and air time for the characters. There are many things that Legends of Tomorrow gets right and many missed opportunities.

As an ensemble show, there isn’t one true lead character among the mostly colorful group, but the premise of Legends of Tomorrow is jump-started by time traveler Rip Hunter (Doctor Who’s Arthur Darvill). In the future, the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage (Casper Crump) has taken over the world and killed Hunter’s family.

hunter leaves

Defying his group, the Time Masters, Hunter steals a time-traveling spaceship called the Waverider (a nod to the time-traveling character from DC Comics) and travels to our time to recruit a team to stop Savage’s rise to power throughout history. The eclectic group he gathers includes Ray Palmer/The Atom (Brandon Routh), whose armored suit allows him to shrink; Martin Stein (Victor Gerber) and Jefferson Jackson (Franz Drameh), who make up the combined fiery entity Firestorm; Sara Lance/White Canary (Caity Lotz), the martial artist anti-hero featured on Arrow; Kendra Saunders (Ciara Renée), who discovered she is the reincarnated warrior priestess Hawkwoman; and the sibling criminal supervillains from The Flash, Leonard Snart/Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller) and Mick Rory/Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell).

inside waverider

When Hunter initially recruits the team to help him stop Savage in the past (starting with the 1970s), he doesn’t tell them that the reason he recruits them is because they have minimal impact on the timeline so their disappearances from normal time wouldn’t really matter. Once they learn the truth, most are crestfallen, but decide to use this opportunity to make a difference outside of their eras and become actual legends.

This TV show, has been described as a mix of Doctor Who and Guardians of the Galaxy. That is an apt way of putting it, but it doesn’t reach the heights of those properties. Much of the time, Legends of Tomorrow is a lot of fun to watch and is fast moving. Cluttered with Easter eggs and nods to all things genre and meta (at one point Snart made a typically snarky statement about having experience breaking out of jail–a tongue-in-cheek reference to Miller and Purcell’s last collaboration Prison Break), and unlike the ABC/Marvel Studios TV shows, it takes full advantage of the shared universe it occupies. old arrowIt’s thrilling to spot characters from other shows making guest appearances and all the time traveling allows for a further exploration of the Arrowverse.  One of the best episodes to date was the most recent one “Star City 2046”, which featured a post-apocalyptic Star City where Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) was MIA and the city was taken over by Green Arrow’s nemesis Deathstroke, actually Deathstroke’s son (Jamie Andrew Cutler). In a nice tribute to the classic graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, Queen shows up missing an arm and has to be inspired to fight for his city again  with the help of Connor Hawk (Joseph David-Jones), who takes up the mantle of Green Arrow.

hunter recruits

Still, as much fun as that episode was, it had a flaw in its logic. Sara wanted to help Queen out, but Hunter did not want to get involved because that would be interfering with time and that as a past event in his time it was set and could not be changed. Yet, he wants to travel throughout history to find Savage and alter the timeline. This diminishes Hunter and makes him seem selfish. Then there is the concept that 2046 was the past and set in stone for him, but is the future for the others, so otherwise malleable. There are attempts to address the problems with time travel in the show but they are uneven at best.

snart and legendsThat unevenness is the basic tone and flaw of Legends of Tomorrow. Some plots and subplots are engaging and fun, other times the stories are rushed and thin without any subtlety. The same criticism applies to the characters. This was quite apparent in the pilot episode. Rip Hunter just shows up and asks them to joni him and most of the characters all-too-willingly oblige without deeply questioning Hunter or exploring their motive to leave their lives on a lark. It does take pains to develop them and some of the actors like Miller steal scenes with their acting prowess, but the show struggles to juggle all these characters. That is probably a reason why Legends of Tomorrow killed off the character of Carter Hall/Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) early on to thin the herd. But frankly, it wasn’t a loss since his performance as Hawkman was rather wooden.

Like the team, Legends of Tomorrow isn’t quite legendary, but it has huge potential. Given enough time and guidance, it may find its footing and move past its inspirations and become something of a legend.

José Soto

 

 

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On The Precipice Of The Superhero Movie War

dawn of justice heroes fight

Well fans, we are just about a month away from the commencement of the Superhero Movie War when Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuts in theaters. Roughly six weeks later, the second round of the Superhero Movie War goes off with the release of Captain America: Civil War. Both cinematic juggernauts are the opening salvo between DC Comics/Warner Bros. and Marvel Comics/Disney and the duel between the rivals promises to be way beyond epic.

Some may say that the war started already with the release of Deadpool but that wouldn’t apply here since Deadpool was released by 20th Century Fox and is therefore not part of Disney/Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). On a side note, an argument can be made that Deadpool and therefore the rest of the Fox X-Men films are part of the MCU because of the wrecked helicarrier plainly seen in Deadpool’s climax.

Putting Deadpool aside, the next two superhero films to be released this year represent the apex of both rivals and have many similarities. Chiefly, the concept of superheroes fighting one another and public mistrust of superheroes. Luckily, just by looking at the trailers and what’s been revealed so far, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War are different enough from each other though the average low-information film critic who hasn’t read a comic book in decades may disagree.

On that note, can anyone predict how good will these two films be? Got me. The trailers look fantastic, but we all know better. Both films have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

superman meanThe first film to enter the Superhero Movie War is the  monumental first meeting between DC’s comic book giants and the second film in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU).  2013’s Man of Steel was the first film of the DCEU and while successful it wasn’t the super-hit that Warner Bros. hoped for. Many purists complained that it was too dark and humorless and went against Superman’s character. These critics, obviously, can’t be pleased that Man of Steel’s director Zack Snyder is directing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the two-part Justice League film coming out in 2017 and 2019. There are complaints about the casting of Lex Luthor, the look of the villain Doomsday, the inclusion of too many characters starting with Wonder Woman and Aquaman.

There have been recent Internet grumblings that the second DCEU film is making Warner Bros. nervous because of mixed reactions from early screenings. The rumblings were so bad, that many websites starting speculating if Zack Snyder would be replaced as director for Justice League and that even that film would be shelved for another Batman solo film. OTH, last year there were reports that screenings for Warner executives brought about standing ovations. But news of less-than-enthusiastic reactions to the film this late in the game is cause for worry. snyder JLLet’s be clear here, this film isn’t going to flop, it will rake in hundreds of millions at the box office, but it’s also a very expensive film and according to many sources has to gross $1 billion dollars to make a profit. That is a tall order given its release date. Originally it was a summer film but was slated directly against Captain America: Civil War so DC/Warner Bros. blinked and instead of releasing Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice later in the year, it was decided to beat Marvel/Disney to the punch by premiering it first without any competition. But Ben Affleck’s interpretation of Batman has won over many skeptics and Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman looks incredible and beautiful. To dispel the negativity, Warner Bros. announced today that Justice League, Part I will begin filming this year on April 11 and that Snyder will be directing it and its conclusion. So all the nervousness among DC fans could just be jitters and sensitivity over been beaten over the head for many years by MCU fans.

cap 3As for Captain America: Civil War, it has a similar problem in that it is jammed with so many characters. This might’ve been fine with a superhero team movie but it’s a Captain America film. How can he be the main character if there are so many distractions? Having too many players helped sink last year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Another potential problem is that Captain America: Civil War is the third film in the Captain America trilogies and historically the third films in trilogies are considered weak entries. Then there is a unique MCU film curse in that this film is the second film directed by the same team that directed Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Joe and Anthony Russo. The second Captain America film was hailed as a masterpiece and all that, but the last two times a director helmed a second MCU film, the results weren’t great. That would be Jon Favreau and Joss Whedon, who directed Iron Man & Iron Man 2, and The Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron respectively.

team cap

Honestly, it’s hard to say if the Russo Brothers can break this curse. But Marvel Studios has confidence in them and showed this by giving them the next two Avengers films to direct. Then there go the Internet rumors again about early reactions, however, in this case, there are reports that the third Captain America film delivers the goods. One thing that is different with this film and the DCEU film is that to date, there have only been two trailers shown and neither gave us a peek at the one superhero everyone is dying to see: Spider-Man. Whereas, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice has had a few trailers (including TV spots), some of which gave away vital plot points. The lack of trailers for the MCU film is a good way to build up anticipation and demand, while the DCEU film marketing is designed to raise awareness and put butts in theater seats. Frankly, both approaches work.

So which film will end the opening round? Which one will be the critical and box office darling? Seriously, there is good reason to say that both films will do fine and we should be thankful that A) We’re getting some plum choices to watch and B) that both studios were wise enough not having their films directly compete against each other and forcing us fans to choose which film to watch on the opening weekend.

T. Rod Jones

 

Star Trek’s Best Romances

kirk gets his groove 

In between the fisticuffs, space battles and technobabble, Star Trek is noted for its dalliances in romances. Captain James T. Kirk is nearly infamous for his numerous romantic relationships which earned him a well-deserved reputation as an intergalactic ladies man. While the original Star Trek series and its characters had many star-crossed romantic interludes, so too, did the Star Trek spinoffs, which had their fair share of romances. In honor of Valentine’s Day and Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, let’s look at some of the most memorable romantic moments from Star Trek.

Will They or Won’t They?

A common romantic motif in Star janeway chakotay resolutionsTrek is that of romantic tension between would-be lovers. They’re attracted to each so why can’t they go the extra step? In Star Trek: Voyager, Captain Kathryn Janeway and Chakotay’s shared a hidden romantic tension was stronger in the early episodes and led to many fan-fiction stories about them going a step further. The closest the two ever came close to consuming their feelings was in “Resolutions” where they were self-exiled on a planet and over time their professional restraint began to wither. But before they could go further, the two were rescued and the show never re-visited this subplot.

odo and kira 3This also happened in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine between Odo and Kira Nerys. At first, it was a case of unrequited love where Odo was madly in love with her, but Kira was involved with Bareil, a Bajoran clergyman. Odo’s plight was quite poignant thanks to some strong acting by Rene Auberjonois. The situation changed in later seasons when the two finally became a couple (“His Way”)…only to regretfully separate in the series finale “What You Leave Behind”.

Star Trek: Enterprise also featured a long-trip and tpol 2simmering relationship, this one between the Vulcan T’Pol and the Enterprise’s engineer “Trip” Tucker. That romance started off in the typical fashion: two disparate souls clashing with each other in a way reminiscent of the old Spock and McCoy arguments. Except this time, the two participants were growing closer, first as respectful colleagues then friends and finally lovers in the episode “Harbinger”. It was a refreshingly mature relationship that was based on mutual respect and curiosity about each other’s feelings and cultures.

married riker

Arguably the most popular couple falling into this category had to be Will Riker and Deanna Troi. At the start of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was established that the two were former lovers. Their relationship ended because of Riker’s ambition (never mind that he turned down many promotions during the series and most films). But there were lingering feeling between the two that were never quite re-ignited. That didn’t occur until the movie Star Trek: Insurrection where they rekindled their romance thanks to the effects of being on an alien planet. Thankfully it wasn’t a brief fling because at the start of the next film Star Trek: Nemesis the two had married each other.

Star-Crossed Marriages

The later Star Trek shows featured married couples who were part of the cast and this allowed for the showcasing of marital issues. But in a nice twist, rather than go into dark territories and have the couples separate or commit adultery, many episodes showed how strong a marital bond was and celebrated the married couples’ romance.

miles and keikoOne of the earliest married Starfleet couples we saw was in Star Trek: The Next Generation when in the episode “Data’s Day” we found out that Miles O’Brien was getting married. This development fleshed out his character and made him even more of an everyman to fans. He and his wife Kieko were featured in many episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation before becoming regular cast members of the spinoff Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

worf and jadzia

In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episodes featuring O’Brien we often saw the joys and pitfalls of married life through his and Keiko’s eyes, though the “Fascination” episode took time to explore how the two rekindled the passion for each other. In later seasons, when Worf became part of the crew, he realized his love for Jadzia Dax (“Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”) after being spurned by a Klingon woman who only had eyes for Quark. Eventually the couple married (“You Are Cordially Invited”) and Worf’s devotion for Jadzia was so strong that in the episode “Change of Heart” he abandoned an important covert mission in order to save his wife’s life.

tom kisses bellana

Another notable relationship that led to marriage was that of Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres in Star Trek: Voyager. In the early seasons of that program, the two were strictly colleagues, however in the third season episode “Blood Fever” B’Elanna was afflicted with pon farr and soon she and Tom started a long-lasting relationship that culminated in marriage (“Drive”) during Star Trek: Voyager’s final season.

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Colony Is A Surprisingly Captivating Look At Life After Alien Conquest

colony banner

The latest sci-fi TV show Colony, which airs on the USA Network, is a familiar yet interesting take on the alien conquest trope. Created by Carlton Cuse and Ryan J. Condal (both are also the executive producers along Juan Campanella and series star Josh Holloway), it takes place in Los Angeles less than a year after the world presumably was invaded and conquered by an unknown force. Colony doesn’t come out and say Earth is under control by aliens since we never see the invaders but it’s implied. The skies are patrolled by these alien-looking drones that shoot energy weapons and Los Angeles and other cities are cut off from each other with giant walls that would make Donald Trump salivate.

redhats invadeThe villains in Colony are the human collaborators led by Alan Snyder (Peter Jacobson), the proxy governor of the L.A. Bloc and he comes off as a spineless weasel. These collaborators argue that humanity has little choice but to cooperate with their “Hosts” or the repercussions will be dire for the world. Working through the Colony Transitional Authority, a warped version of the Department of Homeland Security holds L.A. under military rule with human shock troops called Redhats (for their bright red helmets) that keep order through strong-arm tactics and brute force. Violations of nighttime curfews incur death, speaking out against authority and the “Hosts” lands you in jail or worse: a sentence to The Factory, though so far, it’s not shown what happens if you’re sent to The Factory.

As these sci-fi stories go, there is a human resistance against the authoritarian rule. Made up of ordinary L.A. residents, they do what they can against hopeless odds as the collaborators hunt them down to keep the “Hosts” from retaliating against bowman and wifehumanity. One family is caught up in this struggle. The family head is Will Bowman (Josh Holloway), a former Ranger and FBI agent and at the start of the show, he lives under another name to avoid attention from authorities. In the pilot episode, Will is captured trying to sneak out of Los Angeles to go to Santa Monica because one of his sons is stranded there. Will is offered a position by Snyder to work for the Redhats and help hunt down the resistance leaders or have his family sent to The Factory. He reluctantly agrees, but Will doesn’t know that his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) is actually working with the rebels. So, Colony has at its center that Will is forced to work against humanity in order to find his son and keep his family safe, while he unknowingly provides intel to his wife, who has to deal with unsympathetic rebel leaders who only see her and her husband as assets to be used.

bowman captured

We’ve seen this kind of situation before, such as with the terrible V remake a few years ago, but here it works. That is because Colony focuses on the characters and the hardships they face living under military occupation. It’s a dilemma that can easily be transplanted into another time and era. This could’ve been occupied France during World War II and the showrunners wisely chose to concentrate on this angle. It surprisingly has many gray areas, dronefor instance, it’s shown that the collaborators aren’t one-dimensional villains cackling over L.A. residents. They genuinely fear the “Hosts” and want to get the best deal for humans while they enjoy living privileged lives in the Green Zone. A well-done example of this was with Will’s supervisor Phyllis (Kathy Baker), who at first came off as a mean, cold dragon lady type. But over the course of a couple of episodes we learned that she wasn’t thrilled with humanity’s lot but felt that getting along with the conquerors was the only option. However she wasn’t inhuman, she protected Will when some incriminating evidence was found about one of his sons, then when we think she may be OK she tries blackmailing Katie. That’s not all, when Phyllis goes home after work, we find out she’s caring for an invalid husband, which explained why she’s so cooperative with the “Hosts”. Meanwhile many of the people running the resistance aren’t very likeable because they’re so cold and only see people as tools to be used and easily discarded. Will Bowman and his wife are in losing situations and forced to do things they don’t want to do, but try to make the most of it. The question is how long can they last let alone succeed in their roles? Colony is full of nuanced characters and situations that rises above its standard formula.

the wall

What also keeps things intriguing is that we don’t know the entire situation with the invaders. Are they aliens? Or extradimensional beings? What is their agenda? By not showing the “Hosts” at all (even the villainous characters like Snyder haven’t ever seen them), viewers are automatically intrigued. Then there bowmanare the casual visual cues that the city is different like the lack of American flags, off-the-cuff comments about the “Arrival” and how L.A.’s defenses were destroyed within hours during the “Arrival”, and the oppressive looking walls that tower over skyscrapers. Honestly, it would be best for Colony if they keep the background murky and give viewers tidbits as the struggles of the Bowman family and other L.A. residents are unfolded. Plus, aside from the CG shots of the drones, the show must be relatively inexpensive to produce, which should keep it around for awhile and hopefully the answers will be provided in a natural fashion.

Waldermann Rivera