I’m no fan of superhero media- films, TV, even comics, a lot of it just leaves me cold. One of my main problems with superhero stuff is that it seems to be to keen to go “dark”-after the success of the Dark Knight franchise (which has a lot to answer for), a clutch of superhero movies have attempted to recapture it’s unique brand by surgically removing their sense of humour (hello, Man of Steel! Take a seat, Gotham!).
For me, the genre practically requires a healthy dose of fun to function. Which is part of the reason why I’ve always had time for DC’s TV universe- despite their underwhelming cinematic offerings, they’ve created Arrow (which is pretty good), The Flash (one of my favourite things on TV) and, now, Legends of Tomorrow, a time-travelling team-up series that proves my point-superhero media can survive purely on it’s sense of fun.
The show revolves around Rip Turner- a time master from the future (and yes, I know that this already sounds like a Doctor Who rip-off, especially considering ex-Tardis inhabitant Arthur Darvill plays him, but Rip existed before Doctor Who was a twinkle in Sydney Newman’s eye) who travels back in time to form a group of extraordinary humans to take down the immortal despot Vandal Savage who’s taken over the world in Rip Turner’s future. I mean, I was already interested when a show that apparently wasn’t an SNL piss-take had actual characters called Rip Turner and Vandal fucking Savage (played by, no joke, an actor called Casper Crump, which is perhaps a better supervillain name than the one the show gave him). Now, the reviews for the show have been pretty lukewarm at the moment (ironic for a show with two characters who shoot fire) and I’m here to contest that.
I’ll admit too, that, the show had brought together several of my favourite aspects of the Arrow and Flash universes (universii?). For one, it had Wentworth Miller as Captain Cold, perhaps the most outrageously camp performance on TV right now (even counting all of Ryan Murphy’s “characters”, which is really saying something) and for my money the most comic book villain-ish of the comic book villains around. Add to that the swaggering fun of Caity Lotz as White Canary, the square-jawed charm of Brandon Routh’s Atom, and Ciara Renee’s compassionate and curious Hawkgirl, amongst several others, and you’ve already gathered together a pretty fun group, one that I would be content to watch just goofing off in a giant time machine for twelve episodes. Of course, there are weak links- I will never stop loathing the patronising awfulness of Hawkman- but bringing together a collection of series-favourites, dumping them in a show together, and sitting back to wait for the boom isn’t the worst premise for a show I’ve ever seen.
And yes, the plot is ridiculous and overwrought, prancing through time and space (COUGH COUGH NOTHING TO DO WITH DOCTOR WHO OF COURSE COUGH) with no real sense of weight, and I’m not totally convinced that the show can really maintain this plot for anything more than a handful of episodes at best. The dialogue is often quotably bad, the acting is about at the level you would expect for a bunch of hyper-heroes, and Rip Turner has all the nuance and depth that you’d expect a character called Rip Turner to have.
But that’s not the point- the point is that I will defend to the death the right of shows to not aim for cerebral brilliance, innovative storytelling, or ground-breaking characters, if that show at least understands it’s main function is to entertain. I will defend Wentworth Miller purring every line like it’s a lungful of smoke he’s not done with yet; I will defend Arthur Darvill stomping around all serious in a big jacket. I will defend these things because they’re fun, and that’s what the superhero genre is when boiled down to it’s very roots. With so many movies and TV shows intent of turning the genre into a po-faced parody of itself, Legends of Tomorrow is a refreshingly doofy leap in the right direction.