A bigger, tighter ‘Arrowverse’ crossover
Hot on the heels of DC Comics’ “Justice League” film is this year’s similarly fun but arguably more organized “Arrowverse” crossover. Bigger and tighter than ever, the latest team up of four TV shows (“Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl” and “Legends of Tomorrow”) exemplifies just how this side of the DC “multiverse” has grown.
And the change, like its roster of heroes, is tremendous. Last year, the shows united for “Invasion,” which is basically a straightforward alien invasion story. This year, it’s still about unwelcome guests, as Nazi versions of the superheroes attack the wedding of Flash/Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Iris West (Candice Patton), in the four-part crossover “Crisis on Earth X.”
Barry’s hero friends drop by for the occasion, only to see his and Iris’ special moment interrupted by masked Nazi soldiers and supervillains—whose agenda is as mysterious as their identities, initially. We soon learn that they’re twisted versions of the “main Earth” heroes, merciless rulers of a world where Nazi Germany won World War II.
The Greg Berlanti-developed Arrowverse has come a long way, and this yearly culmination of superhero adventures illustrates how, bit by bit, this corner of DC Comics’ adaptation has expanded significantly.
“Crisis on Earth X” is a more complicated endeavor, requiring the careful handling of over 20 characters—hero, villain and civilian alike—while letting each get a moment to shine. And while that isn’t always balanced, those who get their moments positively radiate, to the benefit of the story.
It even works, even if you don’t follow the shows on a regular basis. The first battle scene is big—and almost everyone joins the fray. Former human supporting characters Cisco Ramon (Carlos Valdes) and Caitlin Snow (Danielle Panabaker) are now actively using superpowers, becoming altogether different versions of their comics counterparts, but are exciting, just the same. It’s always a pleasure to see Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) in action, and more so when she gets to cut loose. She gets to do that a lot here. The Legends team, meanwhile, is well-represented by standouts White Canary (Caity Lotz) and Atom (Brandon Routh), figuring in some of the flashy fisticuffs throughout the episodes.
Amell and Benoist pull double duty as both their heroes and vicious iterations, to impressive results. But also getting in on the action are the noncombatants, specifically Iris and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), whose importance in the bigger picture is just as highlighted.
It also needs mentioning that the four shows are gay-friendly, both to LGBT actors and audiences, with four characters getting nearly similar air time among them as straight couples Barry and Iris, and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Felicity. The interactions—and tenderness—between White Canary and Alex Danvers (Chyler Leigh), and The Ray (Russell Tovey) and Captain Cold (Wentworth Miller), are precious, empowering and, most of all, humanizing.
Comparing the film and TV event may be futile; they’re apples and oranges. But it’s inevitable; these are related properties, after all. The crossover is epic in ways that the entertaining “Justice League” isn’t, even with a considerably smaller budget. The fight scenes are grand, imaginative, and are less haphazard—there’s decent action choreography, coupled with competent digital effects.
And anyone who’s seen any of the four shows knows that things can get cheesy from time to time. This team up has some of those brow-furrowing moments, but they’re offset by moving drama, sensitively handled romances and gripping tension.
There’s as much teamwork as improvisation displayed by the heroes, and you see that onscreen. “Crisis on Earth X” is ambitious, but the unified shows of the Arrowverse deliver—it’s comic-book adaptation and reimagination done well, at last.
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