This past month has now seen two attempts by DC Comics to bring together their greatest heroes to face off against an evil bigger than any one of them could handle alone. Hands down, the big screen version featuring the likes of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman should have been the one to beat. And yet it wasn't.
Monday night kicked off The CW's two-night, four-show crossover event "Crisis on Earth-X." It combines the characters of "Supergirl," "Arrow," "The Flash," and "DC's Legends of Tomorrow," but don't look for any of those logos to appear on the screen. "Crisis" has its own logo, and it's the only one these four episodes are getting.
It's appropriate, too, because the only way to really tell the difference between shows during this event is to watch the opening credits. Rather than shift the action almost exclusively from one show's cast to the next, every character is given roughly equal screen-time, making this more of an event mini-series than a collection of episodes.
That doesn't mean it was all great. Let's break it down to see what was super and what turned out kinda lame.
From the "Crisis on Earth-X" logo to the individual city logos matching their respective show logos, a lot of attention was paid to the marketing and design of this mini-series event. It had movie-style promo posters to let viewers know this was something special. Add to that the design work put into realizing the effects and the Nazi heroes and their world, and this production managed to a slicker, more seamless look on a CW budget than "Justice League" could in removing a mustache.
LAME: NEW-USER UNFRIENDLY
Unfortunately, after luring them in, the event almost impenetrable for new viewers, or even faithful viewers who maybe didn't realize it was coming. "Arrow" jumped from Thursday to Monday for this event, so hopefully fans were paying attention. If they missed the "Supergirl" hour, there was no "Previously on" segment, leaving them hopelessly lost. With this sprawling cast of characters, if you didn't already have some idea of who these people were and which shows they came from, it could be very difficult to keep up.
LAME: RESIDUAL STORYLINES
With Nazi superheroes and an otherworldly invasion, the only story element we really needed from each of the respective series was the wedding of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) and Iris West (Candice Patton). That was set up well enough through invitations sent to the varying heroes and their supporting cast in the opening moments. Even Supergirl's (Melissa Benoist) sister Alex (Chyler Leigh) hooking up with the White Canary (Caity Lotz) was well-handled, because all we needed to know was she was on the rebound. What we didn't need was the overly complex Firestorm (Victor Garber/Franz Drameh) relationship drama, or the addition of Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) rejecting Oliver's (Stephen Amell) proposal. The more stand-alone the event could feel, the better entryway it might be for newer viewers into the DCW Universe.
One of the things that did work was how personal the threats were to the heroes, being their alternate-Earth Nazi counterparts. It also meant little time had to be given to explaining them. Beyond evil Supergirl and Arrow, Reverse-Flash explained why he wore Harrison Wells' (Tom Cavanagh) face -- as he did previously in "The Flash" -- and Oliver had an extensive conversation with Nazi Tommy Merlyn (a returning Colin Donnell), who died way back in Season 1, to fill us in on who he was and what their relationship was about. Keep back-matter simple and in the script.
LAME: SUPERHERO TROPES
They just couldn't resist having Supergirl rip open her shirt to reveal that "S" could they? And then they made it worse by concocting a ridiculous montage of all the heroes getting dressed for battle, and then dramatically walking in slow motion down a walkway. The tropes were hitting a little too hard throughout the show, including Felicity rejecting Oliver super-loud in front of everyone (accidentally) and the dramatic reveal of the painfully obvious evil counterparts to our heroes. Yes, we all saw it coming.
We got some fantastic action sequences, including multiple epic fight scenes involving just about everyone, and a solid team rescue of a construction zone after Nazi-Supergirl set it to crumbling. With so many heroes running around, the production team did a great job of panning around to give everyone a chance to shine, whether with powers or street-level fighting skills, creating seamless-yet-chaotic battle sequences that were absolutely mesmerizing to watch.
While the DC movies are still struggling to inject humor into their films, there were plenty of big laughs on the small one in these two hours. Honorary Mention has to go to Heat Wave (Dominic Purcell) for every single line delivered. From lamenting that he has to wear clothing, to deciding which side to sit at in the wedding, every moment he had was gold. The rest of the cast managed to slip in some good jabs along the way as well, keeping a sense of fun about the whole thing.
Just as they were about to get married, a Nazi arrived and disintegrated the pastor. After that battle, Iris told Barry, "The most important thing is everyone's okay." Um, well yeah, but not everyone.
The big question now for this epic crossover event is if they can stick the landing. "Crisis on Earth-X" wraps with two new episodes Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.