Crisis on Earth X Crossover

Back in October, I wrote about the upcoming crossover event on the CW, Crisis on Earth-X, and mentioned that it was based on a comic story I read as a kid in the pages of Justice League of America comics.  A pretty good summary of that story can be found here, and hereThe short version of that story is that the Justice League on Earth 1 and the Justice Society on Earth 2 are working on a device that will allow for easy access between the two universes.  A stowaway forces the device to malfunction, stranding both teams on a third Earth, Earth X.  Earth X is a world in which World War II lasted until 1968, with the Nazi’s winning with the creation of a mind control device.  After running into the Earth X super hero resistance, they agree to split up and go after the mind control devices, yada yada yada, and the Nazis are defeated.

Of course the fun part of this story is the yada yada yada part in which mixed groups consisting of teams from all three Earths get together and go on their own separate missions at the same time.  Structurally, it’s probably the best way to handle a storyline that includes a massive number of cast members (Avengers Infinity War take note); split the massive group into easily digestible teams, follow each of their separate missions (which are taking place simultaneously with the other team’s missions), and then all back together for the big finale.

But of course, this is a CW crossover, so other than the basic idea, there isn’t much more to mine from the original source material.  In the Arrowverse (as the CW/DC multiverse is called) the Justice Society is a World War II era superhero team up, and there is no modern equivalent to the Justice League, just Team Arrow and Team Flash on Earth 1 (plus the time traveling Legends of Tomorrow) and Supergirl is from Earth 38 (which Earth holds the movie DCU is anyone’s guess).

I was still anxious to see how the CW would handle this massive story, in the era of “punching Nazi’s,” broken down into 4 TV show sized bits, and so warning, there be spoilers…

Supergirl

There is actually a pretty good plot reason to bring characters from all the shows together; the long awaited wedding of Barry Allen and Iris West. Last year’s crossover started off on Supergirl too, but dragged on and didn’t actually “cross-over” until near the end of the episode.  This time, they went right to Earth-X and started the gathering of heroes right away as they prepared for the wedding.  Even so, there was quite a bit of time wasted over unnecessary drama about Oliver asking Felicity to marry him at the rehearsal dinner and her turning him down.  First, inappropriate time, and second, get with the Nazi’s already! Although…I admit the Sara and Alex hook up with its morning hung over walk of shame was amusing.  Two different Earths, coming together…

But it was worth waiting for the Nazi attack on the wedding.  As super fights go, it was pretty epic, particularly with Green Arrow and Supergirl going up against their parallel Earth counterparts.  I guess Barry and Iris can forget about getting their deposit back for that venue…

Arrow

It’s a half assed, ill thought out plan for the Nazi’s to invade the world (Earth 1 actually) but there is a certain amount of Mirror Universe-like charm in the Nazi Super Friends, consisting of a Harrison Wells look alike Eobard Thawne speedster, Oliver Queen, or as Felicity amusingly referred to him, “Oliver in the High Castle,” and “Overgirl,” the Nazi version of Supergirl.  The fact that this Supergirl and Oliver are not just a couple, but a married couple very much in love; seems to be an inspired choice. What’s apparently so understated that I missed it originally is Oliver Queen is actually the Führer of Earth X. But interestingly Nazi Supergirl seems to be the most nazi-esque of the group of villains.  She’s a true believer and why shouldn’t she be? She actually is demonstrably superior.

Besides the whole taking over the world thing it seems the Nazi power couple have another agenda; Nazi Kara is dying and needs a Kryptonian heart transplant.  Not a lot of places you can get a spare Kryptonian heart. But not only does Supergirl have one, but it’s a dead on tissue match too. So after capturing the good guys they find themselves in a concentration camp on Earth X.

The Flash

After a quickie escape from the concentration camp (while leaving the other prisoners there to rot I noticed) the gang meet The Ray, another Earth 1 refugee with light powers, and are taken to Freedom Fighters HQ where the resistance plans to blow up the dimensional portal while their Führer is off world on Earth 1.  That being the only way home, that’s a plan that doesn’t really work for the Super Friends, but they do have an advantage; Earth 1 Oliver Queen looks just like the dictator of Earth X.  For once, they have a plan that doesn’t seem ridiculously implausible, merely ridiculous.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

After The Flash and The Ray stop Red Tornado (!) from blowing up the facility, they heroes transit back to Earth 1 where the Legends were held in the Star Labs containment facility.  Frankly I forgot all about them after they were captured after the wedding debacle.

The death of Professor Martin Stein brought some real consequence to the story line. Although it was known that actor Victor Garber was going to leave Legend this season, I admit I was caught by surprise.  I had gotten so used to the Arrowverse’s hail of gun fire and nobody getting shot, I hadn’t considered that Stein would be critically wounded from Nazi gunfire, but Stein’s death made everyone put on their serious face so they could do battle with Nazi Oliver and Kara and their Nazi unit.

As a battle royale, the final battle in Central City was both spectacular and extremely dumb.  The Nazi Waverider (wait there are two Waveriders?  Huh?) started firing at innocent civilians, but stopped long enough for a wide angle shot of both heroes and villains lined up in a row before resorting to the sort of melee that worked poorly in the season finale of Arrow’s season 4.  This one, however, worked better by concentrating on three main aspects of it, the battle of the two Waveriders, the battle between Overgirl and Supergirl, and Flash versus Reverse Flash.  Flash lets Thawne get away, Overgirl, bereft of her heart transplant, blows up in spectacular fashion and the good Waverider manages to blow up the Nazi one, and Green Arrow puts an arrow in the heart of Dark Arrow.  So surprise!  The good guys win.

All in all, it was a spectacular crossover event, and I mean it really was an event.  The CW has managed to put together the type of world(s) that the movie DCU would love to do and hasn’t yet managed to pull off.  In the Arrowverse, we have multiple super heroes with quite a bit of entangled history with each other.  This is far more the DC Expanded Universe than the movie version.

Just some general observations…

After the battle with the Nazi’s in Central City, President Trump said there were good people on both sides!

Where did the Nazi Waverider come from?  Did Earth X have it’s own version of Legends, and if so, where were they?  What am I missing?

Oliver Queen is Batman.  Well not really, particularly since they name dropped Bruce Wayne a few episodes back in Arrow, but he does have the same sort of several-steps-ahead planning that had him produce a Kryptonite arrow, even though the odds of needing one are not high when there are no Kryptonians on your Earth and the only one you’ve ever met was pretty and nice.  Not nearly as smart as Batman though.  Oliver Queen is strictly a gentleman’s C’s achiever academically.

This crossover was super gay, and I mean even more than the usual CW show. At this point, there are enough gay superheroes to have their own crossover episode.  So stay tuned for next year’s Crisis on Earth-Fabulous!

The special effects for The Ray/Flash/Red Tornado battle were top notch. I realize they are working with a TV budget here, and a CW TV budget at that, but it looks like they went out of their way to make the special effects hold up.  Tip o’ the hat!

This crossover, unlike last year’s Dominator one, was more of a 4 hour movie or mini-series than bits and pieces of different cast members joining other shows for a “very special” episode.  In fact, I thought it was every bit as good as the far more expensive Justice League.  Maybe the CW guys ought to contribute creatively to the movie side of the DC equation.

I get Oliver Queen and Quentin Lance being unshaven on Earth 1, but it’s hard to believe that their Nazi counterparts would be similarly unshaven.  They were in uniform after all.  Don’t the Nazi’s have any uniform regulations?

Eobard Thawne, the speedster villain allied with the Nazi’s makes either a continuity hint or an error.  While prepping Supergirl for her heart donation surgery, Supergirl threatens Thawne with her cousin, Superman.  Thawne replies that he’s fought her cousin before, in the future.  Here is the thing.  Thawne, the main villain of season one of The Flash, is from Earth 1’s future.  Earth 1 doesn’t have either a Superman or Supergirl. Supergirl and her “cousin” Superman are from Earth 38.  So did Thawne fight Earth 38’s Superman?  Some other Earth’s Superman, or has Superman’s pod not yet arrived on Earth 1?  Or…is Clark Kent actually already on Earth 1 and hasn’t taken up the weekend hobby of superheroing yet?

Inquiring minds…

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If Christopher Nolan Did Green Arrow…

…you might get something very similar to the CW’s new Arrow.  It’s not surprising that the new show should take a similar path.  Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman was hugely successful, both critically, and financially.  Batman, the Frank Miller inspired version; the obsessed, little-bit psychotic vigilante, fighting his own demons as much as bad guys, translated well onto the screen.  So if you were looking for another DC superhero property to give the same treatment to, there probably isn’t a better choice than the Green Arrow.

The show looks good on the screen, although the foyer of the Queen mansion looks suspiciously like the one in Lex Luthor’s transplanted castle in Smallville.  As much as I enjoy the miracle of CGI and its ability to bring anything that you can imagine to the screen, there is nothing like good old fashioned stunts.  The pilot has lead actor Stephen Amell demonstrating some fairly impressive parkour skills and in fact Amell did train in parkour to prepare for this role, although many of the stunts are done by stunt doubles.  It’s a smooth enough transition that I can’t tell the difference though.  I was watching and it looked like Amell did all of the parkour stunts.

As originally portrayed in the comics, Oliver Queen was a millionaire playboy who also dabbled in crime fighting as the Green Arrow.  He was an expert archer, acquiring those skills while stranded on an island.  His stock in trade was trick arrows that could perform assorted functions.  He was Batman, without the compelling reason to be a Batman.  Eventually the comics provided a reason, having Queen lose his fortune and discovering the living is a lot harder without lots of money to fall back on.  Green Arrow becomes a crusader for social justice as well as the old fashioned kind.

In Arrow, the CW takes those basics and tries to re-imagine a much grittier, edgier version; a Green Arrow to match the edgier Dark Knight version of Batman.  As the pilot episode opens, Oliver Queen is rescued from his island prison after being missing and presumed dead for 5 years.  However this Oliver has a specific agenda, that’s partially revealed in flashbacks to the sinking of his yacht and the death of his father.  If you’ve not seen pilot, I won’t spoil it other than to say the death of his father gives him a very specific list of wrongs to be righted.

This Oliver Queen is rather morally ambiguous.  Is he a good guy?  It’s not so clear cut, and it looks like the show intends to draw that out.  The outing he was on when his yacht sank has him bringing along his then current girlfriend’s sister for a little cheat-o-rama. That girlfriend, Laurel Lance, despises him for her sister’s death although their futures may be linked since careful comic book readers will note that Laurel Lance is the future Black Canary, Green Arrow’s long time girlfriend in the comics.  But cheating on a girlfriend isn’t that edgy or gritty; killing a kidnapper who is helpless is.

In most superhero sagas, guns are never used and killing is strictly forbidden.  However for this show, we have a superhero that does kill, not in self defense, but to protect his secrets.  That ups the ante in the gritty and edgy department.  Without the normal limitations of the superhero genre, who knows where this show will go?

Weaved into the plot is more potential “drama” than you can shake a stick at.  His kid sister is using drugs, there is a new stepfather, and mommy dearest isn’t exactly the June Cleaver type; she has secrets of her own.  Not to mention the local police detective is the father of both Laurel Lance and the sister who died when the Queen yacht sank.  Guess who he blames for his daughter’s death?

And for that, I’m enthusiastic about this take on the Green Arrow story.  Yes, I realize there is the potential to go too far; turning this version of Green Arrow from less like an edgy Batman and more like a rich Dexter.  That would be a mistake, and hopefully the producers will put the brakes on any mass murder spree by a DC superhero.

Still, I like what I see so far and am willing to give this show some long rope to see where it goes.

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