Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Review: CW Elseworlds Crossover Part 1

I know I am over a week late in reviewing the three part CW crossover event Elseworlds but it took me a while to wrap my head around how I wanted to go about reviewing it.

Initially the thought was to review it all in one big post, covering all three episodes and creating a massive missive about all that happened.

But after attempts at doing that I realized that would be doing this crossover an injustice. Because this is flat-out, one of the best DC super-hero live action products to be done. It deserves to be looked at closely and have its beauty acknowledged.

For one,  it completely embraces its comic book roots. Unlike the Snyder-verse with its dour washed out tones, unlike Smallville and its 'no tights/no flights', this show wallows in its four color history. It plays out like 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' Lite, a sort of stripped down COIE. But for a comic nerd like me, there are so many nods, acknowledgements, and Easter Eggs sprinkled throughout that I couldn't help but be thoroughly impressed.

Next, it also leans into its own history. These are characters with years of their own stories. So to see Ollie and Barry call back to something that happened when they first crossed over 4 years ago showed me how important the internal continuity is.

Also, it is clear that these actors simply enjoy working with each other. There is tremendous chemistry throughout. I was actively rooting for them. And, no word of a lie (and you'll hear about it when I cover part three), I actually got chills once.

Then there is a spot on Batwoman performance and a Gotham I want to explore more.

And, perhaps most of all, we got a Superman and Lois that I can 100% get behind. This is the Lois and Clark I want. Perfect.

So get ready to hear me gush a bit. Onto Elseworlds ...

The crossover opens with how each of the shows last episode ended, with a peek at Earth 90 and the devastation there. Only the Flash of that world (dressed up in his 90s television outfit and played by 90s television Flash John Wesley Shipp) survived. He asks the Monitor why he destroyed this world before racing off to warn others.

We cut to Earth 1 where creepy psychiatrist John Deegan is giving a lecture about how his experiments in eugenics can be used to help patients feel super, to help them away from feeling inferior. The crowd mocks him as a 'Frankenstein' leaving him alone to sulk. I love Jeremy Davies as an actor. He always seems a little unsettled and frenetic which works great for Deegan. (I loved Davies in the Soderbergh Solaris!)

Out in the parking lot, who arrives but the Monitor. He gives Deegan the 'Book of Destiny', a way to rewrite the world's history. And he tells Deegan to think big. Suddenly world warping energy spills from the pages.

So right off the bat I have to tip my hat. That *is* the Monitor. No toning down of his wonky armor. No 'making it more real'. This is pure, off the pages, Monitor, right down to the mutton chops and head ridges.

And, of course, John Deegan turns out to be Dr. Destiny, no big surprise.

Now the non-comic reader doesn't know who the Monitor is. But I do. So when the next shot is red skies and lightning, I knew where we were headed. That was amazing!

Now Deegan's re-writes come into play as Ollie wakes up as Barry. It was funny to see him cringe at all the lovey-dovey stuff Iris coos at him. Given all the times Barry has messed up the timeline, I'm not surprised that Oliver's first guess is that the real Flash did something. That was a laugh out loud moment.

But business takes precedent. This Flash is called to Ivo labs to stop some criminals. And while he isn't used to his powers, Oliver is able to stop them with a lightning strike.

Again, it is the little things that made me smile here. The Flash saying the 'you failed this city' Arrow tagline and Cisco's being confused. The name drop of Ivo. And, of course, the inadvertent activation of Amazo (no surprise since we were at an Ivo facility).

At STAR Labs, Ollie is being hugged by the team (remember they think he is Barry). Iris brags about his abs. He realizes he needs to go talk to someone ... like 'Oliver Queen'.

In Star City, we see Barry reacting a little bit differently to the switcheroo. As usual, Barry is looking for the bright side. And maybe because he has lived through other time ripples, he seems to roll with it more. He is all giggles when he is able to throwdown with Diggle. He wonders if he needs help getting into the Arrow outfit. He even has fun doing reps in the gym. It is only when The Flash arrives and tells Barry that he was in bed with Iris that he realizes it has to end.

The two head to STAR Labs but when they tell the crew that they have been swapped with each other, the team doesn't believe them. And thinking that the heroes are a threat to themselves and others, they knock them out and throw them in the Pipeline.

Finally, inside the Pipeline, I get the answer to a question I have wondered since the Flash show's inception. Where are the toilets in the cells? Turns out they are hidden behind a panel the inmates can open.

But they hatch a plan. Flooding the toilet will short out the power dampeners. Then they can escape and head to Earth 38. Maybe Kara remembers who they are.

To get to the valve, Barry (as Ollie) dislocates his thumb. He is pretty angry about it. With the power off, Ollie (as Barry) can use his Flash powers to phase them out. He is pretty jazzed about it.

Acting like the other would made their powers and abilities more accessible. Hmmm ...

To get the device to send them to Earth 38, the real Barry talks to Iris and convinces her they have been swapped. Ahh ... the 'you are my lightning rod' line never fails.

We then head to Earth 38 where we hear 'Somebody Save Me!!!' ,the Smallville theme!

What says Crisis and time weirdness than a callback to the 90s!!

And on the Kent farm we see Clark, Kara, and .... LOIS!!!

Seems Clark and Lois had gone to Argo (we had heard that on the Supergirl show) but are back. Lois wants to write about it and talks about how at times she is compelled to write a story, this being one of them.

Bitsy Tulloch just oozes Lois-ness from her. And I love how Clark calls her the most famous, feared, and intrepid reporter on the planet. There is even something about how she is tinkering with the truck but clearly doesn't know what she is doing that worked for me, akin to her not being able to spell well in the Donner movies.

When Clark and Kara have some down time, he says he needs to share something with her ... hmmm ...

But before he can divulge, Barry and Ollie arrive and Kara can knows who is who. The new powers are a mystery, but one they can solve together.

There is this great moment when the two displaced heroes meet Superman for the first time and Ollie puffs out his chest to seem bigger. So awesome.

As a warmup to get used to each other's powers, the two restage the confrontation from the first crossover. In that episode, Ollie rigged cannons to shoot arrows into the Flash's back. Here, Barry as Arrow does the same thing. It is funny and continuity-perfect. I thought that moment was great.
As was Lois yelling for Barry to kick Ollie's ass.

It becomes clear that it is only when the two swapped heroes begin to act more like their real counterparts will they be able to use their powers effectively.

It is a small but wonderful moment right after when Supergirl says that they finally learned this lesson, one she could tell needed to happen.

Melissa Benoist puts on this gruff tone and imitates Ollie while almost giggling.

There are times I realize just how lucky I am as a Supergirl fan to have Melissa Benoist as the star. She is just amazing.

Meanwhile, on Earth 1, Cisco vibes an image of the Monitor and becomes scared. The red sky storms are worsening. And now Amazo is loose and has already defeated Elongated Man and Killer Frost. It is clear that maybe Barry and Oliver were telling the truth.

He vibes himself to Earth 38 and asks the heroes to return.

Superman decides to join in. He says to Cisco that he is a friend (AAHHH!!!!) and then does a classic shirt rip (AAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!).

Just fantastic.

There is a wonderful fight sequence where all the heroes need to team up to defeat Amazo. The Supers and the Flash hold the robot so it can't phase and then Barry (as Arrow) hits it with an arrow designed to turn of its OS.

It actually is a solid sequence with each hero getting a moment against this behemoth. For a TV show, the effects are  adequate. This really felt like the JLA movie I want to see!

With Amazo defeated, Clark returns to Earth-1. But Kara decides to stay and help out her friends.

Cisco uses his powers to vibe another image of the Monitor, this time with Deegan. Ollie, sporting some Jim Lee level skills, sketches what they saw. There in the background is the Wayne Tower. It is time for the crew to head to Gotham!

Whew ...

Lois! Amazo! Fun! Action! Crisis stuff!!!

Talk about an opening chapter .. and things only get better!


Anonymous said...

When you go to your comic roots and not engage in SJW politics, you succeed! This first episode, basically the Sunday night Flash, did that. Arrow will make this even better. Now...I am not a watcher of Arrow given its dark tone and very dissatisfying villains, but even a show like that can have cheeky humor.

SPOILER ALERT...I really, really enjoyed all three episodes!!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, the first sentence in the first post.

Anonymous said...

Note: my comments cover all 3 parts...sorry, but I've
been waiting for this review. Good idea about splitting it.

I liked the "Worlds Finest" mention btx Kara and Kate.
It reminded me of my WF#169, 'The Supergirl-Batgirl plot',
when "they" teamed up, as well as the DVD Batman vol4,
'Girls night out', when they (w/Barbara) actually did,
tho "Kara" had her white (Matrix-like?) outfit on.
I even re-read SG#9-11 (2017). As for Kate, the only comic
I have is BATMAN ANNUAL 7 (1964), pg72: Kathy Kane (BATWOMAN).

As for the upcoming 'Crisis on infinite Earths' in 2019,
all I can say is, when they killed off Kara in it (1985?),
I stopped buying all comic books, until they brought her
back in SB 2004. I can only hope they do NOT repeat that,
especially w/the apparently good ratings of part3.
I wasn't into the Matrix version (she wasn't Kal's cousin?),
but I do have the 'Many happy returns' re-print of 2003,
which I actually thought was OK, but I still wanted the
"real" Kara back. Little did I know what was coming. :)

A nitpick: if Barry said he and Kara must circle the Earth
at mach7, well, when they showed the Earth w/their 2 "circles",
they were almost doing light speed (light, if it could bend,
would circle the Earth apx 7x/sec). Mach7 would look NOTHING
like that!

BTW, how is Kara pronounced? Like the live-action stuff
(the 1984 movie, Smallville?, the TV series) like "car",
or like most of the animated stuff (the above, Apocalypse,
Superman:unbound, but not JLA:keeping up w/the Kryptonians)
like "care"? I found some links, but none mentioned this
discrepency; mostly opinions. Did the creators ever say?

Looking forward to the next 2 reviews. Cheers...

Anonymous said...

It was a good episode, kicking off a good crossover.

Moments such like "We have to fix this right now!" or "Are you puffing your chest out?" -funny how those who complain about Superman being treated as a joke miss the number of times where the Earth-1 crew was thrilled to meet him- were comedic gold.

I was happy to meet this universe's Lois and Clark and treating Kara as family -because she IS-. And a Smallville easter egg! I wish we have to see Laura Vandervoort reprising her Smallville role.

The battle against Amazon was awesome. I truly had the feeling of watching a -admittedly low-budget- live-action Justice League in action, as opposite to what the Snyderverse gave us.

Anonymous said...

This year's cross-over worked because the casting was restricted making it a "Flash-Green Arrow, Supergirl" affair, capitalizing on the chemistry and continuity present between the respective leads. That, was a good call IMHO, no offense to Black Lightning or Legends of Tomorrow (I suppose they could have their own crossover event sans demure), but Kara, Ollie and Barry are a "team within the team" at this point. The fact that Berlanti et all were able to appropriate the Crisis Mythos for their own purposes just tells me that the Superman film franchise is rung up at "Full Stop" since so many of DC's key event franchises are getting signed over to TV, and why not? Berlanti knows the value of those properties and how to exploit them.
As far as I am concerned Tyler Hoechlin has earned his spurs as Superman ditto Ms Tulloch who "sounds like Lois", pushy impertinent romantic and smart. Its those qualities that make the relationship with Superman believable and relatable to the larger aud, that much was present in spades...looking forward to seeing how this works out going forward.


Scrimmage said...

Let me start off by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the Elseworlds Crossover, but I thought that, even though the first episode had its moments, it was easily the weakest of the three.

I think it's best to view these crossover episodes as fun, entertaining departures from “business as usual,” on each show, and as being more about the way the characters interact, than about the details of the plot, which is why I judge them by a slightly different standard. I vividly remember reading The Brave and the Bold #28, the first appearance of the Justice League of America, and being FAR more interested in the conversations between the heroes, than in their battle against Starro the Conqueror, the giant space starfish whose invasion brought the heroes together.

Likewise, I was able to overlook the contrived “Freaky Friday” plot device of Ollie and Barry switching lives, if not bodies, even though I could practically hear the proposal in the writers' room...

“Here's an idea for the crossover. Why don't we put Barry in the Green Arrow costume and dress Ollie up as the Flash??”

“That's a GREAT idea!”

I can even overlook the obvious question of why someone recently given reality altering abilities would bother with a childish prank like that, which didn't really accomplish anything, since both heroes were still functional. It wasn't made clear whether or not Dr Destiny had any prior contact with either the Flash or Green Arrow, or why he singled them out, and then waited for them to show up, instead of admiring his handiwork.

I'm not even going to question why a supposedly smart guy like the Monitor would choose to bestow nearly infinite power on a person of such limited intellect and disreputable character. A Green Lantern's ring can find better candidates! I will only point out that any adventure story is only as good as its villain, and a villain is only as “good” as his diabolical plan, the simpler, and more practical, the better! “Conquering the World” (or the Multiverse) is far to vague to be any villain's goal. On the other hand, the classic Bond villain, Goldfinger's plan to corner the gold market by irradiating the US gold supply at Ft Knox was brilliant in its simplicity. That's what made him the greatest of all of 007's foes.

Here, Dr Destiny has no clue about what he REALLY wants, and so he's basically mucking around with reality willy-nilly, which as anyone paying attention to “Flashpoint” knows, is a VERY dangerous proposition. As for the Monitor's claim that this is his way of “testing” heroes, to face an even bigger threat, all I can say is, killing several universes' worth of them seems rather counterproductive, to say the least! You'd think he'd be better off recruiting them.

That being said, there WAS a lot to like about this episode, which I'll get into in my next post.

Nutation said...

Yes, an episode full of callbacks to the past, both TV and print. The best for me was Barry shooting Oliver in the back. (How did he manage to set that up? Who cares!)

Bitsy Tulloch doesn't quite feel right as Lois to me. It's close, though. If we see her again late next year after her (real life) pregnancy, I'll have a chance to like her more.

Amazo is simply hard to do right, but they managed. This Amazo's power absorption apparently wears off after a while, I see, since it didn't have Frost or Elongated Man's abilities at the end.

Scrimmage said...

I'm a big fan of Tyler Hoechlin's Superman, but I'm even more impressed with his unique take on Clark Kent – the REAL Clark, not the phony, “mild mannered, clumsy” Clark, but Ma and Pa Kent's boy, the one who was raised on a farm, and embodies small town American values like no other hero ever has. His portrayal of Clark as basically “Superman off the clock” is something we haven't seen very often.

Lois Lane was a welcome, and logical addition to the show, although I have to say that I was disappointed in the casting of the character. I think they were going for a modern Margot Kidder type, but the problem is, she was never the prototypical Lois. For me, that would be Terri Hatcher, because I always pictured Lois Lane as an intrepid reporter who often took advantage of her supermodel good looks to gain access to places “mere mortal” reporters couldn't go. Lois is SUPPOSED to be drop dead gorgeous, as beautiful and as sexy as she is smart, and she's VERY smart. She's the total package, beauty, brains, supremely confident, and totally fearless, which is what one would expect from the woman who captured Superman's heart. That's why Bitsy Tulloch – who I'm sure is a fine actress – wouldn't have been my choice for the role, but that's okay. If I could accept Noel Neill and Erica Durance (what were they THINKING??!!) as Lois Lane, than I'm sure I'll be able to do the same with her. She does SOUND like Lois, which is more than I could ever say about Ms Durance. I hope that someday, after the superbaby is born, Lois will be a mentor for Kara on her reporting career, which I'm sure Lois would say can be just as important as her “other” job. I was hoping that Lois would make a snarky comment about her rival, Cat Grant to Kara, but apparently, out of sight, out of mind. Clark never mentioned Jimmy either.

Melissa Benoist is an absolute joy to watch. She was practically beaming in every scene, and she seemed to be enjoying working with an essentially different cast as much as anyone. Kara teasing Ollie and Barry about their rivalry, while clearly enjoying their predicament provided some of the best moments of the show, as did her more introspective conversations with Clark about life, superheroing, secret identities, and everything in between. Now that she's no longer with the DEO, it's good that Kara has Clark to bounce things off of, although I admit, I was just a tad disappointed that she didn't remind him once again that she's “older” than he is, or that she didn't mention to Oliver and Barry that she used to change his diapers. I guess she didn't want to ruin his image in front of the Boys.

Amazo is one of my favorite villains for these types of superhero team-ups, because he's capable of taking them all on at once, using their own powers against them. If you ask me, Amazo should've been the primary threat in this crossover. He would've been a much more logical choice to be the instrument the Monitor used to test heroes, which would've been MORE than enough reason for Oliver and Barry to call in the Supers for reinforcements, without Deegan, and that silly, contrived, identity swap subplot. That time could've been better spent on more interaction with John Wesley Shipp's 90's Flash / Barry Allen character, who after a promising start, vanished without a trace in a puff of smoke, and was never spoken of again. What happened to him?? Is he DEAD? Did he go back to his Earth?

Of all the Easter Eggs, meta-references, and salutes to previous TV iterations of the DC Universe, I think I enjoyed the “Batman: Real Hero or Urban Legend?” debate between fanboy Barry, and a slightly threatened Ollie, most of all. Oliver was a bit more insecure, and therefore FAR more likable in this crossover than he is on his own show, where he's usually something of a “Debbie Downer.” Kara and Barry bring out the best of Oliver. They lighten his spirit, and it's fun to watch.

Scrimmage said...

I was intrigued by the idea that on Earth 90, John Diggle (Stewart?) is Green Lantern. If that character wasn't killed, I'd sure like to see that Green Lantern – or ANY Lantern, really – show up someday.

Seeing The Batwoman striking an iconic pose on the rooftops of Gotham was the Best..... Cliffhanger..... EVER! I'm looking forward to reading Anj's review of the next episode, Elseworlds pt 2.

Steve said...

So there’s one thing I’ve got to mention that I haven’t seen in previous comments. I love how this whole crossover confirmed that a) Barry and Oliver kinda suck at any plans not involving daring-do to the point they can’t convince their closest friends of a simple body swap and b) their all-purpose contingency plan is basically ‘go get Kara to be the Adult and sort this out’. And this is as it should be when you look at the circles she walks in on a daily basis and, well, who she is. Ollie may be the tactician but after Elseworlds there’s surely no doubt who the leader of this particular group is...

Oh, and Melissa remains the best Superhero casting in DC since Christopher Reeve, really wouldn’t want to be whoever has to follow her in the likely inevitable big screen version.

Steve said...

So I rewatched this recently and caught something that flew past in the joyful haze of the first... dozen... viewings. When Cisco vibes over to Earth 38 and asks who the heck Clark is the response is simply "a friend" followed by the classic shirt rip. Now this works for the audience but always felt a bit weird in-show. Or rather it did right up until this thought hit me: Clark has seen that this group know Kara and are clearly familiar with her work (to the point of crossing universes for her help when they need an adult). He therefore has complete confidence that just revealing the House of El's coat of arms will be enough to convince them he's on their side and useful to have around because of her. Once that lodged in my brain I couldn't stop grinning, it's *such* a nice flip from the comics where it's normally Kara benefiting from Kal's reputation and boy has this show earned it over the years.