The CW finds fun in fan service as it attempts a Crisis On Infinite Earths
It may be trying to pull off “Infinity War”/ “Endgame” with the production values of “Doctor Who” but there’s no denying that the assemblage of likeable leads and an astonishingly ambitious agenda of bringing in as many elements of DC movie and TV history make for a pretty good time, even if it may work better as separate episodes than it does as an omnibus “movie” (which is the way I ended up watching it after E4 skipped over the pivotal “Batwoman” episode and I had to buy the DVD).
With the multiverse at stake, The Monitor sends Harbinger to gather the worlds’ greatest heroes – Supergirl, The Flash, Green Arrow, Batwoman, White Canary, The Atom and Superman – to prepare for a fight to save all of creation.
Although I’m aware of the comic book this five series TV crossover is based on, I’ve never read it and only have a vague idea of what the general story is – about the same I had regarding “The Infinity Gauntlet” before I saw the MCU’s take on it. TV-wise, I gave up on “Arrow” way back around season 3, “Flash” around season 2 and never got to the end of season 1 of “Supergirl” as the ask of keeping up with so many different (and occasionally indifferent, quality-wise) series became too great. I’ve dipped in and out of “Legends Of Tomorrow” – usually when they featured some other notable DC character (and especially when they brought back Matt Ryan’s fantastic and underrated Constantine) – but hadn’t watched any “Batwoman” apart from the episodes she appeared in during last year’s “Crisis On Earth X” so I had a passing familiarity with the Arrowverse’s main players, if not all the myriad soap-opera subplots, some of which inevitably play out during these episodes. Thanks to the longevity of several of the shows crossing over, this adaptation is easily able to overcome the absence of several of the DC universe’s biggest hitters (actual Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman) and slots its adequate ready-made replacements into place to build this epic five-part crossover on.
And epic it is, albeit in a TV kind of way. In keeping with many episodic superhero TV shows, “Crisis On Infinite Earths” manages to often feel simultaneously far too rushed and yet still sometimes padded and sluggish. It has its share of triumphant moments interspersed with flatter moments, many of the latter surrounding Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen, a character who’s run out of steam played by an actor who likewise can’t seem to summon up any more enthusiasm for the part. Even though one of the biggest incidents of the entire crossover centres on him, it barely manages to register as a significant event despite the script’s best endeavours. Thankfully there are enough cameos, callbacks and Easter eggs to keep things ticking over and Melissa Benoist and Grant Gustin have enough sunny charisma to break through the dour clouds of Amell’s ambivalence.
It’s a clever move to feature many of the tenuously connected shows (like “Titans” and “Doom Patrol”) in montage clips, making everything feel bigger but it’s the genuine appearances that raise the biggest smiles. 90s Flash, Brandon Routh donning the cape once again to bring “Kingdom Come” into Donnerverse canon, cheeky visits from Lucifer (Tom Ellis) and even a third version of The Flash as Ezra Miller pops in for a fun discussion with his TV counterpart that we can only hope will be reciprocated when they get around to doing the “Flashpoint” movie. It’s fun to see Tom Welling again, even if it confirms a very mid-point of-“Superman II” end for his version of Krypton’s favourite son and Kevin Conroy finally gets a much deserved on-screen appearance as Bruce Wayne, albeit one darker than even Zack Snyder dared to dream of.
The storyline’s fine, if occasionally muddled and unclear and there were several seeming gaps where I suspect deeper knowledge of the comics and series may have helped. While the action beats are pretty impressive (albeit very, weirdly, derivative of “Harry Potter”) they do get a little repetitive – especially when watched as a single ‘feature’ – and never more so than a big showdown with the Anti-Monitor in an abandoned quarry where the adaptation’s reach far exceeds its grasp and the choreography and special effects really struggle to deliver on their intentions.
Overall, it’s a creditable attempt to do a vast, universe-changing superhero epic on a modest budget and it leaves the Arrowverse in an interesting and unified place, ready to embrace future crossovers without having to find some calamitous dimensional threat to provoke them every time.
I’m glad I watched it and had fun revisiting the characters but I don’t plan to pick up watching any of the Arrowverse shows going forward. If it was setting out to bring lapsed viewers back into the fold, then this crossover has failed its network.