Thursday, 26 January 2017

Review - 'Legends of Tomorrow', S02E09 - 'Raiders of the Lost Art'

From its very first episode, one of the things I have most enjoyed about Legends of Tomorrow has been its willingness to fully embrace the absurdity of its own premise. With its wildly varied cast of characters tossed into increasingly outlandish situations, Legends of Tomorrow has always been the series that made the most of its 'comic-book' origins (even managing to beat out The Flash). In its time on-screen, we have already had stories featuring Nazis, 1920s era gangsters, Confederate zombies, and a trip to feudal Japan.

With the second season's ninth episode, though, Legends of Tomorrow may actually have managed to outdo even the most bizarre story-lines of the past season and a half – and, it did so by heading back to 1967, for a story featuring a young George Lucas. Of course, this isn't the first time that Legends of Tomorrow has featured a 'real-life personality' – but, it is definitely the first time we have had one who is still very much alive.

While memories of the Star Wars prequel trilogy (and, his near constant tinkering with the original trilogy) may have coloured people's impressions, the fact remains that George Lucas is a very influential figure in the entertainment industry. Because of that, there is a definite appeal in the idea of bringing him into this outlandish time travel tale in a way that is clearly intended to pay homage to that. The idea that Ray Palmer and Nate Heywood were both so inspired by George Lucas's films (Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, respectively) that their lives would be fundamentally altered if those films were never made is something that manages to walk a very fine line between being incredibly cheesy and actually genuinely clever.

When George Lucas makes the sudden decision to quite film school and become an insurance salesman, after being caught in the middle of a confrontation with the 'Legends' and the newly dubbed 'Legion of Doom', both Ray and Nate are set on a very entertaining, and genuinely hilarious, character arc – as, without the initial motivators that pushed them into their respective careers, the two suddenly find themselves at risk of becoming painfully ordinary. As a result, the pair find themselves attempting to convince George Lucas to stick with film-making.

Honestly, as goofy as it sounds, there is a lot to like about this entire plot-line. For one thing, as a life-long fan of the films in question, I am definitely more than willing to accept the idea that they could be so important to these character. But, even beyond that, there is just something genuinely endearing about this very earnest love letter to George Lucas's early work. It is, after all, important to note that this is clearly intended to be a positive portrayal of the young film-maker. There is no mockery, here (apart from a single joke at the expense of Howard the Duck) – and, Matt Angel's portrayal of the young Lucas manages to avoid feeling like a caricature. This is all to the episode's credit, of course – since, I am convinced that the episode wouldn't have been anywhere near as entertaining if it had attempted to make fun of George Lucas.

Of course, while George Lucas's appearance does add an element of genuine fun to the episode (the writer's even take the opportunity to toss him into a trash compactor, for a surprising recreation of the iconic scene from A New Hope), it is far from the only element at play, here.

With Rip Hunter still alive and well (as we learnt at the end of the previous episode) and also, seemingly, in possession of a piece of the 'Spear of Destiny', the mystical artifact currently sought by the 'Legion of Doom', there is definitely an element of tension to the episode, also, as both the 'Legends' and the 'Legion' find themselves locked in a race against time to recover both Rip and the artifact. Of course, another complication quickly presents itself, as the team learns that the process by which Rip was able to escape from the severely damaged Waverider, back at the beginning of the season, also left his personality severely altered. Rather than the devoted captain that they had hoped to find, the 'Legends' instead find themselves saddled with stoner film student, Phil Gasmer – who, in his time away, has turned the subconscious memories of his adventures into the script for a truly terrible B-movie.

Alongside George Lucas, and the entertaining meta-comedy of Phil's film-making endeavours, there are so many other little elements that all add up to making this one of the most entertaining episodes of the series, so far. Nate's insistence of referring to the villainous trio as the 'Legion of Doom', and Sara Lance's absolute refusal to do so, is a great touch. Damian Darhk and Malcolm Merlyn prove to be a very entertaining pair – with the absolute glee that they seem to take in their villainy ranging between being vaguely unnerving and genuinely hilarious. Meanwhile, Mick Rory and Professor Stein find themselves tossed together in their entertaining little sub-plot – as they attempt to uncover the mystery behind Mick's recent hallucinations of his former partner.

As ridiculous as it all was, there was just so much to love about this episode. All in all, I think I can honestly say that there wasn't a single element of the episode that I disliked.

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