Film and drama

Screen Themes — Heroes of Tomorrow vs Rick & Morty

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It’s time for some small screen action as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out a couple of sci-fi influenced TV shows, the comic-book superhero team-up Legends of Tomorrow and the hilarious but somewhat inappropriate for children Rick & Morty.

Heroes of Tomorrow — developed by Berlanti, Guggenheim, Kreisberg & Klemmer

Superhero teams have been a staple of comic books since the sixties, when titanic teams including the Avengers and the X-Men were introduced.

The concept evolved over the years to include teams of, historical characters (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), godlike psychopaths (The Authority) and teams of super-villains (Suicide Squad). And talking about Suicide Squad, have you seen this awesome trailer?

When I was growing up as a comic book nerd, I always enjoyed the team books due to the range of powers and personalities on offer. Even if I didn’t like the leader of the team (Superman, Cyclops, Captain America) there were other misanthropes like Batman, Wolverine and Rocket Racoon to entertain, and even the odd strong female character like Storm, Wonder Woman or Huntress.

After the success of comic book team movies like Avengers, X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy (along with the upcoming Justice League), it was somewhat inevitable that a super-team show would turn up on the small screen.

The major challenge here is that most of the better-known characters are locked into established storylines or caught up in an ownership wrangle between Marvel/Disney and Fox, so creators Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg and Phil Klemmer had to go a little deeper.

Ostensibly a spin-off from The Flash (and in turn Green Arrow), Legends of Tomorrow features a collection of B-List heroes such as The Atom, Hawkgirl and Firestorm, joined by a couple of semi-reformed super villains, Heatwave and Captain Cold.

The gag of the title is that none of the characters have made any impact on future history, so if they die somewhere else in time it won’t really matter. Led by renegade Time Master Rip Hunter (played by Arthur Darvill from Dr Who), the team travel through time to key points in history to defeat the immortal supervillain Vandal Savage.

With some superficial trappings of science fiction like spaceships, time travel and conversations about causality, Legends of Tomorrow is at heart a PG rated action series with a strong comedic bent. While Darville’s Rip Hunter gets most of the good lines, it’s the Prison Break team of Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell as Captain Cold and Heatwave who really steal the show.

Revelling in the dollar beers and simple bar brawls of the early 1970s, the duo (along with resurrected assassin Canary) bring a spirit of anarchy to an otherwise predictable show.

Legends of Tomorrow won’t be for everyone, but if you grew up wanting to be a member of the Justice League, this might have something for you.

Legends of Tomorrow can be seen on Fox 8 on Fridays at 7.30pm, where it is fast tracked from the US. Do you hear that, pirates? No gold for you!

Rick & Morty — created by Dan Harmon & Justin Roiland

Starting life as a somewhat lowbrow and poorly-animated satire of Back to the Future on Channel 101, Rick & Morty was created by voice actor Justin Roiland and developed by Community creator Dan Harmon. At the end of the series second season, Rick & Morty is starting to build a following that recalls the early days of South Park.

The ostensible hero of the series is Rick Sanchez, an inventor somewhat like Doc Brown if he were an alcoholic and a sociopath. After a lifetime as an absentee father, Rick now lives with his ardent atheist daughter Beth, her ineffectual husband Jerry, and grandchildren Summer and Morty.

While the family play important roles in the series (particularly the gormless Jerry), it is the adventures of Rick and Morty that form the connecting tissue, as the duo teleport from dimension to dimension, creating havoc in a remarkably scientifically literate way. Case in point; Rick’s spaceship is powered by a pocket dimension that has been artificially accelerated until sentient life has evolved on one of the planets.

This sentient race is then enslaved (via ignorance rather than violence) to provide power to Rick, until one of their scientists invents a pocket dimension to provide for their power needs…

There is often a slightly shambolic, improvisational feel to Rick & Morty, as if they might be making it all up as they go along. This is particularly true for one episode each season where Rick & Morty watch interdimensional cable, and shit gets weird, really fast.

Have you heard of Ants In My Eyes Johnson? Of course, the improvisational approach is remarkably difficult to achieve with the ‘cartoon’ format, and speaks to talent of the animators that they’re able to bring some of the bizarre stuff from the writers room to life.

Aside from being laugh out loud funny, there is a lot of depth to Rick & Morty, beautifully illustrated by the episode where Morty has to bury his own dead body and remains traumatised for weeks, or when Summer releases a planet of aliens from mind control only to unleash a race war.

If you don’t like that, there’s also an episode that takes aim at both American Idol and organised religion, featuring an improbably catchy song called ‘Get Shwifty’.

Rick & Morty probably isn’t appropriate for kids, although I must admit that my kids have watched it and find it absolutely hilarious. Oh well.

This show can be seen on Foxtel's Comedy Channel, if you like that sort of thing...

Like what you read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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