"Crisis on Earth-X" Is What DC Needed After 'Justice League'

With Justice League slipping further into the rear-view mirror, DC fans focused much of their [...]

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(Photo: Warner Bros. TV/The CW)

With Justice League slipping further into the rear-view mirror, DC fans focused much of their attention this week on the small screen as "Crisis on Earth-X" took over The CW and pitted the heroes of Supergirl, Arrow, The Flash, and DC's Legends of Tomorrow against evil doppelgangers of themselves from an alternate Earth where Nazis won World War II.

Justice League topped the worldwide box office in its opening weekend and earned reviews from both critics and fans that were an improvement over Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice -- although moreso with the fans than the critics -- but the dominant narrative surrounding the film was that it was a financial and critical disappointment, and that it has potential to damage the DC Films strategy moving forward.

"Crisis on Earth-X" has been a different story. As with last year's "Invasion!" crossover, the narrative so far has been mostly about how the story is a massive ratings boon for The CW, with reviews on the whole skewing extremely positive from fans and critics alike.

So while Justice League has a healthy base of support -- hell, we liked it here, so this isn't a "which was better?" conversation -- it is difficult to argue that DC fans (and maybe Warner Bros.) aren't breathing a sigh of relief today, knowing that they have something to be excited about that does not require them defending themselves non-stop.

"Crisis on Earth-X" manages to do a lot of things that not just DC films, but superhero movies in general, are often criticized for failing at: the villains are well-developed, menacing, and understandable; the stakes remain consistent throughout; the third act (coming tonight) ratchets up the intensity from previous fights, and its conclusion is both satisfying and emotionally effective, rather than rote and predictable.

Another important element is that there are obviously different standards and expectations for the superhero shows than there are for the movies. There are a handful of wonky visual effects shots in "Crisis on Earth-X" which would be discussed ad nauseam if they happened in a $200 million movie (see all the conversations about Henry Cavill's mustache), but when they are taking place in a three-hour epic that was shot over four weeks and edited over two months, many of the harshest critiques are tempered by a sense of perspective.

That may be the biggest reason that "Crisis on Earth-X" is a welcome follow-up to Justice League: everyone here is undisputably working at the height of their powers. Where there is fault, it is most usually coming from the limitations of the medium, not from a lack of will, skill, or resources. Many of the harshest critiques of the DC film universe come from critics who accuse it of lacking fundamentals, making poor decisions, and spending its seemingly limitless money unwisely.

Being rewarded for that effort seems inevitable given last year's success and this year's ratings and social media performances so far. Which has to, on some level, take a load off of some fans' shoulders. "Crisis on Earth-X" is exactly what DC needed right now.

Justice League is in theaters now.

The second half of "Crisis on Earth-X" airs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.