Synopsis: Set after the events of Titans, the Doom Patrol – consisting of Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Woman, and Crazy Jane, and led by Dr. Niles Caulder/The Chief – receives a mission from Cyborg that they cannot ignore and will change their lives.
Review: DC Universe’s first live action series, Titans, was surprisingly good. Taking a dark edge to The CW’s Arrowverse shows, Titans presented a much more mature look at the various B-level heroes in DC’s canon, including a potty-mouthed Dick Grayson. On that series’ fourth episode, we were introduced to several members of Doom Patrol including Brendan Fraser‘s Robotman and Matt Bomer‘s Negative Man. Well, now those heroes get their own series which ups the ante on the adult material to include a lot more profanity and nudity along with a much different storytelling style. DC Universe may not have convinced you to pony up for another subscription service based on Titans alone, but Doom Patrol may very well change that.
Like The Umbrella Academy (which was created by Gerard Way who also penned a volume of Doom Patrol), Doom Patrol channels a tone and style that is very reminiscent of the work of Tim Burton and Barry Sonnenfeld. There is an otherworldy feel to these episodes that makes it feel simultaneously retro and contemporary. It also helps that there is an excellent balance between the dark and light elements to this tale. Doom Patrol is chock full of humor especially in the narration from Alan Tudyk. Tudyk, playing the villainous Mr. Nobody, speaks to the audience with an awareness that this is a television series and not their reality. From that moment, you know that Doom Patrol is going to be unlike other DC television shows. Taking a surprisingly cinematic style, I am left wondering if Doom Patrol could have worked better as a feature film since the potential this series displays could easily have made it a viable big screen effort.
While the characters were introduced during the first season of Titans already as an assembled team, Doom Patrol serves as an origin for each member of the squad. The first episode spends the bulk of time focused on Brendan Fraser‘s Cliff Stele who becomes Robotman after a violent auto accident. Fraser is in the midst of a career revival after his underrated role on the FX series Trust. Here, Fraser is seen primarily in flashback while Riley Shanahan portrays the character after becoming Robotman. Fraser provides voice-over through the episode and does a great job of making Steele a tragic figure that you know is jerk but still makes you root for him. While the actual Robotman suit is clunky and betrays the small screen budget for this project, you begin to get used to it as the story progresses, giving it almost a Frankenstein quality in how stiff and wooden (or metallic) it can be.
And that is the case with all of the characters here. Everyone does a great job imbuing their performances with depth and dimension. April Bowlby gives Rita Farr a retro appeal that easily places her in her 1950s roots but when her powers manifest, it sometimes is difficult to get past the mediocre CGI. Diane Guerrero has the least amount of special effects work as Crazy Jane with each personality she displays coming with their own powers. Matt Bomer, like Fraser, is relegated to flashback acting while in the contemporary scenes he provides the voice acting only. With Matthew Zuk under Negative Man’s bandages, he appears like a throwback to the classic Universal INVISIBLE MAN movies. Joivan Wade is decent as Cyborg but after seeing how the character looks in JUSTICE LEAGUE, he just seems incredibly chintzy here. Timothy Dalton is stellar as always as Dr. Caulder/The Chief and shows that he could easily have played Professor X had Patrick Stewart not taken the role.
Then there is Alan Tudyk who has shown time and again that he is a fan favorite actor for a reason. From Firefly to WRECK-IT RALPH, Tudyk can play good or bad guys and here he does one hell of a job as Mr. Negative. While his narration is ever present in the first episode, his true motives as the big bad for this show are saved for a perfect reveal. It is still too early to say if the full season will gel (only two episodes were provided for review), but there is great potential here. I just caution that you realize the pacing of this show is vastly different than Titans or any other DC series to date with the first episode serving as a great deal of set up for audiences who are likely unfamiliar with this roster of characters.
In weighing Doom Patrol against all of the DC series that are airing today, it definitely has the smallest scope. Placing the team in a small town versus a big city changes the stakes, but it still feels like it could turn into a niche hit with a dedicated fanbase, like The CW’s Legends of Tomorrow. The cast are all quirky and unique and the fact that there is no shortage of profanity, nudity, and violence definitely gives Doom Patrol a tone that differentiates it from all other superhero shows airing today. I still cannot shake that the special effects are not even on par with Legends of Tomorrow but there is enough here that I am interested in following this show to see where it goes. I am not convinced it is going to have enough steam for a 15 episode season, but it definitely has the potential.
Doom Patrol premieres February 15th on DC Universe.