Thursday, October 11, 2012

CW's Arrow

The CW aired their pilot of Arrow, the tv series of Green Arrow. The show has received quite a bit of flak (some of it deservedly so) of comments made by show's creators concerning the distancing from the character's superhero roots. Especially since two of the creators have written comics and the show IS about a superhero. And, they choose to bring in other superhero/supervillains into the mix. Like Smallville before it, it wants to be a superhero show while escaping from the stigma of the show. Thankfully, the trailers released for the show made it look more interesting and taking itself more seriously than most superhero shows. Forget Smallville, No Ordinary Family, The Cape and Birds of Prey. This is more tonal in quality to shows like Supernatural, and Alphas. It's still a superhero show, no bones about that. But, it's more back to basics with the concepts of superheroes.

Overall, I liked it. Very pulpish take which is fitting, considering the roots of the character and superhero comics. It starts off with playboy Oliver Queen who's been marooned on an island for five years and presumed dead rescued. He is welcomed by family (mother and sister) and best friend and they seem eager to have Ollie back. Only through flashbacks, we learn that he's changed. Before he died, his father charged him with correcting the mistakes he had made, that dear old dad was not the saint that people thought he was. His girlfriend is not happy to see that he's returned as Ollie was on the boat with her sister and who went down with the ship. He pretends to embrace the old lifestyle while he uses mad skills that he gained on the island to carry out the mission his father charged him with.

On one hand, this is fairly faithful as far as comic adaptations go. The marooned origin is basically the Silver-Age Simon & Kirby origin of the character. Although Oliver having an extended family and surviving members of it are new. I can see where they don't want to get into the teen sidekick but are using his kid sister nicknamed Speedy to touch on the responsibilities he feels now as a role model and how he has not lived up to it in the past.

The most annoying aspects really are the name changes. Laurel Lance is using the secondary names of the heroine known as Black Canary which prompted me to try to explain the convoluted history of the character. If there's no GA or previous Black Canary, there is no reason for her last name to be Lance. Heck, it might have been MORE interesting to have her as Dinah Drake (her original pre-crisis name) and Paul Blackthorne's character be rival love interest Larry Lance. Having him be her father instead and then changing his name to Quentin Lance? I guess Larry would have been too close to Laurel... but again, why is she going by her middle name? I'm hoping maybe there is a plan for Black Canary, that her mother was a masked heroine. Although, if they go the Black Canary route, they should have switched the actresses playing her and playing her sister. The sister has the build for the costume.

What will probably kill the show for me will be the lack of faith in having costumes. Bringing other superhero characters in, but in variety of plain clothes styled costumes. The Green Arrow outfit works. It's kept in shadow, obviously leather which makes sense and not too different as an amalgamation of various costumes he's worn. Could stand to be a little more green though. When you start bringing in the likes of Deathstroke and Deadshot among others, you need to go a little larger than life than trenchcoats and leather jackets. The colors still can be subdued, but don't name them after costumed villains if you aren't going to use them. You can have the codenames, powers and costumes without being cheesy. Look to the Dini & Timm animated Batman series. It managed to encompass all the tropes and still wring pathos and solid stories out of them. It is possible to take yourself too serious and lose the fun aspect of the show. Speaking of Deathstroke, did I see his mask on a stake when Ollie got rescued in the beginning?

Which is where this show is going to be interesting. There's a lot of background, mystery, plot and character development and interaction going on here. It reminds me a bit of Crusoe only in reverse. There, the mystery that was slowly unfolding was the plot and machinations behind the scenes that lead to him getting marooned on the island. The immediate mystery of the flashbacks here will be what he discovered on the island, how he it changed him beyond simply his father giving him a mission. How he developed these skills, not just the skill with the bow but the ability to fight and take out trained men bare-handed.

In regards to how the ship went down, I think this show will go there as well, especially with the reveal at the end. That ship didn't simply go down in a storm and flashbacks will show just how corrupt his father's business dealings were. A twist on the Batman template of which Green Arrow is built. He's not out to avenge his father's name but redeem him and himself.

A shame that this show and Person of Interest has better fight scenes than the big budget Batman movies. Of course, part of that is they don't put the characters into outfits they can barely move in. But, in the pilot episode alone and I get the feel that he could kick movie Batman's butt. In that regard alone, this show is already more of a superhero story than the movies have been in that they haven't forgotten that at the heart of it, it's supposed to be an action story.

Not my favorite tv version of Green Arrow. That would probably be Justice League Unlimited, where they got the swashbuckling, fighting for the little guy, and stubborn s.o.b balance down pat. But, this is still early in the character's career. Hopefully, we'll see some of that come out as he learns to let some joy back into his life. For the most part, I liked Green Arrow in Smallville. In the later seasons, he was often the better part of the show and played as a complicated character. Their biggest mistake was he rarely actually used the bow and arrow but instead crossbows. But, I thought the actor did a good job with the character and it's a shame that he couldn't continue in that role. A pity the comics featuring the character aren't near as good to any of the small screen appearances.

The naming of the show and the design of the character, the cynic in me says part of it was to secure the tv trademark as it is very similar to this guy who's public domain but the comic book trademark is currently claimed by Dynamite.

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