Wednesday, July 2, 2014

RR Arrow

"My name is Oliver Queen. For five years I was stranded on an island with only one goal: SURVIVE..."

Name: Arrow - The Complete 1st Season 
Created by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Original run 2012-13
Genre Drama/action/crime

Like the 1990 The Flash TV series before it, greatly inspired by Tim Burton's Batman, Arrow is another live action adaptation of a cult DC Comics propriety following the mold of the recent movie adaptations of the Dark Knight these last few years.

For years, Warner Bros. has always had success turning the adventures of Superman into live action television series. But otherwise their other proprietes have often caused some problems. The main problem probably being all of their characters are usually larger than life-figures - much more complicated than turning Marvel characters into movie franchises, as a lot of films proved us so far (just think Catwoman or Green Lantern).

Sure their have been some attempts here and there through the years, but all we got was a failed Wonder Woman pilot and a scrapped JLI in the 1990s, besides a lackluster take on the Birds of Prey and the above-mentioned moderately cult but largely ignored 90s Flash. Nothing much really.

To follow on the success of the latest Superman project, Smallville, Warner decided to try using that same receipt on another DC superhero. Another teen-oriented dramatic for The CW. And which one did they choose to use this time? Green Arrow!

The show was developed by writer/producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, mostly following the same general idea of using a "hero origin" stretched out over the run of a TV series as the audience find out how G.A. became the hero the audience is usually more familiar with.

I don't think Green Arrow was Warner immediate choice to succeed to Smallville/Superman - they would probably never allow for a mere "TV adaptation" of the Dark Knight (hence, on a recently related news, the upcoming Gotham show soon to feature a young pre-Batman Bruce Wayne).

Arrow explores the character of Green Arrow as he starts his vigilante "career" while on the path to become a hero.

I can understand the changes here and there, including this incarnation of our hero and the show's own title.

To be honest, Green Arrow was never much of a well-established familiar DC character with the general public. And that's considering his huge popularity on shows such as the previous Smallville or the Justice League Unlimited cartoon.

To bring the character to life, the producers opted to heavily take cues from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy with a sprinkle of Lost thrown in the form of flashbacks our hero's time on an island for good measure character.

Oliver Queen is the rescued son of a billionaire family. As he went on a boat trip with his father and girlfriend's sister, the boat had an accident and Ollie wound up on this remote (and not quite deserted) island where he learned to fight, stay alive and survive from the various figures he met and confronted there. Those five years changed Ollie. He would come to master the bow and arrow and grow up from a carefree playboy figure to this stoic survivor. He got this list of corrupt individuals from his father as his dying wish. His dad regretted working his past life with these horrible people. Back in Starling City (really? why not "Star City"? where they worrying the audience would confuse it with S.T.A.R.S. Labs once they introduce it??), Ollie will now devote his life to right the wrongs Queen Senior himself created, as this masked vigilante figure inspired by the trials Ollie went through on the island. But while Ollie murders those bad guys at first he will soon start to turn into the hero the city needs. And try to get Queen Consolidated back in shape.

The show feels like a sort of hybrid in-between Smallville and Batman Begins.

Originally in the comics, back then, Green Arrow always felt like a similar "superhero" to Bats. He actually even started as a Robin Hood-esque take on Batman (before he got the beard and all the political baggage) as Bats had that whole Zorro persona going on. It even went as far as similar sidekicks, and even an Arrow-cave and Arrow-mobile back in the Silver Age days. But Ollie was the first to do the whole brooding-thing in the comics back in the 70s all the way through Mike Grell's excellent "longbow era" which this show draws a lot from, as well as the excellent Andy Diggle/Jock's Green Arrow Year One which has become a landmark in the character's publication history the past decades.

The show is very formulaic at first. Ollie having a weekly foe to defeat for the good of the city - back when he was willing to kill for the city. The island turned him into a hunter.

It might come to no surprise due to the CW, but drama and romance share equal screentime. There are love triangles everywhere. But Arrow has potential to be much better if allowed to grow organically.

It's far from a perfect series for that matter. CW always means (obviously) shows with heavily romance-focused drama and the whole teen-drama flavor can be kinda grating even for hardcore fans of the show.

A lot revolve around the love life of the folks at Queen Manor and his best friend Tommy Merlyn (no spoilers!). All the family secrets that might even become a problem to the city itself. The show gets some well-needed life once Ollie is given a team to interact with, something not that usual from Green Arrow comics which usually revolves around G.A.'s family/sidekicks instead (New 52 reboot aside). The show plays with GA mythos, inspired loosely from it in the first season of the show (something that would be corrected a bit by season 2). And from the general DC Universe lore (mostly on the Batman side, of course). New memorable creations include John Diggle, who quickly become the best friend/bodyguard/ally/sidekick Green Arrow always needed, the writers realizing that noticing that went as far putting "Diggle-wiggle" in the costume a couple of times. Diggle was named after Green Arrow: Year One's writer Andy Diggle. Let's also mention along Felicity Smoak, the tech genius/nerd/not-Oracle parner of "The Hood" with her brilliant but awkward humor.

The show also gave Ollie a sister in the form of Thea, who appears to be a Roy Harper/Mia Dearden amalgam since Ollie calls her Speedy - the inclusion of the actual Roy Harper later on only confirms me the impression they were half-thinking a lot of these early ideas (the show would get plenty more "double dips" of established GA characters, see Black Canary in the later Season 2...).

One thing you can say for the show, is that Stephen Amell fits the role of Oliver Queen, giving him his very own spin on the character, far from anything we ever got so far. While he does "suit" Ollie physically, it mostly comes like a way the CW found to always get the chance for some fanservice to boost the audience a bit (come on!). Yep, there's a ton of fanservice for the ladies, let's admit it. Ollie appears to come off a bit stiff, but he really plays well the parts in the flashbacks on the island.

On the other hand, the character of "Dinah" Laurel Lance is a character they always seem to struggle. As the show goes on she gets far less screentime for romance drama to be part of the main storylines. Which means all of her scenes get condensed to simply very annoying cliché CW dramatic scenes, which the show always almost cuts to randomly while in the middle of all the vigilante action and overarching stories.

There's also other familiar figures such as the most clueless detective Detective Lance who can't figure out who Green Arrow is, and the very harsh and uneven interpretation of Helena Bertinelli aka the Huntress on this show .

At least the show gets much better as it goes on, ending on a much stronger note, leaving the whole villains-of-the-week formula for one single on-going conflict.

"The list" starts as this show's main McGuffin, making way for the parents' secrets putting Starling City in danger.

We get plenty of great moments and characters in the form of the villains, which turned out as this show's best surprise. Malcolm Merlyn, Deadshot and almost-Deathstroke mostly hinted through the first Season in the form of a mask on a beach post-adventures on the island. And also a pretty radically different take on Green Arrow's nemesis the "Count Vertigo". Ollie meets Slade Wilson and Shado there.

Those flashbacks are really great scenes, I can imagine it could just as easily been stretched the entire first season but it's still pretty effective this way. The back and forth concludes in one epic climax for the sake of Starling City!

Arrow started out as a pretty decent teen drama take on Green Arrow to finally become a much better more competent and memorable show by the end of these first 24 episodes.

The show features great choreography of fight scenes and a couple of well used parkour moments (Ollie's always been able to move easily from rooftop to rooftop in the comics). And a great well- rhythmed modern score composed by Blake Neely.

There's some odd details regarding Ollie's status as either a vigilante or this "hunter" in the first Season that kinda parallels his lack of an actual "superhero" name, going by "The Hood" or "The Vigilante" depending on the characters speaking to or about hims. Yet this version of "Merlyn" quickly took the nickname of Dark Archer for some reason.

Finally there's some references and mentions of a larger DCU which hopefully will be more that just one-off notes the way Smallville did. We get a couple of good ones such as a mention of Ted Kord, Ferris Air and Ray Palmer.

Overall, we're off to a good start! Recommended for any fans of the character or people looking for the next best thing to movie superheroes. The beginning of the Emerald Archer makes for a promising series as Ollie will have to leave this Hood persona to take on the role of a proper hero in the name of justice instead.

Arrow makes a great tribute to the source material and the character while providing a somewhat new and different take on Green Arrow. Sure. It could have been much better at times. Most problems coming from what the CW execs force on the show, keeping some of the trademark quirks of the channel. But despite that the show is only learning to get better and they were able to craft a very decent show - a couple of bad boring "off" episodes aside. Overall it's good.

This Season 1 tells the first year of Ollie as not-Green Arrow-yet.

The show was an impressive immediate success prompting Warner to launch many, many more productions based on DC proprieties for TV. With most of those aimed to air on the CW no less! Hopefully for similar if not better results.

Arrow would get much better in Season 2, introducing us not only Roy Harper properly but also Deathstroke finally, a kickass Black Canary and Barry Allen, the soon-to-be The Flash! A spin-off is actually already ordered to air this following pilot season for 2014/15, following the introduction of Barry Allen and S.T.A.R. Labs!

A digital comic book was released around the first Season to promote the show, but it didn't last long and only composes one single collected volume, as well as a web-miniseries. Stephen Amell's Oliver Queen appearance also got a videogame cameo in the form of an alternate G.A. costume in the game Injustice: Gods Among Us.

I give it:
2 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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