The CW’s latest comic book adaptation, “Arrow” is based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow series, and follows the story of Oliver Queen, a rich playboy who has returned to the fictional Starling City after being stranded on a remote island for five years. He becomes a hooded, arrow-wielding vigilante by night, when he fights hit men and corporate criminals to try and rid the city of greed and corruption.
“Arrow” has elements of a modern-day Robin Hood; it also draws heavily on the grim-and-gritty approach taken by Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy. Though drawing just a few too many parallels to the Dark Knight, the format gradually pays off, as it allows the series to avoid the awful camp and soap opera of the CW’s previous superhero show, “Smallville.”
Queen (Stephen Amell) ends up on a deserted island after a shipwreck that takes the life of his father and his girlfriend’s sister, along with countless other people. Five years later, he is rescued and returns home. No longer a careless billionaire with a big ego, Queen’s ordeal has matured and hardened him. He has also picked up skills including hand-to-hand combat and archery. As per his father’s dying wishes, he resolves to ‘right the wrongs’ of his family’s corporation and other mega-companies, beginning with stopping millionaire Adam Hunt from scamming people out of money.
Amidst the streak of anti-corporatism, there’s also plenty of plot and character development: Queen tries to conceal his identity from the watchful eye of his Iraq veteran bodyguard, keep his rebellious sister away from drugs, and make amends with now ex-girlfriend Laurel (Katie Cassidy) for having had an affair with her sister prior to the sister’s death. Meanwhile, Queen’s mother secretly orchestrates an unsuccessful kidnapping of her son (unbeknownst to Queen, who apparently doesn’t have Batman’s detective skills), and by episode two, Arrow becomes an enemy of the Chinese triads when he fights off a hired assassin.
Clearly, there are plenty of loose threads here waiting to be picked up in coming episodes.
It seems that “Arrow” is banking on the archery-based survivalism that has made films like The Hunger Games so successful. However, another new series (NBC’s “Revolution“) also tried that – and failed overwhelmingly. But “Arrow” also offers viewers the pleasure of seeing corporate CEOs strung upside-down by their ankles, and, plot-wise, has a lot more going for it than simply riding on the coattails of the bow-and-arrow craze.
Unfortunately, the show often suffers from flimsy, terrible dialogue, and is still having trouble finding its footing in ’emotional scenes.’ But the action scenes – brilliantly shot and choreographed – are a definite plus.
With Green Arrow being a secondary comic series of lesser renown, this adaptation has quite a bit of work to do in order to create the desire for audiences to keep coming back each week. Interspersed flashback clips showing how Queen survived on the deserted island, and the mystery of Queen’s scheming mother, are simply not intriguing enough to draw someone to the edge of their seat.
Much more interesting to fans will be seeing what characters from the comics make appearances in the show, and how well they are played. There should be no disappointment there; the acting on the show seems pretty solid, but there needs to be a tighter focus on it.
The show’s stroke of fortune may just be that it has – perhaps purposefully – tapped into the zeitgeist of recession-plagued America, developing a clear-cut, pro-99 percent sort of hero. Though rich himself, Arrow’s vigilantism has philanthropic undertones, making him a sort of Bill Gates in tights.
Though poised to become a suitable Wednesday night show, it needs a little tweaking here or there before its story can make the transition from ‘serviceable’ to ‘suspenseful.’ And though “Arrow” probably has a bright (re: dark) future ahead of it, Batman this show is not.
Photo: CW’s “Arrow” official site