Musings of a Christian Geek about the Word, Geek Culture, Science, Music, Movies, and anything that is deemed noteworthy.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A Review of Arrow.

When thinking of the big two comic book companies (DC and Marvel), the strengths of the respective media empires come to mind. Lately, with all of the super hero content available on screen, one can surmise that Marvel is better at the movie making business and DC knows how to produce television programs. While the Dark Knight Trilogy and Man of Steel were huge successes at the box office, DC seems to only know how to make good movies with only Batman and Superman and Marvel seems to be able to eek out gold using even its B and C-list heroes. However, the opposite can be said concerning television where DC seems to have the upper hand. There has always been a special place in my and many geek’s heart for the DC animated universe (DCAU). Starting with Batman: The Animated Series and terminating with Green Lantern: The Animated Series, the DCAU provided quality programming with superb writing, respect for legendary characters, and nods to the audience.  Marvel does not have this type of presence on the small screen. 

Why bring this up? Well, in addition to animation, DC Comics has been fairly successful adapting its universe into live action television shows as well. Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, The Flash, and Smallville (let’s not bring up the horrible Justice League adaptation that thankfully didn’t make it past the pilot) all were met with various commercial and critical successes. I will say though that I am not as big of fan of the live action shows as I am of the animated programs. The latest series on the list is Smallville which, in my opinion, only had two good seasons (the first two) and left much to be desired. This brings us to the topic of the article, Arrow. 

Due to my experience with Smallville, I was very hesitant on giving Arrow a chance but I would like to report that I was very wrong. This show has been very enjoyable so far with very little weak points over the first season and a half and contains enough inside nods to DC fans that you can’t wait to see who they place into the next episode. 

The first thing about the show that I just love is the atmosphere of the setting. This show could easily fit into the Dark Knight or Man of Steel continuities which I think is a very good idea. DC Comics through the aforementioned movies and Arrow are establishing a screen mood that is very different than the light-hearted, playful tone of the Marvel screen continuity. This is a very important point because it makes it easy for the public to distinguish between projects from the two companies. 

Second, the arc of both the present day adventures of Oliver Queen interspersed with an arc of his island experience provides the audience with two quality stories to follow. Many movies and shows that use flashbacks usually have a weaker story of the two and the audience can’t wait to see the stronger story. However, I have never found myself wanting to find out what happened in each plot while waiting impatiently for the other story arc to continue. 

Another strong point of the show is the opening up of the DC universe to the show and it’s incarnations of many different characters. Green Arrow does not have a strong rogues gallery and many of the villains have been taken from Teen Titans and Batman. We have been able to see versions of Merlyn, Count Vertigo, Brother Blood, Deathstroke, Firefly, the Royal Flush Gang, the Huntress, and many others. However, some of these villains have been the weak point of the show. Firefly was probably the weakest villain with an interesting set up but an anticlimactic end and the Royal Flush was also very weak. 

Lastly, what keeps me invested is the acting with a special nod to Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow. His performance is a subtle one where you can see that maturation and change of Queen from an irresponsible playboy to a distant, brooding individual. I like the fact that through his island story line his voice slowly becomes less high-pitched as his experiences grow more and more horrific. Paul Blackthorne as Detective Lance is also a highlight of the show. His character has been through a lot emotionally throughout the series and you feel everything he’s going through. David Ramsey as Diggle and Emily Bett Rickards as Felictiy Smoak put in great performances as well. 

I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who is a comic book fan or just a fan of quality television. Traditionally, I really had not been a big fan of Green Arrow as a character because the superhero has been considered a far leftist in the comics. Don’t believe me? Read Denny O’Neill and Neal Adams’ run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow. However, Arrow does not cover that aspect of the character and has quickly become my favorite show on television. Additionally, the series has led me to read some Green Arrow comics after all. Hopefully, there will be a place for Stephen Amell as Green Arrow in the upcoming Justice League movie.