Unsung hero: Superhero makes transition from comic books to prime time TV
TV has never been particularly kind to the superhero genre, but it has been kinder in the modern age. Compare Batman now to Batman then. In the 1960s, Adam West played Batman as pure camp. A farce. A joke.
The public has since demanded more thoughtful fare, the likes of “The Dark Knight,” with a more gravelly voiced Batman who is very serious about serious issues.
I have been desperately looking for a superhero show to come back into my life. “Heroes” was my program of choice for a while, until some bad writing caused me — along with everyone else — to stop watching back in 2010. But I still wanted people with superpowers.
I became desperate. I watched four episodes of “The Cape.” The premiere of “No Ordinary Family.” Things were bad: No one could produce a superhero show right, and they were all getting canceled. So I’m happy to say “Arrow” looks like it’ll work out.
To an extent, “Arrow” is fitting of the Christopher Nolan blueprint, but not on a scale that’s too ambitious. Hollywood has TV beat when it comes to budget and effects: It’s somewhat wince-worthy to look at the CW’s version of computer-generated imagery. The water scenes in particular are clumsy, as the use of green screen is apparent. Considering the technological ability to render entirely new planets exists, it’s embarrassing to see some under-thought ocean waves.
But the audience is not here entirely for explosions. There is some plot to talk about. The hero, the Green Arrow, was originally billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, who experienced a harrowing first-world problem in the form of a terrible yachting accident. It left his father dead and stranded Queen on an island for five years. There, he had to develop awesome martial arts and archery skills to survive. He returns more ready than ever to avenge his father’s death.
It’s well-worn territory, but man is it fun to watch. The action sequences have a great rhythm to them that is exciting to see on a new show. The opening in particular, where Queen rushes across the island to light a signal flare, is filmed well and edited quickly to give a sense of urgency and excitement.
But “Arrow” has also introduced a string of family drama that could carry over from week to week. And it is tough to see how all of it will be crammed in. The show barely gets through with the origin story in time for the Green Arrow to take on his first social enemy, a real estate mogul. It certainly says something of our times, when the executors of the mortgage crisis are falling under the crosshairs of masked vigilantes.
“Arrow,” however, does not fully turn over to its comic-book roots. No, that show would be too nerdy for the CW. Instead, it opts to attract those teenage viewers with a lot of Green Arrow abs. They’re never enough to distract from the story, but it’s a notable addition that the young network definitely asked for.
Still, TV is the perfect medium for the superhero because of how closely related it is to the comic format. Each episode brings in a new and interesting threat, but they also build the world, history and mythology surrounding the hero. The audience gets to know them over the course of many installments, whereas the movie only gives the audience a chance to see one. Just look at the success of “The Avengers.” Serialized storytelling is meant for superheroes.
And after a solid premier of 4 million viewers — unheard of numbers for the CW network — it’s going to be on for at least a season or two. At the very least, there’s a weekly villain and some fun action to look forward to. But if that’s not enough, just look at those abs. You’re welcome, America.
Contact Jeff: firstname.lastname@example.org
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