Friday, 12 October 2012

ARROW review – 'Pilot'

Friday, 12 October 2012

written by Andrew Kreisberg & Marc Guggenheim (story by Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim) / directed by David Nutter

Stop me if you've heard this one before: billionaire playboy of an industrious family undergoes physical and mental transformation in a wilderness, before returning home to rid the streets of crime in the guise of a costumed protector. Green Arrow has always been a Batman knock-off, but given the phenomenal success of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, it's little wonder DC have licensed their lesser-known copy for television. What's more perplexing is why The CW put the writer-producers of atrocious box-office flop Green Lantern in charge of this.

Arrow (they dropped the Green in case people mistake this for the Lantern property?) concerns handsome Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell); the heir to a family fortune found on a deserted island, five years after his father's luxury yacht capsized killing everyone including his lover—sister of then-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), proving what an incorrigible bad boy he was. After returning to Starling City with increased celebrity status, it soon becomes clear Oliver's time on the island has turned him into a very different person: a skilled vigilante with a bow and arrow, disguised with a green hood and eye smears, sworn to help the city's underclass and bring ne'er-do-wells to justice.

There's just no escaping the fact Arrow is essentially the Batman story starring Marvel's Hawkeye, albeit with a few interesting tweaks. The best thing about Arrow's pilot was realising how Oliver's dual identity's going to work, because unlike Bruce Wayne most people actively hate him and think he's an asshole. This show's equivalent of Commissioner Gordon, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), also detests Oliver because his daughter was amongst those who died in the yacht accident—although it's less certain if he's going to be an advocate of Green Arrow once it becomes clear he's ruining the lives of corrupt businessmen on a Revenge-style hit list.

David Nutter, one of the most renowned TV directors (who specialises in setting a new show's tone and visual cues in expensive pilots), was the man behind Arrow's premiere, and did a decent job laying down the look and feel. The action sequences were exciting, the stunt choreography was particularly good, the hero's potentially laughable costume (Robin Hood meets Nintendo's Link) didn't raise any sniggers, and the weirdness of a hero using an old-fashioned bow against men armed with semi-automatic guns wasn't the big problem I was bracing for. In fact, you came to appreciate the added stealth a bow and quiver of arrows allows for.

Other than that, I don't have too much more to add. Arrow's pilot was entertaining and achieved everything expected of it; wisely obscuring the character's debts to Batman by telling its origin story out of sequence using flashbacks, and broadening the array of secondary characters—Oliver has a best buddy called Merlyn (Colin Donnell), whom fans know becomes his arch-nemesis, and a chauffeur/bodyguard called Diggle (David Ramsey) who knows his secret identity. Some of the details were glossed over in this pilot, but I assume future episodes will reveal how Oliver decided on his Green Arrow alter-ego while on the island, and there's a definite family mystery to explore once it became clear Oliver's own mother (Susanna Thompson) arranged for her husband and son's shipwreck.

Overall, whiles it's broadly over-familiar to anyone with a passing acquaintance with the superhero comic-book genre, Arrow contains enough idiosyncrasies of its own to keep issues of Bat-plagiarism at bay. As a TV series, this feels like a good fit for The CW and will perhaps inherit the Smallville audience while drawing in teenage audiences who responded positively to Batman's "realistic" interpretation just lately. It certainly won't sink as quickly as The Cape. Arrow's already more realistic than Batman Begins, too, given the lack of amazing gadgets and vehicles... or is the Arrowcar gearing up for sweeps? If clown-like Joker rip-off Bull's Eye makes an appearance, I'm giving up, but I trust that won't happen...

10 October 2012 / The CW