TV Preview: Arrow

By Nick Grant

TV's latest comic book hero unexpectedly pierces Nick Grant's cynical shell

Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen in 'Arrow'. Photo / Supplied
Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen in 'Arrow'. Photo / Supplied

I may be increasingly long of tooth and short of hair, but I still retain an indecent fondness for the spandex-clad shenanigans of comic books (or "graphic novels" as alleged grown-ups like me prefer to call them). Despite this arguably adolescent affliction, however, I wasn't exactly aquiver with anticipation about the arrival of Arrow, a new series that centres on Green Arrow, a second-string superhero from the DCU (the comic geek term for the setting shared by most stories from DC Comics, which boasts Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman among its roster of characters).

Blame that in part on the recent glut of under-pants-on-the-outside movies, which kicked off with X-Men in 2000 and continues unabated, with the third iteration of Ironman currently in theatres and the second Wolverine coming soon, along with more Thor, another Avengers etc etc ad nauseam. It's all just too much of a good thing - and in the case of X-Men: The Last Stand, Superman Returns, Spider-Man 3, the two Fantastic Four outings, and many others, too much of not-very-good-at-all-actually.

Green Arrow's alter ego Oliver Queen is a super-wealthy playboy who, like Bruce Wayne, decides the most constructive way he can contribute to society is to dress up in a Halloween outfit and beat up criminals. There's something inherently daft about the concept of a costumed billionaire vigilante - Bill Gates in tights, anyone? Surely throwing money around is a more effective way to deal with crime and its root causes than throwing punches? It's pretty clear that, for these particular protagonists, crime-fighting is really a violently ostentatious form of therapy.

Still, Bruce Wayne/Batman gets away with it, thanks to his black and brooding aesthetic and tragic back-story. Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, not so much. The fundamental ways he differs from Gotham's guardian are the Robin Hood theme he adopts, complete with green hoodie and bow 'n' arrows, and (somewhat incongruously for a billionaire) an outlook that's on the progressive-socialist end of the political spectrum. So he's all-too prone to looking ridiculous, even by comic book standards, and to combining the wildly wealthy's sense of entitlement with the lefty's holier-than-thou attitude.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that, based on the first two episodes, Arrow has the potential to be a truly kick-arse action-adventure series. It adopts the dark tone of Christopher Nolan's recent, rather brilliant trilogy of Batman films, as well as plugging into the contemporary zeitgeist (there's more than a hint of an Occupy-era attitude towards the economic elite).

Yes, it's still essentially silly, but leading man Stephen Amell, who has acting ability to go with his chiselled good looks, killer abs and athletic prowess, is verging on the comic book ideal brought to life. It's early days yet but, so far, Arrow is right on target.

Arrow premieres tomorrow at 9.15pm on TV2; episode two screens on Wednesday at 9.35pm.

- Herald on Sunday

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