Monday, October 17, 2016

Arrow (Green or Otherwise)

"Stick it to them like a phoenix rise
There's nothing grander than a big surprise.
They cannot hurt you with their sticks and stones
About time - take them right between the eyes!"

Garbage - Right Between the Eyes

Last week's jaunt into televisiotainment also included a partial first season marathon of the Arrow series, and I must say that unlike the various action flicks I caught, Arrow proved quite the pleasant surprise.

To be fair, I know absolutely nothing of the Green Arrow comic books so I don't know whether any fans are up in arms about whatever changes were brought to the character or world. I'd heard him mentioned while playing City of Heroes a decade ago as inspiration for the Archery / Trick Arrow powersets but never gave him a second thought. While watching the first couple of episodes of the series I assumed he must've originally represented Marvel or Dark Horse's attempt to rip off DC's highly successful Batman character. For the life of me I cannot explain why DC itself would invest in a blatant copycat of its own intellectual property, and at a time when Batman was still fairly fresh in the public mind... but meh, if I ever fully understand the multitudinous pits, mires and sinkholes of corporate mentality, please mercy kill me. Some depths of idiocy are better left unplumbed.

In any case, Arrow comes pre-packaged with all his own versions of Commissioner Gordon, Robin, Batgirl, Alfred the butler/maid, Catwoman and even the "rich boy with cool toys" and parental martyrdom origin story, all obvious from the start. I don't think I spotted a Joker... yet... but maybe he shows up later on. However, I'm not concerned with the tediously cribbed basic concept so much as with the TV series itself.

Arrow is good TV. Not great, not Firefly or the first season of Lost, shows which brought something new for their time within the realm of television, but good within its genre. It retains enough comic bookish ludicrousness to remain true to the whole masked vigilante routine while at the same time allowing its characters realistic expectations, motivations, expressions and gesticulations. The first few episodes of Arrow I've seen manage the amazing feat of the first Batman and X-Men movies in the new millennium of lending dignity to a genre treated otherwise pretty much by definition as trite and campy.

I've said before that Hollywood's flirtation with good imaginative fiction lasted only about a decade, bracketed more or less by the Lord of the Rings Movies at the start and the mind-flayingly terrible Hobbit movies at its decline. As part of that larger trend, superhero movies as well quickly sank back down to their intellectual level in the '80s and '90s, sometimes terrible and sometimes mildly memorable, but either way nothing to write home about. However, let's not forget those wastes of screen time did justify somewhat more serious investment in superhero cartoons, and the X-Men and Batman cartoons of the '90s were vastly superior to most children's television, which tends to be openly derisive of its audience's intelligence.

I'd be curious whether that aftershock, that side effect on cartoons from the '90s is being duplicated with live action superhero TV shows now. Arrow's not breaking any artistic boundaries but that minimal dignity to which it clings elevates it above most mass-market entertainment.

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