Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green Arrow: Supermax

When it comes to comics, I've long been a huge Green Arrow fan, as evidenced by my long-time participation in the now-defunct "Green Arrow Fansite" as well as my pre- and post-maintenance of the Green Arrow Shrine (admittedly, it's been suffering from neglect for several years now. Time demands and all that).

I first heard of David Goyer's proposed Green Arrow film a year or so back, and my response was a dubious yawn. The plot line is simple enough--Oliver Queen is framed for murder and spends most of the film trying to escape (to clear his name, natch) from a prison filled with dangerous super-villains who want to kill him. With OZ and Prison Break airing regularly on television to varying degrees of critical acclaim and ratings, how could I not view this with large degrees of cynicism? I mean, what's the point of doing a Green Arrow movie if it's not going to feature, you know, Green Arrow? And for that matter, how can you not include Black Canary!?

Latino Review has now come up with the first script review of this project. I am constantly amazed at all the sneak reviews and breaking news they come up with over there, and this is no different. Where do these guys find this stuff?
Green Arrow finds Khalid dead in a warehouse – killed by a Green Arrow. He’s been set up. A SWAT unit bursts in and a cool chase sequence ensues which ends with Green Arrow getting caught by the Police Chief. Green Arrow is surrounded by an army of cops with their weapons trained on him and he surrenders – our inciting incident on page 10.

Apparently, at the police station, the DA has a hard-on for Ollie and has been wanting to bring him down for years. Hackett comes to the station to talk to Ollie who believes he has been set up by Cross who is staging a ninety billion dollar takeover of Queen Industries. If Queen’s expenditures get marked as criminal activity, this takeover just got that much easier.

It’s obvious that weeks later, Queen is found guilty. The Judge believes that since he has no confidence that a conventional lockup will be able to contain a man of Mr. Queen’s abilities, it is the recommendation of the court that he spends the remainder of his life in the only place in the world that could lock him down…the SUPERMAX PENITENTIARY FOR METAHUMANS. Ollie is surrendered to the custody of the Checkmate Initiative. The Alcatraz for super villains, no one has ever escaped SUPERMAX.

Okay, they're channeling Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz here. That's actually not much of a surprise. What else are they cribbing?
Want to know how cool SUPERMAX is? The prison changes shape, cells rearrange, and reconfigures every night to disorient the prisoners from breaking out. A transforming super prison! Cool.

Very cool. So cool, in fact, that I liked it the first time I saw this concept, in the well-done, low-budget horror film Cube. Check it out--it's a very good film with excellent SFnal elements, even if the body count is high.

But back to the main thing here, we're dealing with a Green Arrow movie sans Green Arrow. Yes, there've been storylines like this in the comics. In World's Finest Comics Oliver Queen wouldn't reveal the source of one of his newspaper columns once, so a judge threw him in prison for contempt of court. Naturally, there were bad guys in there courtesy of Green Arrow--including my personal fave, Slingshot--and hijinks ensue. So I wonder if Goyer is familiar with this particular storyline that's close to 30 years old? Somehow I doubt it. Goyer's proven he can turn out excellent super-hero scripts (Batman Begins, obviously, and there's much love for the original Blade) but at the same time his script for The Puppet Masters was very uneven, having moments of brilliance as well as utter stupidity, and his treatment of Steven Gould's Jumper remains very problematic for me, although to be fair, he may well have written exactly the script director Doug Liman wanted.

The reviewer is very enthused about the screenplay he read, and in all honesty, I desperately want this film to kick ass and take names. With the glut of super-hero films hitting the marketplace, taking a different tack from the standard origin tale may well be a smart move. But every time you make a statement like that, a film such as Iron Man comes along to show just how much flexibility the whole "origin story" offers. This Green Arrow prison break film really feels like it's more of a sequel to me than the possible launch of a franchise (and let's face it: it's all about the franchise these days). Green Arrow was done very well in the Justice League animated series, but during my time running the GR Fansite I got ahold of screenplays and treatments for a variety of Green Arrow projects over the years. The absolute worst was a TV series pilot in which "Oliver Quinlan" obsessed over Petula Clark and had a dwarf sidekick named John. That's right--"Little" John. I'm not making this up, folks.

So the good news is that there's no mention of Little John in the Latino Review rave. In fact, there are some encouraging flickers of hope amongst those words. Most DC fans are going to get all giddy about potential cameos by Lex Luthor, the Joker and the Riddler (but shouldn't those last two be in Arkham Asylum, rather than Amanda "The Wall" Waller's "Belle Reve" prison unit?), but 1) I doubt they'll make it into the final film due to rights issues and 2) none of those have much to do with Green Arrow anyway. Latino Review posts a laundry list of B- and C-string villains in the prison who'll tangle with Ollie. Some, like the Tattooed Man, the Pied Piper and the Floronic Man are nifty characters I've enjoyed reading over the years as they've clashed with Green Lantern, the Flash and even Swamp Thing. But it's Count Vertigo--the closest Green Arrow has to an arch enemy--that jazzes me the most, followed closely by Merlyn the Archer. No Slingshot, sadly, but Vertigo's reality-distorting powers should look phenomenal on the big screen, not to mention come in handy during the jailbreak sequence.

Sigh. See there? I almost got excited about this one. Almost. I should know better. As they say on the X-Files, I want to believe. Goyer, call me. We'll talk. Reassure me that this is a Green Arrow story and not just a Bourne/Fugitive/Alcatraz mash-up that uses Oliver Queen because he was an unused property laying around you could pick up on the cheap.

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