CW Poisons the Well, or, Stop Messing With the Source Material… (I'm looking at you, Arrow)

There have been many great adaptations of comic books for television and film over the years. By way of example, I give you: The Avengers (Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Cap all included here), Donner’s Superman (Christopher Reeve), Nolan’s Batman series, Batman the animated series, The Spectacular Spider-man cartoon, Young Justice, and even the first two X-men movies had their moments. However, there have been some stinkers as well. Again by way of example: Daredevil, X-men 3, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wolverine, Fantastic Four, Steel, Catwoman, Batman and Robin, and Superman IV. What do ALL of the bad superhero movies have in common? They all take massive and arbitrary liberties with the source material.

First off, if Joss Whedon has taught us anything, it is that if you are not already a fan of the property, don’t make a movie about it. Take Ang Lee, for example. He made one of my favorite movies of all time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Then he made Hulk. It is clear that Ang Lee was not a Hulk fan before the movie, because he got nearly everything wrong that a fan might hope for in a Hulk movie. In one sentence: I want the Hulk to beat the ever-loving crap out of almost everything at the climax of the movie, but what I got was the Hulk hugging a giant amoebae that was his dad or something… Fail. But I digress. Here are the bullet points for what arbitrary nonsense ruins movies:

Daredevil: Bullseye, one of the coolest villains of ALL TIME, is made Irish with a literal bulls-eye tattooed on his head. Dumb. Arbitrary.

X-men 3: Cyclops dies!!! At the beginning of the Phoenix saga!!??? Did you miss the part about the Phoenix Saga being about the love between Jean and Scott??? Prof X dies? Have you ever even read X-men? Dumb. Arbitrary.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Two words – Tom. Sawyer. Dumb. Arbitrary.

Wolverine: Taking Deadpool goes from a snarky, hilarious merc with a disfigured face to an abomination with swords for arms and his mouth sown shut. That should be enough, but Will. I. Am.?  What about adding Gambit in there in a way that made him currently like 60 years old? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Fantastic Four: Doctor Doom. Not scarred. Lame Costume. Was in the same ship as the FF? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Steel: Not related to Superman? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Catwoman: Wow. Too much to count. Not Selina Kyle? Not White? Not really clothed? Not related to Batman at all? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Batman and Robin: Nipples on batsuit? Technicolor settings in Gotham? Smiling Batman? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Superman IV: Lex Luthor with Hair? Dumb. Arbitrary.


My ire has been raised here because of the new CW show coming soon called Arrow. This show follows Oliver Queen (AKA Green Arrow) as a young person, ala Smallville. However, the supporting cast has been modified heavily. For one, it appears that Moira Queen is going to the the Lex Luthor to Ollie’s Clark. While she has never appeared in the comics, and when mentioned, she comes off looking like a saint with a killer chili recipe until she is killed protecting Ollie, now she seems like she is going to be all controlling and bring the drama. Dumb. Arbitrary.

Second, we find out Ollie has a sister, never before mentioned in the comics. Dumb. Arbitrary.

Third, we are introduced to Ollie’s long time girlfriend, Laurel Lance. AJAGHJAGAJGAHGJJAFAHF!!!!!!!! This one really gets me. In the comics, Ollie is often paired with his soul mate, the Black Canary, AKA DINAH laurel Lance. Why the change? Dumb. Arbitrary. Also, in the funny books, she and Ollie don’t meet until much after both of them have been heroes. Why change it? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Fourth, DINAH’s dad is Larry Lance in the comics, here changed to Quentin Lance (or something). Why the change? “Larry” not sound cool enough? Dumb. Arbitrary.

Last, and most irritating by far, is that everyone knows that Green Arrow’s city is STAR city. It is Gotham to Batman, Metropolis to Superman, Coast City to Green Lantern. But in the new Arrow show, they have changed the name of Ollie’s stomping ground to Starling City. Starling? Are you freaking serious? That is the dumbest sounding name ever. But why the need to change it in the first place? Did Star City just not sound lame enough for you? Dumb. Arbitrary.

So it seems that I could have done ok with any one of these changes on its own, but the dumbness and arbitrariness of the changes en masse convinces me that the CW is not in any way treating the source material with the same respect that the Smallville folks did when they engaged the Superman mythos. I’ll watch it, but I will have my critical eye opened from the get-go.



Enhanced by Zemanta

26 thoughts on “CW Poisons the Well, or, Stop Messing With the Source Material… (I'm looking at you, Arrow)

  1. Josh Man

    I think you might be overreacting a little bit, as it is too early to panic. And Smallville changed a shit-load of Superman’s mythos yet still provided an enjoyable show.

    If Black Canary becomes Black Canary, I’m pumped for that, regardless of when they met or if Dinah’s her first name or not (which it could still be, she just might not go by it).

    The only thing that actually bothers me is the thing with Ollie’s mom, but I am more then willing to give this show the benefit of the doubt. It may turn out to suck, but a few name changes and new characters doesn’t necessarily mean it will.

    Smallville introduced us to Chloe and a black Pete Ross – didn’t suck (at least at first)
    Spiderman (first movie) gave Spidey organic web shooters and erased Gwen Stacy – didn’t suck (the third movie did suck, but that’s another story)
    Iron Man made Jarvis AI – didn’t suck (although I think Jarvis is AI in Ultimate Iron Man)
    Avengers didn’t have Ant-Man or Wasp as part of the original team, didn’t ever utter “Avengers Assemble” – didn’t suck
    Daredevil was pretty close to the source material, and making Kingpin black wasn’t a terrible thing, especially considering Michael Clarke Duncan in a better movie probably would’ve rocked as Kingpin – but Daredevil still sucked, and not just because Colin Farrell had a literal bullseye tattooed on his head

    Let’s watch it before we judge it. I haven’t seen anything to tell me that Ollie is fundamentally different than he should be (the way Diana was in the new Wonder Woman show that didn’t get picked up). As long as they get Olliver Queen right, the rest probably doesn’t matter as much.

  2. Optimistic Chad Post author

    Ok, I have now seen the 3 minute or so trailer for Arrow, and I am much more optimistic. However, my critique still stands, and so I offer a pushback.

    I am not against changing things in an adaptation. Chloe and black Pete Ross being examples. However, none of your examples of change were both arbitrary AND dumb. The organic webshooters may have been dumb, but they weren’t arbitrary. Cameron simply couldn’t wrap his mind around the web-shooters and made a call. The wrong one, but at least he had reasons. Jarvis AI was not dumb. Probably not even arbitrary, as it would make Tony seem even more the bastard to be ordering his manservant around. Duncan was a good choice for kingpin, neither dumb nor arbitrary. Ant-man and Wasp not being in the Avengers may have been arbitrary, but not dumb.
    I have a problem with the seeming randomness of it. All things being equal (for example, a name like Dinah vs. Laurel, Larry vs. Quentin, Star vs. Starling), why bother to change it, unless you really don’t give a fig about the source material? And if that is the case, am I really watching a show about Green Arrow, or am I watching a show that ripped off an established idea and somehow managed to steal the name as well?

    Oh, and Bee-Tee-Dubs, if he doesn’t get around to being a liberal, I will hate the show on principal…

  3. Josh Man

    I agree with you on the last point.

    On the others, unless we know the reasons for the changes, because they might exist, even if they are legal ones we aren’t privy too which happens a lot with names, etc., we can’t just say they are arbitrary.

    I’m just saying, unless they come out and say Ollie is a conservative who kills evil doers or something completely against the established character like that, that we should wait to judge the show itself until after we’ve seen it.

  4. Bob

    Oliver Queen does not have a brother in Arrow.

    And as someone else pointed out, Smallville took a lot of liberties yet it lasted for 10 years. This whole column seems like it’s complaining for the sake of complaining. Actually watch the show and see how it comes together before judging. If it still sucks… that’s when it’s fair to rant.

  5. Optimistic Chad Post author

    Bob, you were correct. I meant to write sister, but I got tripped up when I was writing it. Fixed.

    Not complaining, for the sake of complaining. Complaining because I deeply care about the source material, and to take it or leave it for arbitrary reasons is inexcusable after such great movies lately have shown it un-needed.

  6. Amanda

    I think you’re right, being a fan of the material should be prerequisite to being allowed to make the movie, or show (whichever the case may be).
    And even in cases like Thor, where Kenneth Brannagh directed (and isn’t known for his comic book cred), the screenplay was written by Straczynski who has oodles of comic book cred.

    I think I’ve become cynical. Hollywood is not interested in telling a good story, so much as they are interested in turning a quick buck. Maybe Hollywood will pay attention to the Avengers. Good story can and does make a boat load of bucks. If Avengers had been done by Michael Bay (who can’t tell a good story even if he tried) it would have flopped horribly.

  7. Josh Man

    I’m wondering if the Starling City is a reference to birds, hinting at the importance of Black Canary. And it appears her name is Dinah, she just doesn’t go by it.

    These changes might not be arbitrary. Still might be dumb, but there could be a reason.

  8. Optimistic Chad Post author

    I will grant, that if, by the end of the series, “Laurel” starts going by Dinah, and Starling city somehow has its name changed to Star City, much of my ranting will have been in vain…

  9. Charles

    I must be the only comic book nerd on the planet that genuinely liked Daredevil. [sigh] So lonely.

    I thought the bullseye tat-scar was neither dumb nor arbitrary. The eternal problem with comic book movies is that costumes that look awesome in comics look astonishingly lame in real life. Putting Bullseye in a spandex bodysuit would have made him utterly non-scary, but we need some visual cue that makes him Bullseye instead of Random Guy Who Throws Stuff, and a trench coat is not enough, so we see that he carved a bullseye into his forehead. Since Farrell was chewing the scenery playing him up as a nutjob instead of a cool professional, it seemed to me that the tat-scar worked.

    My problem with Daredevil was Affleck’s performance. That and his “I just got out of bed and can’t find my comb” hairstyle.

    1. RodtRDH

      Okay Charles,

      You caught me and my little secret. I liked DareDevil and Electra. Ben Affleck sucked, I thought it was Colin Farrell who was awesome, and I liked King Pin as a big muscular black man.

      Okay. Secret’s out.

      1. Optimistic Chad Post author

        You liked Elektra? I know it is your blog and all, but you should not be allowed to post on the comics/pop culture part of it anymore….

        1. Amanda

          “You liked Elektra? I know it is your blog and all, but you should not be allowed to post on the comics/pop culture part of it anymore….”

          THIS. THIS. THIS.

  10. Optimistic Chad Post author

    Fair enough, Charles, but I think they need to try harder. The only choices were not spandex and tat-scar. For example, a ninja-style or cat-burgalar style outfit with a bullseye drawn/sewn on the forehead could have potentially been really intimidating. Also, look at Avengers. Those costumes as straight from the funnybooks, and they looked fine. Except Cap. His was still hard to pull off…

    1. Charles

      Yeah, Cap’s costume was tricky. I liked his WWII costume a lot better. But I was okay with the new one by the end of the movie.

      I agree, they could have done something different with Bullseye. Your idea would have worked. But I’m fine with the choice they made.

  11. RodtRDH

    You all forgot to mention the abomination called Spiderman 3:

    Let’s see, ugh, 3 different big bads, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane alive at the same time, fighting for Peter’s love? The emo dance with 20 minutes or more to go in the film?

    It was terrible. On an epic level.

    1. Charles

      I place Spider-Man 3 in the same category as Highlander 2. They don’t exist. Anything you’ve heard about them existing is a dirty rumor. Any memory you have of seeing them is a residual trace of a bad dream you one had. They were never made. that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  12. David

    On cat woman casting an excellent African American actor as catwoman was brilliant and like the only good decision of the movie. One of the great places that superhero movies can have in expanding horizons and giving diversity and bringing in more characters. You want to complain about the “exotic” commodification of catwoman I agree. Whining that she didn’t have the same ethnicity is tacky.

    One of the few good things about the hunger games adaptation is that it added a black leading figure.

    I am disappointed that Rod didn’t call you out for your catwoman comments in your rant.

      1. Optimistic Chad

        But i will add, that just because Rod and I disagree a lot, it doesn’t mean that Halley Berry is a great actress and was a brilliant casting choice. Halley Berry is 0-4 for comic book movies. Did you even see X-men? She gives the worst performances of any other single actor in those films. It is arbitrary and dumb to make her white, as well. Gotham is a city of racists and debutantes that come from old money. Selina Kyle was one of them. A white girl mixing among the elites of Gotham makes sense, besides being true to the many years of the comics. Just as I would rage about Steel being white or Asian. I will concede one racial trade, and that was Heimdall from Thor. He wasn’t black in the comics, but was made so for the movie, also Nick Fury. However, neither of these was arbitrary, and as shown from how awesome they turned out, neither was dumb. So I reject your cry of whining about the ethnicity… with humility of course.

        1. RodtRDH

          “Gotham is a city of racists and debutantes that come from old money. Selina Kyle was one of them. A white girl mixing among the elites of Gotham makes sense, besides being true to the many years of the comics.”

          *jaws drop!*

  13. Pingback: No More Shark or Dragon movies: A serious proposal for @SyfyMovies |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *