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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Comic-Con Sneak Peek: The Flash...And By Default, Arrow...Um...And Inexplicably Smallville (DJ's Take)

PROGRESS
I was never a big fan of Smallville.  Sure, it had its own huge following, but it was never really a Superman for me.  It always felt like the perpetual meanderings of a soon-to-be hero before becoming the Man Of Steel I grew love.  I wanted the hero, not the just the origin.  That kind of formula is the basis behind my apprehension to Fox’s upcoming Gotham series.  Then DC and the CW came out with a show about the fringey at best comic book hero Green Arrow.  A show in which I also had apprehension of at first.  But Arrow gave me something that I never fully got from Smallville.  Arrow gave me the hero.  Yes, Arrow also shows the origins of its titular character.  However, it uses careful orchestrated time jumps (Lost style) to interweave that past origin with his circumstances in the present.   This formula resulted in Arrow growing into probably the best comic book television series ever.  Its success showed DC and the CW that giving us the hero faster and touching back on his or her’s backstory is more enjoyable and more efficient than leading us along for 10 seasons only for a lackluster payoff.  Arrow’s rich world building is handled more deftly and accurately than DC’s cinematic one has so far.  The Flash is one of the first fruits of Arrows labor, and I have to admit, it is a tasty fruit.

There isn't that much I need to say to set up The Flash, seeing as it was already set up perfectly in a mid-season run of Arrow last season.  Crime Scene investigator Barry Allen visited Starling City searching for the thought to be superpowered killer of his mother.  While he’s there he essentially puts Arrow on a straighter path to becoming a hero.  Then he’s struck by lightning during a freak storm caused by an experimental machine and falls into a coma.  The series picks up right where that plot line leaves off as Barry awakes slimmer, trimmer, and a sh%tload faster.  The rest of the plot goes through the comic book movie basics of Barry figuring out his powers.  The more interesting thing though is that the strange malfunction by the machine that gave Barry his powers seems to have also sparked the birth of people with abilities across the globe.   The term “metahuman” is finally dropped for all DC Comics loyalist to squeal over.  For the uninitiated, metahumans is a DC classification just as popular and actually more encompassing as Marvel’s mutant classification.  In other words, this blows the TV universe wide open.  The gritty and grounded show Arrow is now sharing a world with people as out there as Beast Boy, Aquaman, Gorilla Grodd and friggin’ Plastic Man.  And all of it was done deftly and believably in less than a minute.

Now I'm not saying that Ollie is gonna have a throw down with someone as crazy as Animal Man, (Although The Atom is gonna pop up next season) but that is what separates Flash from Arrow.  Flash is a show more suited to explore that crazy superpowered world, whereas Arrow is is more suited to just sticking a toe in it once and a while.  Flash has the right mood for it.  The pilot for Flash feels more upbeat and chipper than the gritty Arrow show, while not being as melodramatically Tiger Beat as Smallville seemed to get at times.  There is a scene with a particularly great and apropos cameo that seems to point out that delineation.  A scene that shows where this show has come from, but also how it is going to be different.

I owe Grant Gustin an apology.  When I first heard about his casting as Barry Allen in a guest spot on Arrow, I was against it.  Mainly because I was thinking long term.  Justice League long term.  I could not see them casting an actor from Glee as one of the most famous members of the Justice League in the inevitable Justice League feature film.  That was before I realized that DC's cinematic universe isn't likely going to cross over with its television universe.  This was also before I saw him actually as Barry.  Now I still think Gustin is a bit too young to play Allen, but Gustin's likability outweighs any minor geek discrepancies I or anyone may have.  Stephen Amell had the benefit of Oliver Queen being unknown enough for him to shape and truly make him his own.  Barry Allen is a lot to live up to.  From what little I know of Flash mythos, Allen seems to have a more compelling and entertaining backstory than his predecessor or his successors.  Heavy lifting for Gustin to handle.  However, there are some very good scenes in this pilot, one in particular with original Flash actor John Wesley Shipp, which shows Gustin's capability to carry this show. 

The Flash is a welcome surprise and another strong foothold for the DC's television universe.  A universe run by two men, Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, who I've almost forgiven for being creatively responsible for that horrible 2011 Green Lantern film.  Almost.  This October, watch out for lightning...stay out of the friend-zone...be careful in that barn...watch it...then tell me I'm wrong. 

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