Although the title is a little less overtly colorful than its comicbook origins would imply, “Arrow” is really just a surrogate for a TV version of another superhero — namely, Batman. A brooding billionaire vigilante with a bad attitude, lawyer girlfriend and dazzling set of toys, this CW pilot bears only a marginal resemblance to the incarnation of DC Comics’ Green Arrow featured in “Smallville,” so much so that the temptation is to say, “lighten up.” As is, the handsome but rather stiff premiere plays like a pale shade of Green.
Tinkering with the superhero’s origin in what amounts to a “Castaway” riff, billionaire Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell of “Private Practice” and “Hung”) is vacationing on a yacht with his father (Jamey Sheridan) when a terrible storm hits, sinking the boat. Thanks largely to dad’s noble sacrifice, Oliver survives by making it to an island, where his struggle against nature hones his body and teaches him a thing or two about handling a bow. (To be fair, at least this hero carried a quiver before “Hunger Games” made it such a fashionable accessory.)
Eventually Oliver is rescued, but a lot has changed back home in the time he’s been absent. For starters, his mom (Susanna Thompson) appears to have a new gentlemen friend, and one-time girlfriend Laurel (Katie Cassidy), the aforementioned lawyer, can’t forgive him for having been frolicking with her sister, who died in the accident.
Oliver also discovers all is not well in Gotham — oops, make that Starling City — and decides to clean up the place, donning a green hood and heading into the night to thwart evil.
Produced by Greg Berlanti (who didn’t particularly buttress his comicbook cred with the theatrical version of another emerald DC hero, Green Lantern), the action is liberal and reasonably gritty, and Amell — out of costume — certainly has the kind of abs to make one you-know-what with envy.
Still, it’s hard to escape a nagging sense that this take on Green Arrow is really Dark Knight lite, vulnerable to the uphill climb facing all second-tier comicbook characters when they brave the battle for mainstream appeal.
“Arrow” certainly looks polished (having David Nutter direct a pilot virtually insures that), but there’s only so much action an hourlong drama can afford, and the characters necessary to sustain the series are, initially, strictly two-dimensional, even with the island as a go-to flashback.
Ratings expectations won’t be unreasonably high, which is an advantage. Still, based on the pilot with which CW has fired “Arrow” into the air, barring sharper execution, where it lands, most need not care.