He's a DC Comics hero with nearly 70 years of backstory and mythology, a modern-day Robin Hood who uses every tool in his arsenal to fight for the little guys of Star City, but in the pantheon of great comic characters, Oliver Queen (a.k.a. the Green Arrow) ain't exactly the most well-known mask around.
Heck, he won't even be the most well known in his own movie, scribe Justin Marks told MTV News.
"Oh, we've got Lex Luthor in there," Marks gleefully revealed. "I'm pretty sure Riddler gets his shot -- Ed Nigma gets his moment."
Tentatively titled "Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max," Marks' take on the titular titan is unlike any superhero movie out there in that it takes the familiar tropes of comic book films and mixes them with the long-established traditions of prison movies. In the film, Queen is unjustly locked up in a federal penitentiary for meta-humans and forced to rely on a whole bevy of villains to make his escape -- villains like Luthor, Icicle and even the Joker.
(Want to know what they plan to do with Black Canary? Find out over on the MTV Splash Page blog.)
But the best superhero of all in the Green Arrow prison movie? Would you believe it's the prison itself?
"It's a very, very awesome prison. I majored in architecture in college, and design is how I actually started in. For 'Super Max,' designing that prison, it had to be the kind of thing that was a character in and of itself," Marks said. "We're in a world where instead of just trying to contain a guy who's really big, you're trying to contain a guy who can -- in the case of Icicle -- who can freeze things. What kind of a cell would a guy like that need in order to have his powers neutralized? So to escape from Super Max they have got to go through the most elaborate heist we've ever seen, involving superpowers. Because the prison itself kind of has superpowers!"
It's a fitting tribute to a character that over the years has been more famous for his team-ups than for his individual adventures, Marks pointed out. Those team-ups include characters like the Green Lantern in a legendary run in the '70s and Batman in Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns."
You can't find a much better character, then, if you're DC and your goal is to produce cross-pollinating superhero movies like Marvel has done with "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk."
"What we wanted to do, and I think we'll continue to do as the studio continues to push the movie forward, is to be able to [put Queen] in the center of a much bigger universe," Marks said. "In the same way that Marvel is starting to do, when you're in the [filmed] DC Universe [where] this world and this world and this world -- they all exist in an interrelated web. It's the kind of thing that I think absolutely is about spelling out a couple different roads for a couple different characters."
That means Queen won't get a traditional origin story along the lines of Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker. But you wouldn't really want that anyway, Marks asserted.
"By the time a movie like this comes out, we will all understand origin stories. And mainstream audiences now are willing to suspend their disbelief to the point that we can believe that a world exists where superpowers exist and people dress up in costumes. So now what? Now what do we do? And I call this Superhero 2.0," Marks said. "We do deal with his origin -- he's got a very interesting origin with a desert island and everything else -- but we get to the core of Green Arrow not by showing where he starts but by pushing him into a key moment in his life where everything he has is lost, and he's got to earn it all back. I think for audiences it's going to be a great way to get to know a new character."
Queen himself is the "perfect hero" for this sort of reinvention, Marks said, as he's a B-level super without all the heavy baggage of Batman or Superman. More important, though, he's also a real guy, a mortal without any meta-human skills or weapons, a vigilante who gets by on nothing more than his preternatural intellect and guile. That already makes him less like the silly Golden Age caricatures and more like the reinventions so many writers deem necessary these days.
"I see him as the Jason Bourne of superheroes, a guy who exists with his own sort of set of tricks. And I think the difference between Ollie Queen and a guy like Bruce Wayne -- they're both rich. They both have their things. But Batman is about his equipment and is about his theatricality and about his detective skills. And Green Arrow is a guy who's really just the sort of MacGyver type," Marks said. "In his hand, anything can be a weapon."
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