Thursday, 3 November 2016

Review: 'Arrow's' muddled visual style is causing problems

Some quick thoughts on an issue in last night's Arrow coming up after the break...

There's a case to be made that the way a show looks is the most important aspect of it becoming a success. Yes, the acting needs to be strong, and the writing coherent, but how a story goes from script to screen is rooted in the way a series is made with the camera. Everything revolves around that one piece of equipment. It's important, then, that each show develops a sense of style, a way that each episode can look where anyone with a keen eye - and, in time, even someone who's perhaps only casually interested in it - would be able to instantly recognise that show.

In its first four seasons, Arrow managed to create its style: it had a sense of realism and closeness, often putting viewers right in the centre of the action and always feeling like you were with the characters in whatever was transpiring.

Over the course of the first five episodes of season five - and in last night's "Human Target", in particular - that style has gone the way of Havenrock and been nuked to hell. It's reminiscent of a documentary - odd wide long shots that convey an idea of not wanting to scare off the characters on screen - but perhaps most concerningly, I'm oft reminded of Power Rangers: loose camera work, cute tricks to try and look cool (shooting Evelyn Sharp at one point from an upside down perspective is a neat idea, but translates badly on the screen) and - although it wasn't this week - the use of any sort of slow-motion, particularly with explosions or fights happening in the background, looks like child's play. It's dumb and distracting; the job of the director is, as much as anything else, to ensure that the viewer is as unaware as possible that they're watching a television show. Currently, Arrow's directors are failing at that job.

Experimentation is good and should be embraced. Without experimentation, Arrow would never have given us Oliver vs. Slade blended in two separate fights, Daredevil would never have given us either of its two one-shot fight scenes, and Banshee would never have given us that twenty-minute sequence shot almost entirely using cameras mounted to the actors' heads, and television would be the worse off for losing those scenes. But experimentation can only work if a show is confident in its everyday approach to filming, if it has a clear understanding of what every single shot would look like if the director chose to stick to the status quo.

Right now, I'm not certain that anyone working on Arrow knows what that status quo is, and that's a serious problem.

What does everyone else think? Is this noticeable for you, and do you consider it a problem?

No comments:

Post a Comment