'Arrow': Season 4 and how the superhero world is getting happier

'Arrow' creator Marc Guggenheim has dropped some hints about the upcoming season and says the new episodes will be 'lighter.' Here's how he most likely arrived at that decision and why darker-is-better isn't always the case anymore in the superhero movie world.

Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
'Arrow' stars Stephen Amell.

The most recent season of the CW superhero show “Arrow” has concluded and “Arrow” creator Marc Guggenheim is dropping hints about what’s to come next year.

“Arrow,” which centers on billionaire Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who becomes the superhero Green Arrow, ended its third season earlier this month. The show co-stars Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey, and Emily Bett Rickards and is paired on the CW with another show based on a DC comic book hero, “The Flash.” (“Flash” star Grant Gustin recently popped up on the season finale of “Arrow.”) 

Recent episodes found Oliver becoming the head of the villainous League of Assassins, also known as the League of Shadows, in order to save his sibling and pretending to be brainwashed by the villain Ra’s al Ghul. However, the end of the season finale had Oliver apparently abandoning his superhero alter ego to be with his love interest Felicity (Rickards). 

So Guggenheim says next season will be happier. “It will take a lighter tone,” he said in an interview with the website io9. “I happen to like dark and I like the fact that 'Arrow' is a pretty dark show, particularly for a network show. That said, every year you want to mix things up and there was sort of a collective desire on all of our parts to try to inject a little bit more lightness into the show, a little bit more humor.” 

This is nothing but good news. Many recent comic book film and TV adaptations have been dark in events and tone. This effect can be traced back to the superhero movie "The Dark Knight." “Knight,” which was the second in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy, became the domestically highest-grossing movie of 2008, according to the website Box Office Mojo, and was almost universally critically praised. It centers on Batman (Christian Bale)’s battle with the legendary villain the Joker (Heath Ledger) and earned Ledger a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work.

But because that movie had many dark things happen, movie studios have assumed that’s what moviegoers want. When “Man of Steel,” the newest take on Superman, came out in 2013, Monitor film critic Peter Rainer noted that the film, “taking a cue from the ‘Batman’ series, is dark and thudding and overlong… [a] drearfest.” 

What proved that a lighter take on superheroes works? Last summer’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which became the domestically third-highest-grossing movie of the year, according to the website Box Office Mojo. The superhero crew of misfits at the center of the film quipped their way through the movie and many loved it. Associated Press writer Jake Coyle wrote that “our overlords at Marvel have deigned to prove… that they do, in fact, have a sense of humor… [it] has a welcome, slightly self-mocking tone that dares to suggest intergalactic battles over orbs might actually be a tad silly,” though Coyle thought the movie needed to work on its humor even more. Meanwhile, the sister show to “Arrow,” “The Flash,” is already succeeding at a lighter tone. Upon its debut, Flavorwire writer Pilot Viruet wrote that the TV show “has come out on top as a bright, optimistic light in a season of dark and dreary comic book adaptations,” comparing it favorably to higher-profile shows such as Fox’s “Gotham” and NBC’s “Constantine.”

So if “Arrow” is going to be lighter, too? It’s a very good decision. The superhero world could use some happiness.

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