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Why DC won't give Green Arrow a movie

Several movies in, Warner Bros. is still trying to figure out its big-screen strategy when it comes to DC Comics. To this point, we've gotten films on A-listers like Superman and Wonder Woman, the would-be tentpole Justice league, and the spinoff Suicide Squad. Beyond that, the studio has at least a half dozen more movies in various stages of development, all heading in wildly different directions. One character who's never seemingly been on the short list, though, is Green Arrow.

The character has proven to be popular on the small screen, serving as the linchpin of a full-fledged small-screen superhero universe on the CW affectionally called the "Arrowverse." Despite the success, the studio has seemingly never seriously considered bringing a big-screen version of Oliver Queen into the DCEU. The reasons why are myriad and a bit complicated, so let's pull back the string and take a shot at breaking it all down. Here's why DC won't give Arrow a movie.

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​He's never been the 'biggest' hero

Green Arrow dates all the way back to 1941, making his debut during the Golden Age of comics, and for a long time he was basically an arrow-themed knockoff of Batman. He often used a whole bunch of arrow-themed gimmicks ("To the Arrowplane!") and even had his own teenage sidekick, a la Batman and Robin. The origin story was tweaked over the years as DC continuity evolved and changed, but one thing largely remained the same — Green Arrow doesn't really run in the same circles as DC's A-list heroes. He's been associated with the Justice League on occasion, but most often, Oliver Queen has stayed to his own little corner of the DC Universe in Star City or Seattle. That setting has allowed the writers of both the comics and TV series to tell some interesting stories free from the larger continuity of world-ending stakes heroes like Superman and Wonder Woman typically grapple with. He's also never been the biggest comics seller when compared to the all-stars.

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He doesn't fit DC's movie strategy

The DCEU is a universe populated with characters like Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Shazam, and Aquaman. At least for the moment, the studio seems to be leaning into characters with superpowers that translate into massive effects (underwater battles! The Flash super-speeding through the city!) and tentpole-style films. Even the anti-hero team-up film Suicide Squad featured a roster littered with superpowers. DC also has a ton of films in development, though pretty much all of them focus on unique angles or other super-powered heroes. The studio has several Batman-related spinoffs, and another superhero flick focusing on the Green Lantern Corps.

You have to wonder how a character like Green Arrow would fit into a film universe that, at least for the moment, is almost entirely populated with super-powered heroes — Batman not withstanding. Superpowers or no, however, Batman is easily the most proven commodity in DC's stable. At least for now, it looks like there's only room for one everyman in the DCEU.

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He's never been that involved with the Justice League

Green Arrow has crossed paths with Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman and been associated with the Justice League at times, but most of the time, he's content to fight his street-level battles outside of the type of world DC is focusing on for the movies. It's not all that often a Green Arrow story will have world-ending stakes. Instead, he's usually fighting corporate greed or some type of other injustice. Though the Green Arrow on the small screen has assembled his own mini version of the Justice League, things are a bit different in the comics. Outside of a longterm team-up with the Green Lantern and his own family of sidekicks and fellow heroes like Speedy, Arsenal, Diggle, and Black Canary, Oliver Queen doesn't often associate with the rest of DC's heroes. The DCEU already has a loner in Batman assembling the team, and it'd likely be awkward to shoehorn in another one.

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Most Green Arrow stories wouldn't translate well to the big screen

For most of his lengthy comic history, Green Arrow has focused on stories about helping the little guy and improving conditions in his homes of Star City and Seattle. Some of his most iconic stories focused on the small scale, while DC's film slate has almost exclusively zeroed in on world-ending threats and super-baddies bent on world domination. Stories like "The Panopticon" found Green Arrow fighting a robot monster sent in to neutralize high crime areas, facing off with the vigilante-killing baddie Onomatopoeia, and taking on the Yakuza. He's teamed up with more powerful heroes on occasion, but most of his stories are almost certainly best suited for the small screen. That's not to say Green Arrow stories aren't compelling and poignant, but they're not exactly the type of thing a studio's going to rush and drop a $150 million budget on for a tentpole.

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The character is so ingrained with the CW's 'Arrowverse'

One of the biggest potential reasons Warner Bros. might be hesitant to create a big-screen version of the Green Arrow: The studio gave the all-clear for The CW to use the character on the television series Arrow more than six years ago, and that version of Oliver Queen has evolved into the centerpiece of the network's superhero universe, which has grown to include Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and (in less connected ways) Black Lightning and Supergirl. The creative team took a Batman Begins-style approach to launching the character, and the TV version of Oliver Queen has borrowed quite a bit from the Batman mythos. The small-scale aesthetic of the character clearly lent itself to a television series, and at this point, he's most associated with TV for most fans or would-be fans. Warner Bros. opted to have both big and small screen versions of the Flash, with Grant Gustin anchoring a TV series while Ezra Miller plays Barry Allen in the DCEU, but that character's history and abilities are arguably a better fit for film anyway.

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He's probably too political for a tentpole movie

In the 1970s, DC made some major changes to the character of Green Arrow — changes that still resonate today. He got a new look, with a streamlined costume and goatee, and also lost his corporate fortune — essentially joining the downtrodden men and women he'd been defending. It proved to be a major creative revitalization, and turned the Green Arrow into one of DC's most politically slanted characters — he became closely aligned with left-wing politics, and he and his pal the Green Lantern hit the road to rediscover America and take on problems like corruption and racism (with some bad guy punching along the way, of course). Even the modern-day version of the comic book Green Arrow is tied to the political left, and though the small-screen version has largely avoided elaborating those connections, ignoring them on the big screen would be sidelining a very defining factor that fans know and love.

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The skill set doesn't translate well to a blockbuster

No offense to the talents of Green Arrow, Hawkeye or even Katniss — but archery doesn't exactly translate all that well to a blockbuster action flick. Superpowers are almost tailor-made for the big screen. Flash's super speed, Superman's super-everything, Green Lantern's magic ring, Cyborg's tech abilities, Aquaman's super-swimming and strength — those are all relatively easy to define and can be brought to life with CGI. Shooting a bow and arrow really well? Yeah, it takes a legit skill set, but it doesn't exactly look as cool as super-strength when it comes to a superhero battle. These superhero movies are almost all built on a formula that calls for an epic battle to end the film, and shooting arrows would be a hard sell to hit the same level of epic climax Warner Bros. typically aspires to in its superhero flicks. Think Superman's fight with Zod, or the entire Justice League assembling to take on Steppenwolf. Having the Green Arrow fire off some shots at a bad guy just doesn't have the same kind of impact. 

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They already tried, and failed, once

David S. Goyer, a guy who would go on to play a key role in DC's film plans by helping write everything from Batman Begins to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, worked up one DC project that never could get off the ground. The prolific writer developed a script for a project titled Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max, which would've focused on the Green Arrow being sent to a prison positively loaded with DC Comics rogues. The project was rolling toward potential development in 2008, but was eventually derailed behind the scenes and landed in limbo. The story would've featured a who's who of recognizable baddies, from Lex Luthor to the Riddler, The Tattoo Man, and several others. It's a shame the project never made it off the page; if nothing else, it was a clever spin on the superhero genre that could've dropped almost a decade before projects like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy redefined what could be done under the banner of a "superhero" story.

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The DCEU is in shambles

With Justice League — a film that was originally thought to be the centerpiece of the DCEU —  landing as the least successful film in the universe, Warner Bros. is understandably taking a long look at exactly which direction it wants to take its DC properties in the future. The studio has a ton of projects in various stages of development, and as post-Justice League releases like Aquaman and Shazam! have already proven, they're interested in a more eclectic approach than they've taken previously. Potential Flash films, Cyborg films and Batman films are all in various states of flux, with only Wonder Woman 2 seeming like a sure thing at this point beyond what's already in front of the camera. The studio could always decide to take a shot on Green Arrow, but if a film featuring Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman isn't a sure thing, a story about Oliver Queen must look like one whopper of a gamble.