Super Max (2007 Script)

Posted: March 20, 2018 in Script
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GA
A decade ago, only relatively die-hard comic book fans would be able to tell you anything about Green Arrow. Most people would probably get him confused with another, similarly colored hero. “Wasn’t he the one on that show with Bruce Lee? Or was he the one with the ring?” Regardless, Oliver Queen has been an interesting and layered character in the medium of comics for years. When Mike Grell re-invented him in the 80’s, it began a new era of engaging stories, larger-than-life villains and human pathos all centered around the emerald archer with the signature Van Dyke. Sadly, expanded media had somewhat left him alone, which meant larger audiences had as well.

GA1These days, however, we live in a world where the CW network has created an entire universe of DC heroes spun out of that relatively obscure hero. With Arrow‘s star higher than ever, it seems like a good moment to go back and look at an attempt at a film that was very nearly made in the middle of Nolan’s Dark Knight series and a good five years before the DC Extended Universe’s inaugural neck-snap.

Justin Marks and David Goyer crafted a script called Super Max that essentially showcased DC’s wide variety of lower tiered villains battling it out with the verdant hero. While the script was making the rounds in Hollywood it was often referred to as the “Green Arrow in Prison” movie, which is a pretty apt description. Not only that, but it’s also a ballsy foundation for an introductory movie. It seems like studios loooove their origin stories, so it’s notable with just how little of Ollie’s origin is touched upon here.

khaThe story opens during a gala in Queen’s honor as Hackett, Oliver’s bodyguard, is giving a rundown of his accomplishments/origin. This all happens in tandem with an action scene of a break-in at a Checkmate facility by a hooded infiltrator. During the assault, a high-ranking official of Checkmate, Taleb Beni Khalid, is assassinated by a green arrow. This leads to our hero being hunted and captured by the authorities. Essentially before the opening credits, Green Arrow is already publicly unmasked and sent to a high security detention facility, the titular Super Max.

From there, the script becomes a pretty standard “break-out” type story but with the interesting addition of super-powers. The prisoners’ jumpsuits are color-coded based on their abilities and the facility itself shifts their cells nightly to keep them off-kilter. Once Ollie gets the lay of the land and meets the warden (Amanda Waller), he gets contacted by an inmate known as Pied Piper who can control people and animals using sonic frequencies. From there, they begin planning an escape utilizing all of the super-powered foes at their disposal. For example, at one point Ollie needs an item to aid his escape he speaks to an inmate named Abel who can conjure items that are tattooed onto his body. The Tattooed Man is one of many c-list DC villains to show up within the story. Few of them are used to any great effect, but it’s a lot of fun to see so many jammed into one story. This was before the days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so seeing this many tenuously connected characters in one story would have been groundbreaking.

MerlynLater in the story, it’s revealed that Hackett had been involved in pulling the strings behind Green Arrow’s incarceration. He utilized the talents of an assassin named Merlyn (who also specializes in bow-based combat) to kill Checkmate’s leader with one of Oliver’s own arrows. Merlyn is then sent into the Super Max to get rid of Queen after it’s discovered that he’s working on an escape. This leads to a climactic bow-and-arrow battle mid-breakout. GA eventually makes his way back to society and is able to clear his name. While it’s a satisfying ending, there are a few dangling plot threads left untied. Namely, what will happen to the inmate who assisted Queen with his escape and is then set free in the end? He was in there legitimately and Ollie just allowed him to free in the end. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what a superhero would do?

queen jailThe script was eventually rewritten and retitled (to a more franchise-friendly Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max) but nothing came of it after that. DC decided to move forward with their ill-fated DCEU and the character of Green Arrow became a household name on television screens. While elements of this story could’ve very easily been incorporated into a few different places within said TV series, not much has come of it beside the occasional name-check (at one point a special prison designed to house Slade Wilson AKA Deathstroke is named Super Max) and shared characters.

wallSpeaking of characters, its interesting how they’re used within this script. The sheer number of DC villains is staggering, but very few are given anything to do. Even the Waller, the warden, is underused and under-developed to the point that she could be anyone (since I have a deep affinity for this character, that was something of a disappointment to me). Of the random villains who are given more than just a fleeting glance or a name stenciled on a door (as is Joker’s “cameo”) we are given precious little of their backstory or any reason for them to help or hinder Ollie’s escape other than very basic and broad strokes. So don’t expect to get much characterization from the likes of Icicle, Blockbuster or Tattooed Man.

While this script needed a bit of work, it was also clearly a first draft. I would love to read some later passes because this concept is so interesting that it really should be brought back in some form. Even now, 10 years later, we haven’t seen a movie like Super Max and with DC’s film slate continuing to flounder (Justice League, their most recent film, is officially their lowest grossing of the DCEU) it looks like they could use some originality as much as anyone could.

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