With the recent tease and news about the upcoming second half of the third season of Arrow, fans are eager to see how far the League of Assassins will be involved in the major plot. One of DC’s greatest villains, Ra’s al Ghul, has finally entered the Arrow universe–and yes he killed Oliver Queen, or did he? As a comic book lover, and superhero film adaption admirer I looked into the new appearance of Ra’s.
Over the years, countless of tv shows, comics, and films have portrayed Ra’s al Ghul differently. However, some of the most modern on screen adaptations of this character have been that of the Batman trilogy and the Arrow. Excluding cartoon series like The Son of Batman, this article will only judge the live action versions of the League’s leader.
Batman Ra’s al Ghul
The trainer of Batman, Ra’s al Ghul was the man that turned rich boy Bruce Wayne into the defender of Gotham. In this version of Batman, Ra’s al Ghul is more noble than in others. Here the character appears to truly believe that what he is doing is for the good of everyone. I admired the casting and could feel emotion leaking through during Ra’s telling of his back story.
In the Dark Knight Rises, the films extended more of Ra’s story even after the character’s death. He became a ghost in the back of Bruce’s mind. His legacy or the idea of Ra’s al Ghul, which is the league, continued on to enact his dream of destroying Gotham. The Batman franchise truly captured the spiritual element of Ra’s al Ghul’s character. A vision or hallucination of Ra’s teases Bruce, while Bruce is in the pit (The Dark Knight Rises), that he is immortal. In the original comics Ra’s al Ghul’s character always had that hint of a mystical element.
Arrow Ra’s al Ghul
Making his first appearance in “The Magician”, raising from the bath tub audience got the glimpse of his back head as he slowly turned around. This Ra’s al Ghul captured a much more darker side. It revealed a man full of rage, fire, and poison. Through his justification speech, before fighting Oliver Queen, he sneaks in a piece of his mind process. He mentions that he had replaced evil with death by killing someone who had threatened his family, this later one becomes the foundation of the League of Assassins.
Ra’s in the Arrow is much less noble and instead more brutal, fearsome, and stoic. There are hints to his insanity which might have been left by means of justifying his actions. Even though part of his character does seem to believe that he is doing the right thing–his actions and conversation with his daughter Nyssa about Sara’s death prove that his heart lies elsewhere.
Overall, both versions of the character have their pros and cons. The Arrow has gone a different direction with Ra’s, while the Batman franchise desired to show audience that it was okay to have an emotional connection with a villain. Ra’s can be presented as an anti-hero, in a way he is trying to protect people. However, some could argue that he is simply insane and is using the idea of justice to enact his desire to kill and control people.
The reason Ra’s al Ghul is such a powerful and popular villain is that he is often fighting for justice along with the heroes. His form of justice might be brutal and might lead to control–I mean, who can really judge another person? In the end, Ra’s al Ghul represents the vigilante the main heroes are trying to avoid becoming. A man who declares right and wrong based on his own opinion rather than by true morality or law. Arrow might end up using Ra’s character to fuel a foil between Oliver Queen’s character and reveal some of Oliver’s hidden fears.