July 24, 2008

Superhero Movies on the decline?

I've always appreciated what A.O Scott has to say, and this recent article is no different. Though I thoroughly enjoy many superhero movies, there are limitations that they all must face. This is one of the reasons why the Dark Knight can't be the "greatest movie ever", as some crazed fans from IMDB might lead you to believe (No. 1 on the Top 250????).

A.O. Scott writes:

But to paraphrase something the Joker says to Batman, “The Dark Knight” has rules, and they are the conventions that no movie of this kind can escape. The climax must be a fight with the villain, during which the symbiosis of good guy and bad guy, implicit throughout, must be articulated. The end must point forward to a sequel, and an aura of moral consequence must be sustained even as the killings, explosions and chases multiply. The allegorical stakes in a superhero are raised — it’s not just good guys fighting bad guys, but Righteousness against Evil, Order against Chaos — precisely to authorize a more intense level of violence.

A.O. makes some great points. The Dark Knight (like most superhero films) abide by certain rules in order to make money. Imagine if there was more blood in the film or Batman actually killed the Joker? There are certain lines that superhero films can't cross, and as good as the Dark Knight was, these limitations took away from it being a masterpiece; let alone the best movie ever...


  1. "Imagine if there was more blood in the film or Batman actually killed the Joker?"

    Way to spoil the movie for some of us.

  2. The whole point of The Joker was to test Batman's rule. It was a huge part of the actual storyline. If Batman does kill, then the whole point of the movie is lost. A.O. Scott? Wow, I thought he'd catch up on that. It was quite obvious. Isn't he the guy that's like in love with Tom Green? Really...How do these guys get jobs? I'd listen to different critics from now on if I were you.


  3. My example is pretty bad actually. A better one is if Nolan would have let Two Face kill Gordon's son, blame it on the batman, and get away with it.

    Nonetheless, I'm not sure how A.O. feels about Tom Green, but he raises some good points about the limitations of superhero flicks. You sort of need a traditional hollywood ending for a superhero movie. Though Nolan pushed the envelope with superhero flicks, he still had to package it in a marketable way.

  4. I think that A.O Scott has a perfect grasp on what this movie, and the superhero genre, is and what it is going towards. He makes perfect sense and justifies his claims. This article is very much the truth.

  5. This comment pretty much explains my feelings for this movie. As a superhero film, it was the best of its kind by far. As a film in general, it was very good, but it was not the greatest film of all time nor was it a masterpiece because there were still things in it that made it what it was, a superhero sequel. That is why I don't believe it will be up for best picture, multiple acting nods, and 15 nominations. I think at best it will get a Ledger nomination, maybe a screenplay nomination, and a few technical category noms bringing its total to 5-7.

  6. A.O Scott is the biggest movie snob I know. I cant possibly take anything he says about The Dark Knight seriously. However, I do agree it is not the #1 movie of all time but it might be in discussion for top 100 of all time

  7. I still don't get the point of the article. I don't think Nolan directs a film thinking about limitations. I don't think Heath Ledger gets into a role thinking limitations "Oh well i can't do that!". Of course there is going to be a climactic fight scene and all that crap A.O. Scott rambles on about. Those aren't limitations to the storyteller. You want more blood in a super hero movie? How shallow is that? Who cares? It's not gonna make it better. It's not gonna mean anything more. Also, The Dark Knight concluded itself pretty nicely and wrapped just about everything up to the point where you don't need a sequel. There was no real cliffhanger (apart from the Joker-haha) like in the first one.

    A.O. Scott wants an indie flick, then fine, but a film called the Dark Knight about Batman, you're gonna get a chase scene, yer gonna get a fight and you're gonna get men dressed up in crazy outfits. Without all the rules, you're not gonna get a Batman movie. It's like having a disaster film without the disaster. Scott seems to be reaching in trying to find something wrong with The Dark Knight by dissing what it's supposed to be. How ridiculous.

  8. A.O. Scott has no idea what he's talking about. First off, I think he and some others are just trying to go against the grain and search for something wrong with a film that has nothing wrong with it, just so he and the rest can look smart or knowledgeable about it. Second, the film defied pretty much every single conventional rule of the genre and that's what causes the film to transcend the genre and become a masterpiece of filmmaking. If Scott really wanted to complain about a film falling short because it followed traditional rules set in the genre, he needs to analyze the Spiderman films, which practically wrote the book on formulaic superhero films. I'll be more detailed later, but here's a few examples of the film not following rules.

    First off, the main villain didn't die, and that seems to be a large tradition in all comic book films. It showed Batman's discipline and refusal to become just some vigilante. Look at the body count of villains in other films.

    Both Tim Burton films and Joel Schumacher films had Batman either killing or allowing the main villains to die. Spiderman, for some reason, revealed his identity to every fucking villain he faced at the climax, then killed them or allowed them to die. Practically every Marvel film, sans the first X-Men film, has the main villain being killed by the hero(es). Batman refused to kill the Joker.

    Secondly, Batman stood for more than just being a hero for the city. Spiderman whined when New York didn't like him, and got a big ego when they did. Batman, on the other hand, symbolizes something more. He is the spirit of Gotham, not it's hero. This was explained and explored throughout TDK. Harvey was the hero Gotham needed, Batman was the spirit of Gotham that they needed. He chose to go into exile because he knows that he has to be whatever Gotham needs him to be for the time. If they need a scapegoat, so be it.

    Pay close attention to Batman and Gordon's final lines.

    "You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I can do those things, because I'm not a hero. I'm whatever Gotham needs me to be. Because sometimes the truth isn't enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. Call it in."

    "They'll hunt you."

    "You'll hunt me, you'll condemn me, you'll set the dogs on me. But that's what has to happen."

    "Dad, why is he running?"

    "He's running because we have to chase him."

    "But he didn't do anything wrong."

    "Because he's the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now...and so we'll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he's not a hero. He's a silent guardian, a watchful protector...a dark knight."

    The final words pretty much sum up exactly why this isn't a traditional superhero film and practically breaks all the rules.

    I could go on forever, but it's late and my poor brain is fried.

  9. Issue: It's not about whether tDK is a great movie. It's about why tDK isn't the "greatest of all time".

    The Dark Knight went far beyond any other superhero film. I grant that. I watched it again, and it is certainly one of the best films this year. It is probably one of the best films ever made (top 50 at least).

    However, producers have a say in what they want their final product to look like. They want to actually make a profit. Hence, they are going to "recommend" some things that will limit a movies potential.

    For instance, clearly blood adds to the whole realism angle that Nolan is trying to take with the film. However, if you include the amount of blood needed, the rating goes from PG-13 to R (for producers that means less money).

    I'm not trying to attack the plot of the movie. I'm more concerned with the compromises (and there are compromises) that Nolan had to make to direct the film. Of course these compromises aren't as egregious as Joel's version, but they still exist. And the mere existence of these limits prevent tDK from being the masterpiece that it should be.

  10. I cannot believe this. I expected more out of this community of film buffs than to believe in such shallowness.

    To say TDK would be more realistic and a masterpiece if Nolan would just include more blood and kill more people. Think about that for a moment and how absurd that sounds.

    You watch The Dark Knight and you buy that the Batman exists but you can't suspend belief that there was probably some blood being spewed when someone would die or get beat up?

    A.O. Scott and others (apparently) seem to be looking at this film in the wrong way. Yeah, you agree it's great but to say it's not a masterpiece cos there's not enough violence to make it more realistic? LOL.

    A.O. Scott isn't the end all be all of critics anyways. In time, whether it be sooner or later, other notable critics and filmmakers will all agree it's a masterpiece and the naysayers will buy into that then and place it high on their own list. It happens all the time. Good thing is, TDK has merit and deserves to be put on the mantle.


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  12. D.W.

    I'm not appealing to the authority of A.O. Scott. He is a reputable film critic, but that does not mean he is always correct. Also, I'm not arguing that because tDK lacked blood or violence it is not a masterpiece.

    The point I am trying to make is that with superhero films, there are compromises that must be made to get people to come see the movie. If the movie was darker and more realistic (i.e. including blood), then it probably would not have been as appealing as it was. That is, it probably would not have made as much money as it did.

    Most Independent Films aren't made to make money, so directors have a bit more creative control, and make less compromises.

    For tDK, there isn't as much flexibility, and hence the limitations. I thought Nolan did a great despite the limitations, but clearly the limitations prevent it from being the "greatest movie ever made".

  13. i think its ridiculous that everyone is saying that this film should be in the top 1 or 50 or 100 movies of all time. it has only been out for a week!! who knows how this film is going to age? I believe films need to stand the test of time before they can be considered for something like that. Its like people that have a new favorite movie every month. "Whatever just came out and is hot and popular is my FAVORITE MOVIE EVER!!" kind of people. Not saying that it will, but what if the mummy 3 comes out and everyone goes OMG THIS IS AMAZING!!!! and puts it as the best ever on imdb and then no one even remembers tdk. what if iron man 2 comes out and the same thing happens that happened to tDK?? people dont seem to consider the fact that they dont know how it will age or how they will even like it after 10, 20 or even 50 viewings.

  14. While I think the film is indeed a masterpiece, I personally wouldn't deem it the best movie of all time. Besides, since when was IMDB's rating system anything more than a bad joke?

    Blood wouldn't make the film more realistic or artsy, just more bloody. The film is violent enough and has an insane body count. Pretty much all of the thugs at the beginning of the film were shot at point blank range, sans the one that tried to kill the Joker.

    If you want an Batman indie flick, watch the Bat In the Sun fan films. They are great and have a pretty high production value for being fan films. I on the other hand, will be making WB a bunch of fat cats by rewatching The Dark knight over and over again, and appreciating it for what it is. Perfect. Did you ever consider that maybe Nolan was the one who chose not to include a lot of blood? Two Face is gruesome enough as is, further blood and guts isn't necessary. Just enjoy The Dark Knight and stop complaining.