8/21/2012

Batman (1989) - Joker (Jack Nicholson) defacing Museum

Director David Cronenburg said he would never do a superhero movie, because he thinks Batman is "running around in a stupid cape."

When asked if he would ever direct a comic book film Cronenberg said, "I don't think they are making them an elevated art form. I just don't think it's elevated. Christopher Nolan's best movie is Memento, and that is an interesting movie. I don't think his Batman movies are half as interesting though they're 20 million times the expense. The movie, to me, they're mostly boring."

Can superhero films ever rise to the ranks of art films?

What is an art film? Wikipedia describes it as a "serious, independent film aimed at a niche market rather than a mass market audience." Is that what we would really want?

He's right on one point. Memento is a brilliant study into the nature of man and the fluidity of memory. But, you can't really compare it to a blockbuster like The Dark Knight Rises. The goals are different.

He's wrong on another point. He said that the problem with comic book films is they're for kids. "A superhero movie...it's comic book. It's for kids. It's adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, 'you know, Dark Knight Rises is, you know, supreme cinema art,' I don't think they know what the f**k they're talking about."

Kids have been the intended audience for comic books since the beginning, but does that mean they have to stay that way? Some surreal comic books could make artistic films. Would they be worth watching? I don't know.

Ang Lee tried to make the first art house comic book film. The director of Sense and Sensibility tried to take the genre in a new direction with the 2003 film Hulk. "I don't think the Hulk is a superhero," Lee said. "He's the first Marvel character who is a tragic monster." As an art film it was successful. As a comic-book film it flopped.

So really, Cronenberg's probably right. We'll never have an art house superhero film and frankly I couldn't be happier.
Batman is a 1989 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton. Based on the DC Comics character of the same name, the film stars Michael Keaton in the title role, as well as Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, and Jack Palance. The film, in which Batman deals with the rise of a costumed criminal known as "The Joker" (Nicholson), was the first installment of Warner Bros.' initial Batman film series. - Wikipedia

Hulk (also known as The Hulk) is a 2003 American superhero film based on the fictional Marvel Comics character of the same name. Ang Lee directed the film, which stars Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner, as well as Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte. The film explores the origins of the Hulk, which is partially attributed to Banner's father's experiments on himself, and on his son. - Wikipedia

The Dark Knight Rises is a 2012 superhero film directed by Christopher Nolan, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Jonathan Nolan and the story with David S. Goyer. Featuring the DC Comics character Batman, the film is the third and final installment in Nolan's Batman film trilogy, and it is the sequel to The Dark Knight (2008). Christian Bale reprises the lead role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, with a returning cast of Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as James Gordon, Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, and Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane. The film introduces two main characters to Nolan's series: Selina Kyle (played by Anne Hathaway), a cat burglar whose appearance in Gotham City sets in motion a chain of events that leads Batman to come out of retirement; and Bane (played by Tom Hardy), a mercenary whose objective is to destroy Gotham with a nuclear fusion bomb. - Wikipedia

What do you think? Can comic book movies be high art? What comic book film would you like to see become a art house film?
[Image Source: screenmusings.org]

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16 comments:

Pat Dilloway said...

Anyone who says comic books are for kids must not have read a comic book in the last 40 years. Anyway, Cronenberg is just jealous that his "Cosmopolis" is going to be a dismal flop; it was already largely panned at Cannes earlier this year. Superhero films will probably never rate up there with "Citizen Kane" but the genre itself has come a long way in even just the last decade.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A good art house film is just as rare. Let the superhero movies continue as they are.
And I can't even remember the last Cronenberg film I watched.

M. Pax said...

I think a superhero can become high art. Maybe not those currently existing. I think in this day and age, anything goes. Why not blur that line? Could be interesting.

Tony Laplume said...

Unbreakable was high art. I think Nolan's come as close as anyone to making a purely artistic superhero movie based on an existing property, and is probably what other filmmakers need to push them beyond what Marvel's been doing, which is exactly what everyone expects from them.

Natasha Dythia said...

The problem is people have a preconcieved notion of what a 'comic movie' should be...not art but a way to waste 2 hours.... Honestly, I am glad they aren't considered art films. I find MOST art films boring. As far as comics being for kids...comics haven't been for kids in a long time. Yes there are kid comics but at some point the general audience of comics changed - You can see that from the Bad Girl era of the 90's. And it is even more obvious now with the price of comic books and all the gimicks they try - varient covers as an example. Yes there are Teens that will buy of course - but these tactics are aimed at an older 'collector' audience - not the kid wanting a good story to read.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Good point Tony. Unbreakable was so far off from a typical superhero movie that it almost crossed genres. It's probably too hard to deviate from an existing property. Too many fans want it exactly like they remember.

Maurice Mitchell said...

There are so many comics that are aimed at older audiences now. I would say most of them are. Cronenberg is probably thinking of old Archie comics.

Maurice Mitchell said...

A lot of art house films, while good, are an experiment in film-making and not aimed at general audiences. The last good Cronenberg film I watched was The Fly remake. Brilliant.

Maurice Mitchell said...

M.Pax, if someone used a Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison comic they could easily blur the line.

Maurice Mitchell said...

Good point Natasha. The big buyers of comic books aren't kids, but adults with disposible incomes. There's nothing wrong with a good popcorn flick. They make more money and lead to a sequel. BloodRayne and Barb Wire are some good examples of "Bad Girls" that come to mind.

Natasha Dythia said...

Exactly ;) Or Even Lady Death, Purgatory, Dawn....ahh the least goes on and on ;)

Colin "Fitz" Biggs said...

Given how many genre conventions The Dark Knight flaunted I would call it elevated, but I'm not sure that it could be called an art film. Again, the whole argument Cronenberg is appealing to is misleading. I see no one going on the offense against a film like The Artist (considered an art film) for its rigid adherence to formulas.

Lisa John said...

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Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

A good art house film is just as rare. Let the superhero movies continue as they are.
And I can't even remember the last Cronenberg film I watched.

Pat Dilloway said...

Anyone who says comic books are for kids must not have read a comic book in the last 40 years. Anyway, Cronenberg is just jealous that his "Cosmopolis" is going to be a dismal flop; it was already largely panned at Cannes earlier this year. Superhero films will probably never rate up there with "Citizen Kane" but the genre itself has come a long way in even just the last decade.

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