David Cronenberg’s Got No Love for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and Other Superhero Movies

     August 15, 2012

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I wouldn’t say David Cronenberg‘s one of my all-time favorite directors, but he’s close.  He makes fascinating, disturbing movies that shock audiences not for shock value, but to force them to consider complicated ideas.  While I think his movies are worth seeking out (look for my review of his latest film, Cosmopolis, tomorrow), his recent comments probably won’t endear himself to some superhero movie fans.  Speaking to NextMovie, Cronenberg says he doesn’t agree with the perception that directors like Christopher Nolan are elevating the genre.

Hit the jump for the full quote from Cronenberg and my reaction.  Cosmopolis opens in limited release on Friday.

When asked by NextMovie [via Badass Digest] about whether or not he would branch out into superhero movies, Cronenberg replied:

I don’t think they are making them an elevated art form. I think it’s still Batman running around in a stupid cape. 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. What he is doing is some very interesting technical stuff, which, you know, he’s shooting IMAX and in 3-D. That’s really tricky and difficult to do. I read about it in “American Cinematography Magazine,” and technically, that’s all very interesting. The movie, to me, they’re mostly boring.

the-dark-knight-rises-christopher-nolan-imageHe goes on to say that the studio system prohibits full creative expression, which in turn negates the power and vision of the director:

Anybody who works in the studio system has got 20 studio people sitting on his head at every moment, and they have no respect, and there’s no…it doesn’t matter how successful you’ve been. And obviously Nolan has been very successful. He’s got a lot of power, relatively speaking. But he doesn’t really have power.

Finally, in a slam to everyone who likes Nolan’s Batman movies:

I would say that’s a no, you know. And the problem is you gotta… as I say, you can do some interesting, maybe unexpected things. And certainly, I’ve made the horror films and people say, “Can you make a horror film also an art film?” And I would say, “Yeah, I think you can.”

But a superhero movie, by definition, you know, 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.

I deeply respect David Cronenberg, but I would disagree with a few of his points.  First off, comic books aren’t just for kids, but I’ll give Cronenberg the benefit of the doubt and assume he was talking about mainstream superhero comics and not stuff like Maus.

I would also disagree with his argument that a superhero movie can never be elevated, and I’m not entirely sure what he means by “elevated”.  I’m also not sure how he defines what would be “interesting”.  I agree that The Dark Knight Trilogy isn’t the cinematic revolution that some take it to be.  However, directors shouldn’t stop trying to couch complex ideas in mainstream movies.  Once we start cutting off the possibilities of cinema, we deny its power as an art form.  Yes, the studio system can strangle the life out of a tentpole feature until its absolutely brain dead, but the best directors in history found out ways to take what’s ostensibly a genre picture and make it something deeper.  And that’s not to say that superhero movies need to be deeper.  It’s just unfair to argue that they can never have that dimension simply because they feature men in capes.

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