Because we all know that super-heroes don’t really die

Writing for The New York Times, and serenely ignorant of the comics-and-movies key party underway on the other side of the country, A.O. Scott wonders if super-hero movies have said all they have to say:

“Instead the disappointment comes from the way the picture spells out lofty, serious themes and then … spells them out again. What kind of hero do we need? Where is the line between justice and vengeance? How much autonomy should we sacrifice in the name of security? Is the taking of innocent life ever justified? These are all fascinating, even urgent questions, but stating them, as nearly every character in ‘The Dark Knight’ does, sooner [or] later, is not the same as exploring them.”

I’m guessing he’ll make Manohla Dargis review Watchmen.

In fairness, I don’t think a lack of novelty or gravitas has ever hampered a genre to the degree that it kills the thing entirely. Over-saturation is a likelier culprit when it comes to putting a genre in a persistent vegetative state, as it did in the ‘80s with slasher films, a genre that got revived via ironic self-awareness in Scream, which triggered a wave of ironic, self-aware slasher movies, which is now over for a while, but probably not forever.

2 Responses to Because we all know that super-heroes don’t really die

  1. Huff says:

    “I’m guessing he’ll make Manohla Dargis review Watchmen.”

    *Chuckles* It’s no mistake that Scott writes for the NY Times but I’ve never counted him as one of my favorite critics. In all honesty I think that The Dark Knight is going to be the peak of superhero films for a good while, in terms of both quality and thematic depth. Aside from being “unfilmable” to a certain extent a Watchmen film that’s made for a major studio isn’t going to have the same kind of depth/daring as the original comic. Still, I’m fine with the current state of superhero films. I though TDK was a perfect mix of spectacle, grit and intelligence; yeah, it wasn’t a Bresson-level morality tale, but you can’t expect it to be. It more than succeeded as an incredible blockbuster and as a snapshot of out paranoid society, and it pushes the genre further than any film before it.

    But I’m more interested in the rise of the “graphic novel movie” as a genre itself. The recent batch (300, Sin City, Wanted, Hellboy) has built up such a reputation amongst the public that the mere phrase “based on the hit graphic novel” is enough to create hype. I’m guessing we’re going to see some pretty shocking adaptations in the next couple of years (they’re already trying to make a god-damned live action Akira).

  2. davidpwelsh says:

    Not being much of a movie buff, I’m more interested in a critic’s turn of phrase than his or her reliability in terms of predicting what I will or won’t like, so I like Scott a lot. I just think he has a way of making snark elegant.

    I do wonder how the live-action adaptations of manga are going to evolve. It will depend a lot on what properties get green-lit, I guess, and I do suspect that Viz is positioned very well to get that ball rolling. The graphic-novel movie market will certainly be interesting, particularly once we’ve had a chance to see the impact of movies like Scott Pilgrim on the market for the comics that inspired them.

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