Christopher Nolan: The Karl Marx of Superheroes

People who blame Christopher Nolan for dark and gritty superhero films are bad and should feel bad.

Obligatory statement about how my new novel is coming along very well and I’m hopeful to have the reworked version of the serialized novella up in a month or so aside, let’s talk about superheroes for a change.

Watching and reading reviews about an up-and-coming superhero film, you cannot help but think that you are experiencing deja vu in regards to every one of these that isn’t Marvel Studios related or R-rated. The connecting thread? An overwhelming criticism of the film being too dark and too gritty, aka the name for the Fast and Furious reboot I’ll produce one day. Ever since The Dark Knight came around in 2008 all superhero films by DC, as well as numerous tv shows, and some other properties not DC related, have followed a similar style in which they have a similar color scheme to The Dark Knight, a similar cinematography, subject matter, brooding acting style, and a general sense of violence that is considering unsuitable to the way superhero films are supposed to be. I consider myself a detractor of Marvel Studios properties and their habit of veering too far the other direction of playing down darkness.

But I asked myself earlier when I was watching RedLetterMedia’s review of the new Power Rangers movie, if their, and other peoples, use of “Christopher Nolan-y” as a negative description of these types of superhero films that take themselves too seriously. And at that point it hit me: Christopher Nolan is theĀ Karl Marx of superhero films. Both men have created seminal and important works, much greater than the limited field in which they have been intended for. Nolan made what is still my favorite superhero film of all time. It wasn’t despite being dark and gritty and brooding, but good because it’s story could only be told in such a way. His way of film making does, however, not have universal applicability when it comes to other characters. And while Marx observed society and had his own ideas on how capital and society operated which are still worthwhile to check out theories even if you disagree with them, both men suffer from being compared with their imitators and those who have used to apply their work in their own way without their intellect… okay, this is where the comparison is breaking down because comparing Lenin or Stalin with Zack Snyder is too edgy and dumb even for me, but I’m trying to create clickbait here people, so give me a break…

The Dark Knight was a great film that has since suffered a huge backlash from people who are sick and tired of lesser directors and writers trying to reinvent the wheel and make another masterpiece like that film. The problem is that all of them do such a poor job at it. The majority of superhero films do not spend the necessary amount of time on the script in order to craft themes and a world in the way The Dark Knight did it, especially not in the last five to eight years where action scenes have become longer and longer. Batman v Superman is a good example of a film that needed a similar run time to The Dark Knight to tell its story and became a jumbled mess in the theatrical version because of it. Which is all fine and good if you want to tell a dark story, but most of these movies do not need to be this dark because the story and themes do not actually justify it. It is perfectly valid to criticize these films for deciding to make their film in this way when it works neither thematically or stylistically, but do not denigrate the good dark films. Not everything needs to be bright and preachy, but not everything needs to be dark either. As long as film makers try to ride the coattails of Christopher Nolan or go in the other, equally extreme direction of never trying to invoke his style of film making, there will be people like me complaining about about these tonal issues, whether its a dark more or a light-hearted one and whether or not it works.

And this is where the comparison finally breaks down because socialism and capitalism aren’t completely separable in real life as seen in post-war Europe, but hey… so what?


Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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