The Dark Knight Trilogy v Superhero Movies – Dawn of Hatred
Tea: Aniseed-Fennel Tea
Often I rightfully accuse superhero movies of being as lacklustre in content as McDonald’s meals are in nutrients. Yet, there are superhero movies I actually like, three in fact: Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is a superb series of movies and while I will not analyse them here and now (but maybe in the future), I want to examine what sets these movies apart in respect to the garbage that floods the cinemas these days.
With the release of the certain mess but box-office success that will be Suicide Squad on the horizon, I reflected upon the status of superhero movies, an amalgamation that could well be defined as its own genre by now, since they all seem to follow the same formula and any changes made most of the time do not resonate well with the core-audience, i.e. narrow-minded consumers. But then I remembered that one of my favourite series of movies also was a superhero film. Or was it? If we examine the “genre” of superhero movies as it stands today, these “works” have very little in common with The Dark Knight aside from the fact that they were inspired by comics. Yet is that enough to group them together? Not at all. I will show that these movies have in fact very little in common and you’d be right to assume that I am just doing this to continue hating superhero movies without having to verbally attach the asterisk and exclude Nolan’s Batman movies, but I also want to delve deeper into the difference and examine just what sets these movies apart.
– What a trilogy! Self-contained and most importantly: closed. –
The first and perhaps even the biggest difference is not even found inside these movies per se. Marvel and DC nowadays are building universes and in doing so they create massive intertextual references through Easter eggs that hint at possible future movies and as a by-product create these horrible “10 Easter Eggs you missed in X” videos with the red circle in the thumbnail. The problem is that these movies are more occupied with selling you future products so they cut down on content in the movie you are actually watching. References become the core, tree, trunk and the entire apple tree of these movies. Nothing can ever stand on its own, well except for the first Iron Man maybe, but as I wrote right here that has disastrous consequences and we can still feel the effects today of this one successful movie. The natural consequence is a movie bereft of its own tone, since it has to fit inside a larger universe. Yet another problem arises from this, namely the fact that Marvel does not care. They group all the tonally different superheroes together and create a huge mess that includes superheroes based on science, magic, and mythology, basically straight up anything and thus the entire universe may feel huge, but it also feels inconsistent. There is never any temporal frame given for the events, some may seem to be taking place broadly speaking now, but then so many future elements get introduced that it all seems so amorphous and like a big gelatinous mass that cannot make up its mind of whether it wants to be strawberry or lemon flavour.
– That sure is quite the thumbnail with those badly cut out images. –
Nolan’s Batman is self-contained and does not rely on references to any other movie other than inside the trilogy. Perfect example is the end of Batman Begins that sets up the Joker, but not a stand-alone Joker movie. Or Liam Neeson’s appearance in The Dark Knight Rises. All of it works in its own space and therefore does not lose focus when referencing anything beyond or before the current temporal frame. Through this, the world-building becomes much stronger, something that is never done in Marvel movies. Gotham feels like a place that has existed before and will exist after Batman, since places have history, they have changed and characters acknowledge this throughout the series. And with Batman one has to talk about the villains. No lines must be written to explain how brilliant the Joker was played by Heath Ledger, since that has been done amply by this point, not that I disagree, it is just a very overexposed topic, yet for good reason perhaps. Yet in doing so, one often fails to notice that all of Nolan’s villains are strongly written. Ra’s al Ghul gets far too little credit in my book as a charismatic yet uncompromising villain that is essentially not all that different from Batman. And this is the main point with these villains: They add something to the story as well as to the central character. Batman does not beat his foes he surpasses them and in doing so learns and adapts accordingly. A great example is the evolution of Batman’s ethics when not saving Ra’s al Ghul. He does not decent to his level by killing him, something he refused before, but gives him a chance to save himself, but he won’t be the one to do it.
– Batman villains are Dark Souls bosses: Learn them and beat them. Marvel villains are bullet sponges you simply whale upon until they die. –
And what about Marvel villains? What a fucking joke they are. They feel so shallow and underdeveloped it hurts to watch. Jeff Bridges in Iron Man plays a villain (can’t remember his name in the movie) that is evil, due to him being bald I assume. Jokes aside, he likes money I suppose, and he is power hungry. That is Monte Cristo level of motivation right there. And it is not just him, any villain in this – actually, let’s not call it universe, let’s call it by what it is – business plan is completely lacking. People will bring up Loki now as the shining example, the problem with that is, while he has motivation that is somewhat comprehensible, it is still so nebulous and murky that even this attempt at a somewhat rounded character, more like slight bulge, falls flat. I remember no memorable quotes of any of these characters, be it villains or heroes, only funny quips. At the same time, I can quote so much from the Batman movies, simply because they are well-written and the dialogue feels genuine and not there for the sake of being funny or carrying the plot to the next action set piece. And what a transition to the next point.
– I looked him up, he is called Obadiah Stane. Who remembered that, honestly? –
ACTION is written in all caps in Marvel’s business plan and while I am not above enjoying action, when your movie has nothing else to offer, it become stale really fast. These scenes make for nice trailer shots and one can gush in the movie by saying: “Oh, it’s just like the comic.” Or rather: “Oh, it’s just like the trailer.” And it is fine to enjoy these scene, but to me they feel so empty, since nothing ever happens in them. There is no dramatic tension, since all these heroes have to play a vital part in the next Avenger movie and even the most obscure hero deserves to be in it, because he too has fans and fans have that tempting green motivation in their pockets. Any fight is robbed of consequences by the get-go, since I am not invested in them as I know that none of this will have any impact whatsoever. The Civil War movie made itself out to be a big clash between heroes, but even as the trailers starts, you simply know that no one will have the slightest chance of dying. But once again, turn to The Dark Knight and we have Bruce’s love interest die in the second movie and guess what? She doesn’t come back from the dead and stays the pile of ashes she is. Batman does not shrug off injuries like they are nothing, he still suffers under the consequences of the final fight with Harvey by the beginning of the third movie. Batman can die and so can people around him and it is this possibility that creates tension and suspense. Something one can never find in the Marvel business plan.
– That image sure provokes tension the movie does not have. –
As a connoisseur of film scores, I have to mention the stellar soundtrack of the Batman trilogy made by Hans Zimmer. It is on point, in character, and fits every scene perfectly. I can recognise almost every scene by its music alone and vice versa. All of this is only possible, since the soundtrack is memorable and risk-taking enough to stick to your mind. Now, tell me your favourite score from any Marvel business plan representative and no, ACDC does not count. Hum any memorable tune from Captain America. Tell me any composer, anything at all. The soundtrack of these movies is as bland and exchangeable as the movies themselves. There is music, but it is so by the numbers they might as well use open source tracks. No effort is put into this central part of a visual and audio experience, which is baffling to me.
– Consistent in tone and quality. Just how I like my movies. –
In the end, I can only arrive at the conclusion that Batman has so little in common with these movies, be it writing, acting, dramatic tension, visuals, soundtrack, and so forth that this trilogy deserves better than to be put with the horrible abominations that are superhero movies made by Marvel and DC (post Nolan). Sure, you can now say that I do not have to watch them, but there is so little else that big studios offer. I can only retreat to art films and sometimes I want to be entertained by spectacle, but not in such a lowest common denominator kind of way as Marvel does it. And while this sounds harsh, it is basically because it is. And you reading this, ask yourself: Why do you love to consume these movies? Are you a fan of the comics in your late thirties? Do you not like good writing? Do you like turning your brain off while watching a movie and never turn it back on afterwards? And just to once more make my point. Watch this scene: The Will to Act. And you will notice how much is woven into this. Bruce gets character, Ra’s gets introduced and set up, the basics for Batman’s way of fighting, all of that with beautiful visuals, a solid camera work, and an even better soundtrack. In Marvel movies you get a “cool” montage of Tony Stark building a new suit while rock music is playing and engineering shots are happening… Yet still there are those sites that shower the likes of Thor and Captain America with 8s and 9s in their toothless reviews based on little else than “Wow it was…wow…Iron Man made an appearance!” You are the problem. You and your pandering to the lowest possible common denominator and creation of hype for unchallenging and only spectacle filled movie experiences that only appease people with short attentions spans.
Image sources in order of appearance:
- http://az616578.vo.msecnd.net/files/2016/04/04/6359533551202854771373324791_batman-begins-wallpaper-batman-begins-the-dark-knight-widescreen.jpg (Last date of access: 01.08.2016)
- http://images.google.de/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2F116.imagebam.com%2Fdownload%2Fy4AD_kWfrk-X5EBd1DZ-WQ%2F48171%2F481708876%2F827382039.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.comicbookmovie.com%2Fcaptain_america%2Fcaptain_america_civil_war%2Fspoilers-captain-america-civil-war-10-a141370&h=750&w=1500&tbnid=vSGcAomNptQPeM%3A&docid=8urFGLI3ezL_9M&ei=NQ2fV_aSFoWfsAGd7bSQCg&tbm=isch&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=288&page=1&start=0&ndsp=14&ved=0ahUKEwi2ga766p_OAhWFDywKHZ02DaIQMwgiKAMwAw&bih=599&biw=1366 (Last date of access: 01.08.2016)
- https://fuwadabrar.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/bb_02_dvd.png (Last date of access: 01.08.2016)
- http://www.superiorpics.com/movie_pictures/mp/2008_Iron_Man/2008_iron_man_044.jpg (Last date of access: 01.08.2016)
- http://projectfandom.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Civil-War-header.jpg (Last date of access: 01.08.2016)
- http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/batman-begins-the-dark-knight-the-dark-knight-rises-poster.jpg (Last date of access: 01.08.2016)