Monday, August 20, 2012

Batman Blowout: Maybe, Batgirl Fight, Cronenberg Burn

David Cronenberg was doing interviews for Cosmopolis, and he basically said that Christopher Nolan's Batman movies are kid's movies that can't be taken as serious films. That's the news in a nutshell, so I might as well put that up-front. But f that, I'll include three great, new Batman Fan-made Gems to break up all the text.

That's how I roll, son.

First up, we have "Batman Maybe," a brilliant TDKR-themed riff off the popular track. I don't really need to care that it has such a nice use of the recent blockbuster's story, the way it's sung and filmed is a real treasure. Everyone involved in staging and acting and singing this deserves real praise.

Part the second: over the course of the interview in question, my favorite Canadian director gave a deeper opinion than expected. For one thing, his comment wasn't just directed at BB, TDK, and TDKR: David was talking about all Super-Hero movies. He also took a moment to praise Nolan's work on Memento, calling it a genuinely interesting film.

So what gives? Here's the full interview, Rob Pattinson and David Cronenberg chatting it up with Brooke Tarnoff:

David, you've done drama and horror. Some fairly formidable directors have branched out into superhero movies pretty beautifully —is that something you would consider doing?

DC: 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.

Do you think the subject matter prohibits the elevated art form?

DC: Absolutely. 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.

So that's a no.

DC: 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.
For one thing, Super-Hero movies are, in essence, modern-day mythology. It started as Perseus saving a princess and Hercules doing impossible tasks and became about alien invasions and social-minded assassins. These elements can have real drama in them, but often boil down to pure fantasy. Conan the Barbarian was a fun film, but it didn't have a lot to say about relationships, real-world politics, or the psychological complexities of people.

However, there are two massive flaws to Mr. Cronenberg's logic: not all Super-Hero movies are made equally and David doesn't really distinguish between Super-Heroes and comic books. That last distinction is what's really important, and it's where David's logic starts to fall apart. Let's focus on that in this post.

See, you don't have a lot of real-world connections to stories about a man who has laser-eyes or a half-vampire who hunts down real vampires. Even a Bruce Lee movie might be about honor, betrayal, and not being violent until it's appropriate. Blade and X2 are excellent, entertaining films, but they're hardly deep.

The Batgirl: Spoiled video is a lot of (cheap) fun.

But not every comic book is about Super-Heroes, and since Cronenberg's words criticized all graphic novels, he made a major mistake. You see, the most recent movie that earned DC a lot of critical and commercial notice was A History of Violence. It's a great film about a man who gets in over his head and has to deal with the mob as well as issues of identity, family, restraint, and wanting to change himself.

I did really enjoy that pic's use of Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt. I liked the initial narrative plot points, as well as how they ultimately played out. But, hey - guess what? It's based on a freaking comic book .

It's pretty clear that David Cronenberg forgot about the distinction between what he was complaining about - dramatic depth in cinematic stories versus the applicability of the source. Hell, I'm not even sure that I completely disagree with him. But it's funny that he slags off comic books (which I haven't read since I was a virgin) when he means to make a statement about the nature of all heroic/fantasy motion pictures.

I hope you get your points out more accurately the next time, Mr. Cronenberg. I love your work, and I will always pay attention to your opinions; I'll often agree with them, but I won't join you on the soapbox when it's clear that your argument could be made better. Maybe the two Fan-made Gems I've added here will add something to this debate.

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