Dark and Gritty isn't Always the Way to Go

Dark and Gritty isn't Always the Way to Go

After the success of The Dark Knight, there seems to be a movement to take comic book movies to a darker territory. But sometimes being a little lighthearted isn't so bad

A few weeks ago, the awesome TMNT fan-film, Fight the Foot debuted online. After viewing it, I sent it to one of my friends who didn't enjoy it as much as I did. He said he didn't think the "dark and gritty" thing worked for Ninja Turtles and was sick everything trying to be overtly serious. I ended explaining to him the dark and serious nature of the Ninja Turtles comics and he finally came around, but his criticisms got me thinking.

Part of the reason for the success of Christopher Nolan's Bat-films is that he wanted to make them as un-super as possible, and tried to make his films seem like they take place in a world not too different from our own. This heightened realism was a huge hit with critics and audiences alike, and with good reason too, seeing there's only so much over the top super heroics we can handle. But after the massive success of The Dark Knight, everyone started calling for more dark and serious comic book movies. Word has it that The Amazing Spider-Man is far more serious than it's predecessors, producers have stated that the script for The Flash is dark and serious, same with early word on the Superman reboot. This past November, the trailer for Green Lantern made it's debut and a common complaint about it was that it wasn't serious enough. But does every comic book movie need to be dark and serious?

When judging the tone of a comic book movie, you really need to look at the source material. Dark, gritty, and realistic works for Batman, it could also work for heroes like Daredevil or Punisher, but not for all super heroes. It's all well and good that the filmmakers want to make The Amazing Spider-Man serious, but does it really need to be? Sam Raimi realized how sensational a story about a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider really is, so he set his films in a world that fit that story. When you watch the first three Spider-Man films, they're set in a very lighthearted cheesy world, it may not be realistic, but it works for the material. Setting Spider-Man in a more realistic world runs the risk of taking the audience out of a film because they won't buy him swinging from building to building in a hyper realistic atmosphere. Same with The Flash, how dark can a movie be about a guy who gets struck by lighting and immersed in chemical, and can suddenly run really fast?

As I said before, setting a movie in a world that's too realistic runs the risk of taking the audience out of the movie. I'll use some of Marvel's Ultimate books, while I enjoyed them, many times they went too far to show that they took place in a world like hours. Things like Tony Stark banging Shannon Elizabeth in Zero G and Betty Ross leaving Bruce Banner for Freddy Prinze Jr. does show that the comics take place in reality, but for me they just distracted too much from the story and sometimes came off as bad fan fiction (especially Hulk rampaging through New York looking for Freddy Prinze Jr.). People go to movies to escape from reality, and when movies try to hard to replicate reality then it runs the risk of losing the audience.

Plus, is a lighter comic book movie so bad? Look at Iron Man, it came out the same year as TDK but was very much the opposite. Iron Man took a far more comedic approach to the origin story, and this sense of self aware comedy helped make it a success with general audiences. Warner Brothers looks to be doing the same with Green Lantern but continues to get fanboy ridicule for it. Imagine for a minute that you aren't a comic book fan and someone is trying to explain Green Lantern to you: a story of a fighter pilot who joins an intergalactic police force armed with power rings that shoot lasers and can create anything you imagine.

Pretty cheesy right?

Green Lantern, much like Iron Man, is not a household name like other superheroes. Creating a far more light-hearted Green Lantern makes it easier for general audiences to accept the craziness happening on screen and enjoy the movie more. Making a second string superhero more comedic worked wonders for Iron Man and could very well do the same with Green Lantern.

So yes, we all enjoy dark, serious comic book movies, but not all of them should be like that. There is a such thing as being too serious, look at Superman Returns, Daredevil, and The Hulk, all three of those movies barely had a smile in them, and general audiences hated them. So when we come to wanting to see a serious comic book movie, we should really ask if it's best for us, the audience, or is it best for the film?
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