Monday, March 6, 2017

A Reel Opinion: Superheroes vs. The Dark & Gritty

LOGAN, the final installment of Hugh Jackman’s role as Wolverine; the self-healing, metal-clawed and short-tempered mutant superhero, dominated the box office this past weekend with a haul of over $85 million domestically and overall $237 million worldwide…making it the best ever posted by an R-rated film in the month of March. The film, which more-than earned its R-rating with its bloodshed and swearing (and one very dark confession by Patrick Stewart’s Xavier, which gives serious chills), is a triumph for many reasons, with the primary being that a superhero movie can be successful while going dark and gritty.

Dark and gritty; two words that act like a lightning rod in the circles of comic-readers and movie fans. A persistent argument to be found everywhere these days is that the best superhero films are the ones that are fun and light, and the worst are the dark and gritty. How did we come to this divide? The answer may be found the days of past movies. Years ago, when the granddaddy of all superhero films arrived with SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE (1978), the tone of the film was light, whimsical, and colorful. In 1989, Tim Burton put the dark back in the Dark Knight with his BATMAN, which still kept a balance of fun and color. Later BATMAN sequels went ridiculously bad on the explosions of color with stupid humor and nearly killed the superhero genre forever. When Bryan Singer resurrected the genre in 2000 with X-MEN, he kept the fun while staying serious (while staying socially relevant), and Sam Raimi would do the same with his SPIDER-MAN adaptations (2002-2007). And two FANTASTIC FOUR films (2005-2007) would embrace the fun and cartoon style to a fault.

And then along came Christopher Nolan and his most-excellent DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY, which ran from 2005-2012. His take on the DC Comics caped crusader was a grounded and realistic approach, and a far cry from the fun and cartoon-like atmospheres done by X-MEN, SPIDER-MAN, and the eventual series of Marvel films. Today, the DC films are still embracing the dark and gritty approach Nolan started, but unlike the Nolan films, have been met with mixed to abysmal reviews. This has led to a mob-mentality opinion that a dark and gritty tone equals bad reviews from critics and poor reception from the general public and fans. Maybe the world is still hanging on to the light tone of SUPERMAN.

While it is true that people don’t go to the movies to be depressed, This Blogger has always maintained that tone doesn’t matter if you just make a good movie, and LOGAN proves that. LOGAN has been met with critical acclaim across the board (read Real Speak’s review HERE), and despite how bloody and vulgar and tragic it is, fans and the general public have embraced it. When Nolan was in the superhero business, he knew that he had to make a good movie first…and the world responded by not caring about the tone. If LOGAN is to inspire future super-movies to be dark and gritty, filmmakers and their studios would be well-advised to not be scared off by tone. Just make a good movie.

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