• The obvious answer, of course, is that The Dark Knight made a billion dollars and it made a lot of people show some respect for a genre previously derided as kids stuff that took itself too seriously. Culturally, I think it reflects post-9/11 audiences who spent eight years being warned several times a day by the Bush administration that it ain’t safe out there. We’re still processing and decompressing from that, and these kinds of over-the-top movies going “gritty” are a way for us to do that.

    The geek in me feels compelled to point out that, in the very first telling of Batman’s origin, on the night they were murdered, Thomas and Martha Wayne had taken young Bruce to see…The Mark of Zorro. There’s room within the Zorro mythology for a darker take than what we’ve had so far, I think.

    And yet, I’m with you. I have little interest in such a concept as The Dark Fox on paper. I’ll give it a chance to win me over, if only because I’ve always liked the character, but I wish they would instead look to the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie as their template. (Not, of course, that anyone has asked me.)

    • Yes, and The Avengers made $1.5 billion. I guess the argument is it doesn’t get the respect that The Dark Knight does? Personally, I think The Avengers is way better than The Dark Knight, and it has the added bonus of not starting a trend where every single blockbuster is a mopefest when the character doesn’t deserve it (Batman does, I’m not saying The Dark Knight doesn’t do good things with its tone, but it doesn’t fit 80% of blockbuster stories).

      And yes, the first Pirates movie is another GREAT example. The core of the Zorro mythos is swashbuckling. Why would you want to take that away, especially when there are precious few actual swashbuckling films on the market these days? Seems like that would be a better way to stand out these days.

      • I think it’s fair to say that The Avengers doesn’t get the same kind of respect that The Dark Knight did. Nor, I should add, do I think it even sought it. It was just a big, loud, fun comic book set on the screen and didn’t apologize for it – precisely what I think you and I want out of these kinds of things overall.

        • Precisely.

          The thing that irks me is that respect and fun shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Star Wars is fun, Raiders of the Lost Ark is fun. Those movies were gigantic box office hits, were nominated for Best Picture and Director Oscars at the time (contemporary respect), and have remain touchstones for multiple generations. Something has gone wrong in the way we think about these things.

          • “Phases and stages, circles and cycles,” as the prophet Willie Nelson put it. In comics themselves, the 80’s introduced the antihero (Wolverine and The Punisher were huge then), and the 90’s were overrun by “dark, gritty” characters and storylines. Movie fads age differently, of course. It looks like the overall tone of Marvel Cinematic Universe is meant to skew closer to fun than dark, and I’m hopeful that it emerges as the tonal paradigm for franchises.

            The other thing to consider is that Star Wars came out in 1977, after Vietnam and Nixon; not during. Raiders of the Lost Ark came out during Reagan’s “dawn in America” zeitgeist. As a country, we were ready to feel good again. There are too many people whose careers are built on keeping us anxious and fearful to allow that kind of frivolity to reign again these days, I fear.