The tone of Comic Book movies…what should it be?
The Man of Steel movies has not done as well as WB had hoped, although it is still success and it is more successful than 2006’s Superman Returns. Does this mean that Superman doesn’t translate that well into being a more serious character? What should be the tone of a superhero comic book movie? Many sing the praises of the Nolan Batman trilogy for its gritty realism. Some do not like it at all. I am between those two extremes. While I do like the trilogy, with the first movie, Batman Begins, as the most enjoyable, I do think that there are times when these movies seem like something else rather that a superhero movie. So, what should a superhero movie look like?
There is not one answer to this question but I do see a common denominator. To ironically quote the Joker from the movie The Dark Night..”Why so serious?”
That is they key element. At some level in the movie it needs to not take itself so seriously. After all these are stories where adults are dressing in costumes and fighting crime. If this were to happen in the real world such a person would be spending some time in a psychiatric center. I find many of the Marvel movies, specifically the first Iron Man movie, does strike the right tone. I also notice that there is a continuum of tone. As I mentioned that Iron Man strikes a good tone but can there also be a time when a more lighthearted approach can also work? I think so….and this is the heart of the issue; To balance seriousness with a lighthearted approach. For the next couple of paragraphs I will defend one of my favorite Batman movies, Batman Forever, and demonstrate how that movie does successfully balance the seriousness with a lighthearted approach.
First of all, the set designs, costumes and cinematography all let the viewer know that this is indeed a fantasy and not the real world. Gotham is not realistic but it is a character all its own that adds to the verisimilitude of the movie. Direct Joel Schumacher used brighter colors than the previous director, Tim Burton, but it still kept Gotham as a foreboding gritty crime filled city. The setting does establish the tome of the movie that it will be serious but lighthearted. The over-the-top portrayal of the villains, Two-Face and the Riddler, played wonderfully by Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carey, also lets us know that this movie is to entertain and to not take it so seriously.
Yet, the movie does have some serious themes. It shows Bruce Wayne/Batman, played greatly but Val Kilmer, struggling with his identity and the guilt over his parents death. We see Dick Grayson/Robin, played brilliantly by Chris O’Donnell, struggling with grief, the murder of his family and the desire for revenge. Although this movie does have camp like the 1960s version of Batman, this movie does not show that the relationship between Bruce Wayne/Batman and Dick Grayson/Robin was anything but smooth and it took them time to form a partnership. For myself this is the strength of the movie and watching them come together is what makes it so enjoyable for me.
Batman Forever is on the more campier side of the verisimilitude of comic book movies, much more so than Iron man, but it does demonstrate that there is a continuum within the less realistic approach of the recent Nolan Batman and Superman movies. The sequel to Batman Forver, Batman and Robin, although a guilty pleasure, did cross the line in the other direction and demonstrates that going too campy can also cause a problem. So for myself with Batman Forever on the campier end of the spectrum and the first Iron Man being the more serious end of the spectrum gives comic book movies a great deal of space to work with to find that perfect tone for these types of movies.
Posted on August 14, 2013, in Captain's Log... and tagged Batman, Batman and Robin, Batman Begins, Batman Forever, Chris O'Donnell, Christopher Nolan, Joel Schumacher, Man of Steel, Superman, Superman Returns, Val Kilmer. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.