David Cronenberg Vs. Superheroes

Just reading his name can make the vivid and sometimes-haunting images come to mind. Most cinephiles are very familiar with the filmmaker David Cronenberg and his body of work that has spanned over thirty years. If you are reading this and thinking, “Well, I never even heard of this guy or his films.” I encourage you to go to the nearest video store and rent as many of his films as you can. It is then that you will experience something that is twisted, violent, and thought provoking.

David Cronenberg has a following but his films aren’t for everyone. The box office numbers will make sure to prove that to you. While promoting his upcoming film Cosmopolis, he shared a few thoughts on superhero films that tend to reign as kings in the box office. He specifically eyes his target on the latest blockbuster behemoth, The Dark Knight Rises.

In a recent interview with NextMovie, Cronenberg not only had a few words on the film but also Christopher Nolan and the fans. “A superhero movie, by definition, you know, it’s comic book. It’s for kids. It’s adolescent in its core,” reveals Cronenberg. “That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is, you know, supreme cinema art, I don’t think they know what the f**k they’re talking about.”

It is at this exact moment where my eyes roll due to a mix of disbelief and confusion. As much of a fan I am of Cronenberg, he is sadly mistaken when he mentioned that those who think of Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy as cinematic art “don’t know what the f*** they are talking about.” There are many interpretations of what is cinema art and what isn’t cinema art. To many, The Dark Knight Trilogy is “supreme cinema art”. Heck, a lot of people may argue that The Dark Knight Trilogy is as much “supreme cinema art” as The Godfather, Citizen Kane, or Raging Bull. David Cronenberg of all people should know that art is left up to interpretation. To bluntly say that the fans “don’t know what they f*** they’re talking about” is nothing less than arrogant.

I remember seeing The Dark Knight for the first time on the day it opened four summers ago. This was the day that the way I viewed superhero films will be forever changed. The matinee showing was packed with people ranging different ages. People seemed restless for the film to begin as the previews began to seem endless. As the opening scene of The Dark Knight began, there wasn’t a single sound. From the first shot to the very last, everyone was invested with the performances and the surreal world that Nolan has created. As the end credits appeared on the screen there was a thunderous applause. It sent chills down my spine. It was one of the very first times that I heard a general audience react like that to a film. After the film was over, there were groups of people talking to other strangers about what they had just watched. To me, that is exactly what “supreme cinema art” evokes.

Many of you may agree that Christopher Nolan has set the bar very high in the superhero genre, but Cronenberg begs to differ. He states, “I think it’s still Batman running around in a stupid cape … 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.”

It may seem ridiculous to some that a person take a superhero film seriously. When people think of superhero films they usually think of grand special effects and expect pure mindless entertainment. It’s easy for someone to not take a Batman film seriously because it’s just a man in costume running around and fighting those who pose a threat. The fact is that modern superhero films have destroyed that stigma of being mindless fun. Current day superhero films can have eye-popping special effects and be an absolute blast to watch but they aren’t mindless. Christopher Nolan has proved that with smart filmmaking and strong writing, superhero films can be intellectually engaging with complex characters, a striking villain, and a hero to root for in a realistic world. That, to me, is very interesting.

As I write this, I imagine there is a large mob with torches and pitchforks outside of Cronenberg’s home. Before you dust off the pitchfork, Cronenberg is correct when he reveals that superhero films are “adolescent in it’s core”. For many years, the superhero genre has provided an escape for a young audience. I remember being very young and sitting in a dark theater completely engaged in a Batman adventure. As superhero films have evolved, so did my tastes. Christopher Nolan happens to be one of the first filmmakers to bring a bit more sophistication and realism to the superhero genre so that an audience who has grown up can still appreciate the superheroes they grew up rooting for. Because of this, there is an eagerness in mainstream Hollywood to transform the superhero genre into an edgier and darker adventure. No matter how darker, edgier, and sophisticated superhero films become in the near future, they are all still adolescent in their core.

What do you think of Cronenberg’s recent comments? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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