I judge the superhero movies

Well, to celebrate our anniversary and to catch up with our fast-disappearing summer, my wife and I constructed a “double feature” (anyone remember those?) by seeing BOTH Spiderman and Batman:  The Dark Knight Rises on a single Saturday, with a late lunch in between.   We had a good time despite the Batman movie.

The Dark Knight Rises is pretentious, ponderous, ludicrous, and lugubrious.  It makes me miss what I thought I was tired of–namely, irony.  The movie was so serious, so full of itself, even while its main characters were putting on silly costumes.  A super-hero movie can be philosophical or angst-ridden, but it needs to have at least some element of fun.

As the Spiderman movie shows.   (Normally, one waits several weeks or months between superhero movies, so seeing them side-by-side makes the comparisons stand out.)  The best part of that movie was the part I didn’t expect to like, yet another version of the origin story.  But this time the origin made much more sense even than in the comic book (I write and criticize as a fan), picking up on the motif of interspecies genetic engineering.  What the movie did especially well was in showing high school nerd Peter Parker gradually learning about his new superpowers.  What science fiction and fantasy can do at their best is give us a sense of wonder.  Juxtaposing the spidey powers (super strength, agility, ability to climb and hang upside down and swing on webs, sticky hands and feet) with the ordinary routines of school and family life was an effective way to stimulate the imagination.  Later we get to the obligatory and conventional friend-turned-monster, but that’s all right, given the genre.

So what about any political themes in the Batman movie, as we discussed on this blog?  It does pick up on the Occupy Wallstreet threat of an uprising against the wealthy and privileged, such as millionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne living in stately Wayne Manor (to use the comic book language).  And it comes out decisively against the mob.  (The best scene was the sight of thousands of police officers coming out of the ground to restore social order.)  So the movie managed to be pro-rich, while still blaming the wealthy for  economic and social disintegration.  It presents the point of view of the wealthy-but-guilt-ridden-over-their-wealth.  That is, the new base of the Democratic party.

(That’s not why I disliked the movie.  That’s a perfectly defensible position and appropriate in many cases.  I disliked the movie for the reasons given in the second paragraph.)

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Rose

    Happy Anniversary to the Veiths.
    It’s good to see you still enjoy going to the movies together.

  • Rose

    Happy Anniversary to the Veiths.
    It’s good to see you still enjoy going to the movies together.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Spoilers!

    Why does a superhero movie by definition need to be fun? I wonder if you are not influenced by the campy TV version. Batman has always struck me as the more serious and dark of the heroes, so why shouldn’t a movie about him also be more dark and serious. Viewed as a collective whole, I found the final installment of the trilogy to be a very fitting end piece. Nolan found a good balance between allowing Bane to destroy Batman without killing him off. He also was able to bring to a close the League of Shadows story line which with a brief interlude with the Joker was the driving story arc. Nolan’s ending does make me wonder if he is going to explore the Nightwing story line, which would be interesting as I don’t thing anybody has attempted to do so.

    All that said, while I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Knight Rises, I am not joining in the throngs of people saying best movie of the year. I would only have said that if Christopher Judge had a larger role than his 30 seconds of being beat up by Batman. Batman should never have been able to beat up Teal’c.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Spoilers!

    Why does a superhero movie by definition need to be fun? I wonder if you are not influenced by the campy TV version. Batman has always struck me as the more serious and dark of the heroes, so why shouldn’t a movie about him also be more dark and serious. Viewed as a collective whole, I found the final installment of the trilogy to be a very fitting end piece. Nolan found a good balance between allowing Bane to destroy Batman without killing him off. He also was able to bring to a close the League of Shadows story line which with a brief interlude with the Joker was the driving story arc. Nolan’s ending does make me wonder if he is going to explore the Nightwing story line, which would be interesting as I don’t thing anybody has attempted to do so.

    All that said, while I thoroughly enjoyed Dark Knight Rises, I am not joining in the throngs of people saying best movie of the year. I would only have said that if Christopher Judge had a larger role than his 30 seconds of being beat up by Batman. Batman should never have been able to beat up Teal’c.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Now that I think of it, how are you defining fun, Dr. Veith?

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    Now that I think of it, how are you defining fun, Dr. Veith?

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I guess.

  • Cincinnatus

    Well, there’s no accounting for taste, I guess.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Yeah. Maybe for the next one Nolan will revert to the 1960s tv show style.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Yeah. Maybe for the next one Nolan will revert to the 1960s tv show style.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dr. Luther, dark can be fun! The second movie of the trilogy, with Heath Ledger as the Joker, was both really dark and really fun.

    I certainly am not calling for a return to the camp Batman of my adolescent TV watching, though I also am not a big fan of the “graphic novel” Batman. My gold standard is D.C. Comics of the 1960s.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Dr. Luther, dark can be fun! The second movie of the trilogy, with Heath Ledger as the Joker, was both really dark and really fun.

    I certainly am not calling for a return to the camp Batman of my adolescent TV watching, though I also am not a big fan of the “graphic novel” Batman. My gold standard is D.C. Comics of the 1960s.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    What I have appreciated about the Nolan Batman has been the amount he has used from the comics in all three movies. Several elements from the movies are seen from all of the various ages of Batman. Notably Year one and the Dark Night Rises.

    I think that you are missing something Mr. Veith. I’ll always be a mark for a redemption movie and with this one Bruce Wayne has found the redemption he was searching for.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    What I have appreciated about the Nolan Batman has been the amount he has used from the comics in all three movies. Several elements from the movies are seen from all of the various ages of Batman. Notably Year one and the Dark Night Rises.

    I think that you are missing something Mr. Veith. I’ll always be a mark for a redemption movie and with this one Bruce Wayne has found the redemption he was searching for.

  • LC

    I can’t believe you didn’t like the Batman movie.

    Oh well. Everyone is entitled to his opinion. And yours is wrong. :-)

  • LC

    I can’t believe you didn’t like the Batman movie.

    Oh well. Everyone is entitled to his opinion. And yours is wrong. :-)

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    *Notably Frank Miller’s Year one and the Dark Night Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    *Notably Frank Miller’s Year one and the Dark Night Returns and Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I’m afraid the 60′s comic books were a bit before my time ;). My entree into Batman lore is the graphic novels and catching reruns of Adam West.

    I was just curious as to how you are defining fun, because the how is going to affect whether or not you find something fun. It is entirely likely we are defining fun differently. Movies like Dark Knight Rises to me are fun when done right. I don’t mind the serious as long as they don’t get overly preachy. I also find it fun to have endings like DKR has. I honestly hope Nolan does pursue Nightwing. It would be nice to have a smaller hero developed for big screen and have it done well. I am getting tired of Superman and Spiderman reboots. That said, I am on principle refusing to go see the Amazing Spiderman simply because they just did Spiderman. Also, I’d rather save my money for Avengers 2 now that Joss Wedon has signed on to do it.

  • Dr. Luther in the 21st Century

    I’m afraid the 60′s comic books were a bit before my time ;). My entree into Batman lore is the graphic novels and catching reruns of Adam West.

    I was just curious as to how you are defining fun, because the how is going to affect whether or not you find something fun. It is entirely likely we are defining fun differently. Movies like Dark Knight Rises to me are fun when done right. I don’t mind the serious as long as they don’t get overly preachy. I also find it fun to have endings like DKR has. I honestly hope Nolan does pursue Nightwing. It would be nice to have a smaller hero developed for big screen and have it done well. I am getting tired of Superman and Spiderman reboots. That said, I am on principle refusing to go see the Amazing Spiderman simply because they just did Spiderman. Also, I’d rather save my money for Avengers 2 now that Joss Wedon has signed on to do it.

  • Rose

    David Murrow has a great article on Superheroes: http://churchformen.com/discipling-men/men-superheroes-and-church/

  • Rose

    David Murrow has a great article on Superheroes: http://churchformen.com/discipling-men/men-superheroes-and-church/


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X