Could The Dark Knight Kill The Superhero Genre?


July 4, 2008
By Josh Tyler




Dark Knight reviews werenít just all resoundingly positive, they were flat out bat-drool. In the 24 hours since postings of the first review, the number of rabidly devoted reviews of The Dark Knight has only multiplied, with even more frantic, mind-blowing praise coming from every single corner. If thereís been a single negative word said about the movie so far, I havenít found it. And as the number of screamingly awesome Dark Knight reviews roaming around out there continues to multiply, the excitement over the film is reaching an almost epic crescendo. I think itís safe to say thereís never been this much internet excitement for any movie, ever. Whether thatís true or not, two things are becoming abundantly clear: This thing is really, really good and people are going to start riots just to see it. Granted itís still early, and thereís nearly 2 weeks worth of discussion to go, but the current consensus seems to be that this isnít just the best superhero movie ever made, but maybe one of the best movies as well. If thatís true, I think maybe the superhero genre is in trouble.

Superhero movies have been all the rage for nearly a decade now, after a brief hiatus when the whole thing was killed off by a string of high-profile stinkers like Batman & Robin. Usually these things are cyclical. Cowboy movies are popular, only to be supplanted by Pirate movies. Pirate movies are popular for awhile, until people get high on outer space movies, and so on. For the superhero film that cycle has lasted longer than normal, surviving and even thriving in the face of some seriously bad entries, failures which might have killed any other trend (Elektra Iím looking at you). The worst of the worst superhero flicks hasnít been able to kill the moviegoing interest in watching men in tights. Maybe itíll take something incredibly till do it. Not just good, but the perfect superhero film.

If The Dark Knight really is the amazing, world-changing, shining beacon of awesome early reviewers seem to be touting it as, then where does that leave every superhero movie that comes after it? With an impossible standard to live up to, thatís where. A movie that good becomes the genreís pinnacle, and itís all downhill from there. Just look at how the excitement over this thing has reached such outrageous levels. Thereís never been anything like it. Even if The Dark Knight wasnít good, how could the hype over any other superhero project even hope to match it? Weíll all run out to see Captain America, and then wander home disappointed because while it was nice, it just wasnít as good as The Dark Knight. Audiences will line up for Spider-Man 4, enjoy it, and yet end up comparing it unfavorably against this Batman And gradually, weíll get used to disappointment, start to accept that weíve seen the best there is to see, and maybe, just maybe move on to something else.

Would that really be so bad? Superhero movies have had their run. If The Dark Knight really is the capper on the genre, then the world might be ready to give them a break for awhile. Send them off to wherever they keep cowboy movies now and focus on something else. Maybe itíll be the turn of knights in shining armor or perhaps outer space science fiction will earn a much deserved resurgence. Whatever it is, should The Dark Knight really prove to be the masterpiece itís being touted as and should the hype surrounding it continue with the same unabated, manic fervor, then to me The Dark Knight seems to be as good a place to press pause on the superhero genre. We might not even be able to help it. Once youíve seen the best, what point will there be in watching the rest? Enjoy it while it lasts.


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