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How 'The Dark Knight' trilogy accidently ruined the superhero movie genre

Dark Knight Rises Poster
Flickr/Brett Jordan

The theme of dark and gritty superheroes has been aggressively on the rise since Nolan’s hugely successful Dark Knight trilogy and has even spilled over into ‘Man of Steel’ regardless of Superman’s intrinsically hopeful and optimistic nature. On the other side of the fence we have Marvel Studios and instead of making dark and gritty superhero movies Marvel just wants us to think they are. Trailers for ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Iron Man 3’ were misleading at best but that’s not really the problem. The problem is that both DC and Marvel seem to be thinking that there’s something wrong with a fun, hopeful, optimistic superhero movie.

The dark and angsty theme worked for The Dark Knight trilogy because Batman is a dark and angsty character. The ‘Nolan Formula’ doesn’t work for every hero just because it works for one. The newest Superman installment ‘Man Of Steel’ is probably the most glaring example of Nolanitis, namely because the film concludes with Superman defeating his first ever supervillain by brutally killing him. If you aren’t savvy with the comic books themselves let me put that in perspective for you: Superman killing his first, or any, supervillain is the comic crime equivalent of Batman using a gun. It’s a cardinal rule of comics that in the main universe Superman does not kill people unless there is literally no other option at all and even then it's iffy. It was very disappointing (to put it mildly) to see ‘Man of Steel’ end on such a dark note. Director, Zach Snyder even goes on to say that the violent theme is one he plans on keeping in the Batman/Superman sequel. On a lesser scale Oliver Queen of The CW’s ‘Arrow’ is nowhere near as happy and hopeful as his comic book counterpart, creators of the show even adding people around him to add a more dramatic element, such as a younger sibling nicknamed ‘Speedy’ who is revealed to be a drug addict in lieu of the actual ‘Speedy’ Roy Harper, who actually does appear later in the show but robbed of most of his agency.

You just can’t seem to escape the dark and brooding superhero, at least not from DC. It’s a shame that the current popularity of darker comic heroes has pushed DC to abandon (at least for the moment) the ideals the genre was founded on. One of the biggest appeals of comics is that everyone can see themselves in the different heroes. By leaving that behind DC isn’t only killing diverse personalities among superheroes, they’re killing the superhero genre altogether.