Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Big Picture: "Done With Dark"

24 comments:

Aaron said...

Is it me or has he been taking a lot of shots at Nolan films recently?

Adam said...

I really agree with a lot of this. Grim and gritty has its place don't get me wrong, but I'm a little tired of everything needing to be "edgy" in order to be interesting. I mean I grew up on 90’s comics (mainly X-Men) and I loved them but in retrospect man they were so terminally depressing. I don’t really read comic books anymore but still love the old characters I grew up on, but I sometimes worry that as adults when we cling to our Spider-Man and Batman stories but want them darker and more “mature” we’re hoarding them from the next crop of kids wanting to get into comics as what so many reference as being mature usually isn’t. But once a comic book icon gets serious it’s damn near impossible to go back. Sure art and literature is reflective of the time period it’s created in, but sometimes the pendulum just swings too far one way.

It’s the same with video games. There are so few games I see these days that are aimed to draw kids in to the medium that are actually good. And when it comes to the “mature” games I feel like the descriptor of mature is often very misplaced. For instance God of War and many of the Grand Theft Auto games I consider ‘adult’ titles. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the two games by themselves but they are grown up games only in the sense that they contain a lot of things that little kids really shouldn’t be looking at yet. In fact I don’t even think ‘mature’ and ‘adult’ even need to be considered synonymous terms. I believe “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “12 Angry Men” are mature stories and I would have no problem with children watching them even if they might not yet be able to fully get it, and one of them is narrated by a little girl.

I guess my point is that I have no problem with comics reinventing themselves or with stories being dark and gritty where appropriate, but I feel that continually demanding for the icons of our youth to grow up with us might miss the point. Maybe at some point we need to acknowledge that we outgrew them and that’s ok. The way I see it from that point you can look at things either two ways. On one side make media that is great for kids but everyone can love, see Pixar as the quintessential example and I would throw in Nintendo as well though some may disagree. And on the other side still enjoy the stuff you like (there’s no shame in it) but recognize that you just aren’t the target audience anymore.

I still love to go back and watch old Donald Duck cartoons now and again, and as funny as it might be to see a reinvented Donald actually swearing like a sailor I really don’t want him to.

Dave said...

@ AAron. Well what can you expect? Nolan made batman films people outside of the hyper exclusive geek ubermenschg could enjoy. Clearly he is evil. And so are you if you don't agree.

One thing I'm is Bob's kneejerk assumption that everyone should be as content to keep reliving his emotionally stunted childhood as he is.

You know what my favouriet bookseries was as a kid? Animorphs. It was to Harry potter what BSG was to star trek. it was incredibly dark and bleak. And I loved it. Why? Because it never talked down to me. Because the characters had problems that weren't instantly solved

In short, it was more interesting than a predictable good guys always win Gijoe type attitude that felt that children 6-12 were too fragile to understand big issues.

A fortunate side effect of taking material more seriously is that it gives you more narrative options. Your characters can grow more if you don't have to have beaten the badguys and delivered a PSA about how littering is bad in 22 minutes.

It's incredibly self serving to hold up the batman and star wars movies as evidence that dark is bad. The pandering to children angle is what gave us Batman and Robin. And Jar Jar Binks. And Scrappy doo. And nearly every jump the shark moment in anything that we ever enjoyed.

More adult storylines gives the writers many more options and nearly always results in a better product. In fact I'd challenge people to give me 3 examples of a more serious or realistic take on any narrative based work to have a detrimental effect.

Hell, the transformers movies for all their flaws are still head and shoulders better than ANYTHING G1 put on screen.

And while 80-90s comics had their share of issues, the silver age was fucking terrible. How many goddamn times can jimmy olsen get a new power or get turned into a monkey? The answer: as often as it takes, sometimes not even waiting a full year in between.

genguidanos said...

I wonder if this new Thor movie will feature a scene in which Odin and his brother castrate their father and throw his testicles into the sea, and then sail on the river of blood that flows froth from his crotch to found the new land of the gods ....

Psyckid008 said...

When I were to look at some of these old cartoons objectively, I realize how awful shows like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, and Transformers were. One of the few cartoons from my childhood that holds up is Batman. I don't think every cartoon needs to have a darker, grittier tone but I do think they should appeal to adults on a certain level. WALL-E is a perfect example. I'm not naive enough to say that they should all have that level of intelligence but I am naive enough to say that they should at least try. There's nothing worse than going back and realizing a show you used to love like He-Man was complete and utter dogshit.

Q said...

@Dave

Your entire outlook on children programing seems to be somewhat false. First Animorphs is a children story. If it's simplistic enough to be understood by a child than it's children story. What makes something for children is tone and not content.

The Batman animated series is a perfect example. Batman never dealt with truly complex themes. Sure there were complex idea in it but the series took though ideas as seriously as your standard film noir that is as a plot device and not a theme.

Anyway back to my point, adult entertainment is a lot more creatively restricting than children entertainment due to the simple fact that children will pretty much accept anything even if it doesn't make sense and not only that but take it seriously. Adult audiences will always rationalize thus you're not allowed to set a film within a dream with going over about 30 minutes of exposition explaining how it works.

When you talk about dark and gritty what you really mean is the pretense of being serious whether it's actually serious or not.

TheDVDGrouch said...

Man alive I've been waiting for you to get around to doing a "Grim & Gritty" Show and I'm glad to say you didn't disappoint.

I grew up watching Batman: The Animated series and I always felt it hit the right balance of Dark subject matter(Mental illness,Survivors guilt)and present it to the young me in a way that was entertaining but also never pandering gratuitous.

Great Episode

antecedentless said...

Well, if this is any indication, there is hope of the highschool/college aged demographic. I am not sure about anyone much older than that ;).

antecedentless said...

There is hope for the highschool/college age...
I fail at proofreading.

KingOfDoma said...

Todd McFarlane AND Rob Liefeld. Don't forget The Liefeld.

Tim said...

I agree with some portions of this. While I don't think grim and gritty was really Transformers problem (seriously, you have a film where a robot pees on John Turturro and Devastator has junk... I'm not sure this really counts as gritty), it has caused problems elsewhere.

A key example to me is Superman Returns. By giving Superman such angst, to the point where he uses his x-ray vision to become Super-Peeper, and playing up the Kal-El as Jesus imagery, Bryan Singer seemed to forget to make the film fun like Richard Donner, whom he clearly admired when it came to this franchise. Same with Ang Lee's Hulk, where despite silliness such as hulk-poodles and goofy comic book frames, everyone comes across as so brooding it's hard to get involved in it.

I will say however that I don't think the mature themes and character arcs of the recent superhero films like Hulk and Iron Man really cause any sort of problem. If anything, I'd say they hit the best combination. Those ideas are there for adults to find, while kids can focus on the green guy smashing things up and the guy in the robot suit flying. Everyone wins.

Robert said...

NO IM NOT DONE WITH DARK I WANt mY GRIM AND GRITTY NINJA TURTLES PL0X.

http://www.dawnoftheninja.com/

IM TYPING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE THE GRIM AND GRITTY NINJA TURTLES IS SRS BUSINESS

http://www.dawnoftheninja.com/Images/download/Art/images/pages/ch02pg01.jpg

Darren said...

Its not all consuming! We still need a gritty Mario game where he has an AK-47 and caps bowser in the ass for fucking his bitch homi. That's they way Nintendo should roll now to keep up with teh had corexz

:P

Psyckid008 said...

@Robert: Actually, the original turtles comic was gritty. It wasn't very good but it was still better than the shitty tv show. By the way, I highly suggest watching the S&E review of the turtles trilogy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM0WtnBnPRs

JesseM said...

British film reviewer Mark Kermode had an awesome review of what was so awful about Transformers, making a similar point about injecting this creepy cynical "adult" attitude into a movie about a kid's toy...

Jojo said...

I've got to hand it to you Bob, I don't always agree with you, but this time I'm 100% behind what you said in the video. Kudos, sir.

Though I'm kind of surprised you didn't bring up Frank Miller's '00 Batman comics as examples of where "gritty" goes way too far.

Robert said...

@Psychkid008 Oh yeaaaaah I almost forgot about that first comic, I never seen it, but the front cover looked awesome.

I believe that with a good script/producer/director, a TMNT movie that even Ebert likes will be made :)

I just pray it happens in my lifetime

Sarge said...

It's amazing how many words Q managed to type up there -- all without even approaching a coherent thought.

Kyle said...

I can't wait to see Thor for myself. Great episode, Bob.

I loved The Joker so much in The Dark Knight. I'll never think badly of that movie.

Philbo said...

You want to know whether we should start giving the kids back their programs?

Look at the My Little Pony: Frienship is Magic explosion on the internet. It shows that even adults are more than happy to go back to shows with a much lighter agenda and just sit back and enjoy them.

(Don't go bringing in rule 34 or any other crap that the internet has done to MLP:FiM after. None of that is the reason people actually WATCHED the show, everything they do after is just because the devil makes work for idle MLP loving hands)

Q said...

@Sarge

It's interesting how Sarge can type at all.

counterpoint said...

hmmm. no real comment about the grim and gritty thing. i agree that its over used, but the dark knight is too good a movie to deny.

however.... i will say: you talk about comics A LOT on this show? Ever consider making a comic show? it would allow this one to be more "random" like it is intended. No, i'm not complaining. it's just that you seem to have a lot to say about comics, and i wonder if you might be taking away from the diversity-potential of TBP

Stefan Sasse said...

I disagree with Bob here. I'm totally glad they are taking the dark&gritty approach now all the time. Why? Because I love it. I love it as much as he loves his screaming colourful comic books from way back.
So, it all comes down to a matter of taste. I'm fine with Bob wanting the colourful stuff, but I like the dark and gritty. And fuck, quoting a recent Michael Bay movie as a proof to make one's point is not really a valid arguement. One could have made a hell of a lot more grittier and darker movie out of Transformers that would have rocked the house. Of course, then one would have to have written a decent script.

CraftyAndy said...

Hehe, it's hard enough to get people to respect animation and comics as a medium. Why the hell would you want to talk about real world issues taking place in the real world. That's boring. And it wasn't the gritty realism that killed comics in the ninties it was the price mark ups, the lack or care of story quality and people only interested in buying them for collective purposes like trading cards, (do people even buy that crap anymore?)