Have Superhero Movies Jumped The Credibility Shark?

People like superhero movies because they're escapist entertainment, right? Not according to author Neal Gabler, who says that the power of The Dark Knight and Iron Man is that they're all about our deepest fears.

Writing for Variety's Oscar blog, Gabler argues that both movies have deeper intellectual underpinnings than you may expect, making both potential Academy Award-fodder:

"The Dark Knight" functions like a shell game. It sets up an idea and encourages viewers to accept it, only to then pick up the shell and reveal that the audience has been bamboozled... In the end, it isn't order or anomie, but human goodness that prevails. Batman's only purpose is to guard against the aberrations. [In contrast,] the symbolism of the "Iron Man" is unmistakable. Power must be tempered by humanity, in this case literally placing the man inside the weapon. More, the weapon is almost literally powered by Stark's heart, which is attached to a tiny atomic reactor. It is the human dimensions of Stark, even his fallibility, that make him heroic.

No one would claim that this is an earthshaking epiphany. Still, it raises the film above the typical cathartic muscle-flexing, and it adds an ironic edge to the genre. Whether that will be enough to get it Oscar attention remains to be seen, but "Iron Man," like "The Dark Knight," is at least on the voters' radar, which is no small achievement. Ideas can do that for you, even when they are packaged in a comicbook extravaganza.


As someone who thought that Dark Knight was too weighed down with its need to make a grand statement, I'm unsurprised to see it being mentioned here, but Iron Man's appearance is a welcome surprise (even if I'd be very surprised to see it get nominated for anything other than visual effects and potentially a nod for Robert Downey Jr.); has Dark Knight flipped critics' wigs so much that they're re-evaluating popcorn movies for hidden meaning?

Image by Aaron Williams.

Comicbook films address serious issues [Variety]

Share This Story