David Cronenberg Says Superhero Movies Aren't Art, Including The Dark Knight Rises

Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises
(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

If you've ever seen a David Cronenberg film, you'll probably agree the writer-director of such bizarre features as The Fly, Videodrome, and eXistenZ marches to the beat of his own drum. So maybe it won't surprise you to discover Cronenberg isn't a fan of superhero movies. Actually, he kind of loathes them.

While promoting his latest odd odyssey, Cosmopolis, Cronenberg spoke with Next Movie, and revealed his thoughts on the genre that has long dominated summer box offices. With so many respected directors (Kenneth Branagh, Christopher Nolan, and Michel Gondry just name a few) attempting to elevate the genre, the interviewer inquired, would Cronenberg ever consider helming a superhero adventure? The short answer is no, but specifically, he replied:

"I don't think they are making them an elevated art form. I think it's still Batman running around in a stupid cape. I just don't think it's elevated. Christopher Nolan's best movie is Memento, and that is an interesting movie. I don't think his Batman movies are half as interesting though they're 20 million times the expense. What he is doing is some very interesting technical stuff, which, you know, he's shooting IMAX and in 3D. That's really tricky and difficult to do…The movies, to me, they're mostly boring."

This is sure to be considered fighting words to the hoards of devoted Nolan fans who made such an uproar about any negative word about The Dark Knight Rises about its opening. But Cronenberg ups the ante by attacking comic books directly, declaring:

"But a superhero movie, by definition, you know, it's comic book. It's for kids. It's adolescent in its core. That has always been its appeal, and I think people who are saying, you know, 'Dark Knight Rises is, you know, supreme cinema art,' I don't think they know what the fuck they're talking about."

He goes on to say he's aware some people feel horror movies—of which he's made many—can't be considered art, but he believes a horror film can also be an art film. The difference between his preferred genre and superhero movies, he suggests, lies in part in budgets and studio expectations. He posits that superhero movies with their enormous budgets and star-studded casts attract a lot of studio oversight, and he believes this damages the artistic integrity of a movie:

"Anybody who works in the studio system has got 20 studio people sitting on his head at every moment, and they have no respect, and there's no…it doesn't matter how successful you've been. And obviously Nolan has been very successful. He's got a lot of power, relatively speaking. But he doesn't really have power."

Personally, I think he makes an interesting point about the power struggle between studios and their directors. One reason many felt The Avengers was such a successful film was that Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures backed writer-director Joss Whedon's instincts on the project, from bringing back The Black Widow, to focusing on Loki, to not revealing the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier in Captain America's finale.However, I do think it's unreasonable to write off comics and their adaptations so casually. As a horror movie director, you'd think he'd better realize that any genre can produce cinematic excellence.

Kristy Puchko

Staff writer at CinemaBlend.