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"Comic-book movie"

In reviewing the new Batman movie, Roger Ebert writes, 'This film, and to a lesser degree “Iron Man,” redefine the possibilities of the “comic-book movie.”' Now, Ebert knows there are a fair number of films based on comicbooks which have nothing to do with superheroes or adventurous men in tights. This is probably why he put the term in quotes. But, still, everybody knows that he meant action movies starring men who wear masks, capes, or both. And, probably, most people think these are the only kind of comicbook inspired movies there are. Some might object to this characterization of the basis of Sin City or Hellboy, but these still feature over-powered action heroes.

Considering some very good, not-so-super-hero-ish movies like Ghost World, A History of Violence, Road to Redemption, and American Splendor had been based on comics well before Iron Man and The Dark Knight, Ebert's statement seems unfair, or at least to unintentionally expose the unjustified bias he (rightly) assumes his readers will have.

And in so far as superhero flicks are almost all action movies, what's new about such films being able to go beyond the expectations of B-movies? Hell, in that light, A History of Violence is a sublime example of fight oriented action not holding a movie back, even when based on a poorly drawn and uninterestingly laid-out comic. Comics don't have to be stupid, childish, or self-parodiying. They don't even need to be obsessed with action, like a high budget summer blockbuster. It shouldn't surprise anyone movies based on comics can move beyond this. Of course, as a high budget summer blockbuster starring a man in a costume, I'd be willing to bet The Dark Knight plays into some comic-book movie cliches. At least more than, say, Persepolis.


A tangent:
Ebert later writes, "the Batman legend, with its origins in film noir, is the most fruitful one for exploration." Course, as Roger well knows, the first film noir (the excellent Double Indemnity) was released in 1944. What he doesn't seem to be aware of, is Batman debuted in comics five years earlier, and there was even a running serial starring the caped crusader in 1943. Ebert was only born in '42, but I'll bet he knows when other serial adventures were released. What could he have against that terrible, terrible Batman series?


  1. The Maltese Falcon, which is certainly a noir film, came out in 1941.

    Just sayin'.

  2. From Ebert's own definition of film noir:

    1. A French term meaning "black film," or film of the night, inspired by the Series Noir, a line of cheap paperbacks that translated hard-boiled American crime authors and found a popular audience in France.

    I'd argue that he's either eliding hardboiled and film noir, or he just made a mistake in terminology. And Batman is certainly a hardboiled character, what with his first appearance in Detective Comics.


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