Matt Zoller Seitz and Simon Abrams had a great chat over at Indiewire’s Press Play about the problems with the superhero genre on film. What the piece comes down to is Matt making the claim that superhero films are rote, boring and rarely inventive within the genre. Simon, however, argues that while this is mostly true, there are still examples of filmmakers bringing creativity to the form, and that looking to the future there is still hope for better superhero films.
The major comparison Matt makes is to the Western. That all-American genre of cowboys and duels was similarly plagued by the trappings of genre, yet classics were still produced. Where are the superhero classics? I guess the first thing to point out is that Matt doesn’t really care for Batman Begins or The Dark Knight. That’s perfectly fine, but I’d say that at the very least The Dark Knight is a tested modern classic of the genre, both in terms of critical response and commercial appeal. Matt saying he doesn’t care for The Dark Knight is not unlike somebody saying they don’t really enjoy Stagecoach or The Searchers. I’ve spoken to people who don’t like either of those classic Westerns, but they’re still classics of the genre and of the wider world of American film.
There have been other great superhero films, but it’s true that they’re a rarity. This will not change. As much as I may defend the certain films in the genre against Matt’s attacks, I do think he’s right, though his premise is a little too narrow. Dismissing The Dark Knight and raising up The Incredibles does nothing more than illustrate the way superhero films don’t work for him personally. The argument becomes a matter of taste. In truth, the problems with the genre are much more core and because of this, superhero movies will never be, and can never be, the next great American genre. Click to read more.