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David Cronenberg Clarifies Comments About ‘Dark Knight’ Series, Questions Comic Book Movies As Cinematic Art

David Cronenberg Clarifies Comments About 'Dark Knight' Series, Questions Comic Book Movies As Cinematic Art

Last summer, David Cronenberg caused a bit of an uproar among fanboy circles when it was reported that he said Christopher Nolan‘s best film was “Memento,” and by comparison, his Batman films were “boring.” Of course, this caused quite the heated reaction on the interwebs, but with his own “Cosmopolis” hitting home video his week, we got a chance to sit down with Cronenberg, and we couldn’t help but ask him about that minor controversy. And while he chalks up some of it to his words being taken out of context, he’s still not convinced of the potential of the comic book movie genre. 

“No, I haven’t seen [‘The Dark Knight Rises‘]. See, this is how it all gets distorted. The question was asked, to me. And, of course, when they quote me, they never quote themselves or the question that provoked the response,” Cronenberg explained. “I was asked, then the journalist woman said, ‘By the way, superhero comic book movies have shown to rise to the highest level of cinematic art – would you be interested in doing one?’ And I said, ‘Wait, who said they have risen to the highest level of cinematic art?’ That’s when I started my little rant. I was really responding to that. She proposed that about the new Batman movies. I had seen the one before this [‘The Dark Knight‘], not the new one, and I think at that time only journalists had seen it. So I wasn’t talking specifically about that movie and I wasn’t criticizing it directly.” 

It should be noted that Cronenberg’s comments came a few weeks after ‘Rises’ hit theaters, but that’s also besides the point. However, what he does want to make clear is that his feelings were more directed at the genre as a whole, and not Nolan specifically. “What I was saying was that a comic book movie is really a comic book movie. Comic books were — especially those comic books which I was raised on (I loved Captain Marvel) — created for adolescents and they have a core that is adolescent,” he elaborated. “To me, that limits the discourse of your movie if you’re basing it accurately on that, and you cannot rise to the highest level of cinematic art. That’s my take on it. I went on to say that, of course, technically they can be incredibly interesting, since there are very clever people making the movie and of course have a lot of money they are throwing at it. But creatively, artistically, they are incredibly limited. It got bent out of shape that I was dissing Christopher Nolan, which just wasn’t the case.”

Certainly, with Nolan’s ‘Rises’ proving to be an ambitious capper to his groundbreaking trilogy and with “The Avengers” becoming a global blockbuster and one of the biggest movies of all time, there are many who will dispute Cronenberg’s assertions. What are your thoughts? Can comic book movies also double as cinematic art? Weigh in below and stayed tuned for more from our chat with Cronenberg tomorrow.

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Pfft…. I'd say The Dark Knight Rises is better than Cosmopolis. I'd say any of Nolan's films are better than Cosmopolis. Cosmopolis was a dull, pretentious pile of rubbish, and somehow managed to be way worse than Cronenberg's previous dud, A Dangerous Method.


…and cue the fanboy defensiveness…now. These films are merely clever and well executed; Cronenberg likely made any factual mistakes he did because he quite frankly thinks of these films as interchangeable. He hasn't seen the new one, true, but he saw the previous, and I've yet to hear anyone, anywhere suggest the new one is better. He's seen what most superhero film fans would advance as the greatest product of the genre…and he's nonplussed. No one who's conversant with Bergman or Truffaut or Renoir or Hitchcock is going to be bowled over by what's essentially a well-made Bond film tarted up with a (muddled) political agenda…sorry!

Oliver Gogarty

They're not comic book movies. They're superhero movies. There are superhero movies not based on comic books, and there are comic book movies that have nothing to do with superheroes. Don't encourage people to confuse a genre with a medium. I'm disappointed Cronenberg didn't correct you, as he has made a comic book movie, called A History of Violence.


It depends on the book, doesn't it? No one is going to accuse a movie with people in it dressed like they are in the picture above of being high art. On the other hand, a realistic story, like A History of Violence, is not automatically demoted in its artistry simply by the fact that graphics were included with the written word.


No wonder Cronenberg is sucking lately… he's being wishy washy. We all know he was dissing Nolan. Why? 'Cuz he's right and Nolan sucks.


So many whiny idiots here. Why is this a big deal? No one's saying you have to agree with Cronenberg.


Hey! Let's not forget that Cronenberg's A History of Violence WAS a comic book -by John Wagner and Vince Locke- prior to the film. A graphic novel, if hardcore semantics is your thing. I guess what's lacking clarification is if Cronenberg was talking solely of super-heroe comics. I guess there aren't any doubts about the quality of films like American Splendor, Persepolis, Old-Boy Ghost World, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, etc.
On the other hand, to me -yes, my opinion-, Memento is Nolan's best feature by far. And it looks it will stay that way…


Any genre can be raised to a high level of art, but most wallow a few miles below that in the gutter. Same goes for comic book adaptations, as westerns, as sf, as crime, as romance etc


I would go further and say that anything that doesn't specifically reject the technocratic mindset of the modern world cannot be high cinematic art. That effectively banishes all movies that uses heavily integrated CGI imagery.


Yes, A History of Violence is based on a comic book. But not a superhero comic book, which is what Cronenberg is specifically referring to.

Frankly, I think it was a stupid question in the first place, and so he gave a stupid answer. Does anyone actually think Cronenberg, based solely on his filmography, would EVER make a superhero film? Has he ever shown any interest in telling that kind of story? Would she ask that question to, say, Bernardo Bertolucci or Wim Wenders or Roman Polanski? Cronenberg is not of the comic book generation of filmmakers. He's an intellectual, literary kind of guy. Look at the films he has made and ask yourself if he would be the right guy to make Green Lantern 2. Or if he would even care to do so. He's not into comic books. It's NOT A BIG DEAL. Get over it.


Is Cronenberg stupid or does he merely think other people are? All his points are easily refutable by someone doing the barest of rsearch. First thing, that pesky "journalist woman" is called Brooke Tarnoff, and she printed the interview, including her own questions (including the one that led to his Nolan-rant: "Some fairly formidable directors have branched out into superhero movies pretty beautifully —is that something you would consider doing?"). Hence, his suggestion that "they never quote themselves or the question that provoked the response" is a cheap lie, a pathetic attempt to blame the media for his own words. Secondly, he says that she said that Nolan elavated the superhero genre, whilst she didn't mention Nolan at all. She just said some "fairly formidable directors"and then he went on his rant. She didn't prod him to criticise Nolan, he was the first person to mention that director. Thirdly, the interview was published mid-August, so it could have been done anytime before then. I am not sure that it was or was not done before TDKR came out, but considering that he is lying about EVERYTHING I don't trust his assertion that only critics had seen the film at that time. When I first read about Cronenberg's rant, I assumed that he hadn't seen the film, which was pretty clear from his assertion that the film used 3D. If anyone has the right to be pissed, it isn't Nolan but Brooke Tarnoff (that pesky journalist woman), who published a perfectly responsible interview, and is now being blamed by Cronenberg for his own stupid, misinformed words. He comes across as angry and entitled, which – coupled with his own ignorance of the people he bitches about – doesn't make him seem too endearing or credible an interview subject. Pity the next journalist woman who gets blamed for his own stupidity.


Comic nerds are lame and should go away.


What Cro don't know is … comics are no longer written just for adolescents. Many, yes, but many, no.


What's more limiting to these blockbuster superhero movies is not necessarily that they're based on comic books, but that they're extremely expensive so they need to be crowdpleasing to get the money back.


i get what he was saying this time and the last time. i love the Batman films and The Avengers but they are limited. they have to stay within a rating/character/action/etc construct. you can argue that they are a form of art but that's taking his intention apart completely and going another route with it. bottom line for me is while i love the "higher grade" superhero films of late, if someone asked me if i saw them as a genre of cinematic art, i'd say no. there are moments but not enough to come close to what the genre of cinematic art means to me.

Jamie Helton

Did this article really use the word "interwebs" in a non-ironic way? Really? It makes me question the validity of anything reported here.


I don't mind whatever Cronenberg said about comic book movies… just mildly offended by him calling the journalist as journalist "woman".


Cronenberg has nothing to apologise for.

Left unfettered, the superhero genre is going to drag American cinema down into the same ever-decreasing-spiral of reboots and retreads that has happened in American comicbooks.


I can't get over the disconnect I felt when David Cronenberg used the word "dissing".


This is so silly. The term "comic book movie" is being misused in order to be dismissive. A comic book or graphic novel is just the source material / seed of an idea for a movie, just like any other source material is, it is not a movie GENRE. Do we call Memento a "short story movie," or No Country for Old Men a "novel" movie? No. Anyone who's seen both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises knows that those movies are not the same genre, so "comic book movie" is misleading. The Avengers was an action-comedy. The main characters just happen to be superheroes. TDKR was more of an epic mystery/drama. The main character just happens to dress like a bat.

tristan eldritch

Probably got a frantic call from his publicist after the first comment: "Dave, you don't know this guy's fans. Does the name Salman Rushdie mean anything to you?"


Cinematic art or any art has nothing to do with popularity, selling tons of tickets and such. The fact that a movie becomes (hugely) popular does not mean it´s good. Let´s keep that in mind.

Eneko Ruiz

By the way, I also consider 'A History of Violence' a comic-book movie. As a matter of facts, every movie based on a comic-book (graphic novel is one of the biggest euphemisms of our time) is a comic-book movie.


Is anyone interested in making a (long) list of so-called "adolescent" films that have reached a greater level of "high cinematic art" than anything David Cronenberg has ever done, or should I go ahead and start the list myself?


Nolan's films are artistically satisfying films beyond the sheer spectacle and scope. They evoke big emotions, big themes and big ideas. Like Sam Mendes pointed out Nolan has proved that you can make an art film disguised as a blockbuster. What can I say? The Avengers and Raimi's Spider-Man are cool flicks and highly entertaining for sure, but nothing too challenging and thought-provoking. But that's fine, there should be room for all kinds of films.

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