Yeah Like That, But Darker

Understanding the new wave of ‘dark and gritty’ films.

By Andrew Childs

Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was released in 2005, utilizing a new take on super hero films.  Nolan took the “Candyland” version of Batman that Joel Schumacher created and turned it into something genius, something that has turned into a tidal-trend for Hollywood studios, but is now cause for some concern amongst movie goers.

After it’s success (over $370 million worldwide), Batman Begins caused the studios to think that the reason the film was so successful was because of its dark cinematography, gritty setting, and creepy characters.  As a result, we’ve seen a new string of reboots and remakes that are “darker” versions of their predecessors (Casino Royale, The Incredible Hulk, and Star Trek). These movies have, for the most part, been hits, all the aforementioned films were received fairly well by critics and all made tons of money at the box office.

So… “Hey,” you say to yourself, “I know EXACTLY what my movie needs to in order to come back to life!  A gritty-fied version of the original!”  It’s not as easy as that, obviously, and that’s why their should be cause for concern amongst audiences.  As the trend grows, it’s becoming more of a recipe than a true adaptation:

The Original Movie


1 Light per scene

Drop the saturation 50%

“Deep” internal conflict

Scarier Villain



Don’t get me wrong here, the recipe is well needed for some films (The Incredible Hulk) and actually makes some of them better.  However, the reason that the dark remake works for these films is the fact that the story and the characters warrant that kind of tone and feel.  Take Batman for instance: the franchise definitely needed a lift after Schumacher completely missed the mark (neapolitan lights galore and just bad, bad writing (Classic Mr. Freeze), so Nolan took control and created an original take that utilized the actual themes of Batman.  In doing so, he used this gritty take as an expression of the actual story rather than a recipe for change.  Now, of course the other films I have mentioned don’t quite warrant quite the same tone as much as Batman does, but they had the room and the ability to expand in that direction and tastefully did so.  My worry, however, is not that there is going to be too many gritty films being made, it’s that films are going to take this method and use it as a tool instead of a way to enhance the story of a film and then expect success.

So it’s off to the races for studios and companies as it pertains to upcoming ‘grits.’  One of the most intriguing examples is the upcoming face off between the two Snow White films.  The first is The Brothers Grimm: Snow White, which is your classic tale of the Disney Princess played by the beautiful Lilly Collins.  The other is Snow White and the Huntsman, the dark edgy take starring Kristen Stewart wearing armor.  The ultimate test has been set in motion:  the gritty reboot vs. the non-gritty reboot.  This is ESPECIALLY important because, in the case of Huntsman, it is a concept that has been drastically altered to fit this new trend.  So, if the grit outguns the straightforward remake, we might see more Disney Princesses turned into ex-cons and bank robbers.


Andrew Childs is a Film Major at the University of Kansas and an aspiring TV/Film Producer.


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