Since the record breaking opening of The Dark Knight last July, there has been an invisible line drawn in the sand that separates the darker comic book movies from the lighter fare. For the past ten years studios have been shooting out comic based movies for the sole purpose of tapping into their lucrative fanboy audience. Films such as Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and X-Men all spawned sequels and big payday’s, but the films quality suffered as the franchises progressed.In the case of TDK, Christopher Nolan’s Batman series continued to get better by sticking close to it’s source material, and concentrating more on story than gimmicks.

Watchmen, which is another DC property, was carefully set up as the successor of TDK. Yet, the film received mixed reviews from both fans and critics including the creator of the book, Alan Moore. Perhaps they tried to do too much at once? The film did have more adult content, and was a lot grittier in some respects, but because of that it overshadowed some of the story. TDK didn’t have any nudity, harsh language, or overt sexual scenes and it still came across as an ominous, psychotic thriller without being rated R.

With Watchmen being a so-so follow up in this new, darker direction many other studios, especially Marvel seem to be shifting the structure of their comic book roster. There are two obvious routes to go, your either an Iron Man or a Dark Knight. Both were well written, well acted, and entertaining, but each approached audiences in a totally different way. Iron Man being the lighter of the two, is the commercial and critical success that filmmakers consider an easier target to imitate.

I recently read about two comic book films that are in development, Green Lantern and the reboot of The Fantastic Four. Both films are already claiming that they will in no way compete with the tone and feel of  TDK, but plan to stick closer to that of Iron Man. According to IESB, here’s what we can expect from the new Fantastic Four:

The franchise is looking to be “less bubble gum” this time round following the Iron Man template, which was a complete success in reviews and box office take but a bit darker when it came to its superhero. Iron Man was in no way as dark as The Dark Knight but was funny, action-y as well as a bit on the serious side.

According to Cinemablend the Green Lantern producer Donald De Line stated that his film will more than likely skew towards a lighter direction as well. “I’d say it’s more akin to Iron Man,where there’s definitely serious stakes in the movie, but there’s definitely a sense of humor throughout.”

What happened here? I thought something as well written as The Dark Knight would encourage filmmakers to push the limits of what comic book films can be. Instead it looks as if no one wants to even attempt what TDK did. Granted not every book has such harsh content to pull from, but there’s nothing wrong with improving the genre as a whole. Did Christopher Nolan and his gang set the bar too high for others to follow? Was the film too serious?

Do you think the success of The Dark Knight can be repeated? If so, by who?