The end of the golden age
A. O. Scott writes (via Christopher Orr) that the super-hero movie may have peaked this summer. I'm inclined to agree, though not quite for Scott's reasons. I've said to several people over the past week that, not only does Dark Knight seem to leave the Batman franchise with nowhere to go but down, but it may also kill off the golden age of comic-book-adaptation movies we've been enjoying for the past several years (clunkers like Catwoman and LXG notwithstanding). With Iron Man, they seem to have just about figured out how to perfect the genre... and then along comes Dark Knight to move out of the genre, and make the prospect of seeing a movie about, say, Green Lantern seem dreary, no matter how well it's done. (Dark Knight busted out of its genre and became other things like "psychological thriller," with one of the best villains that genre's ever had. Green Lantern can only bust out by becoming space opera-- and moving under the shadow of Battlestar Galactica.)
I saw Hellboy II just a few days before DK, and it was great fun-- visually stunning, and a lot more entertaining than the first one. But if I'd seen it a few days after, I think I would have wondered, "what's the point?" And Hellboy's not even a superhero adaptation. For the costumed crowd, I think what we've just seen is as good as it gets.