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March 18, 2011

‘The Wolverine’: Darren Aronofsky and failed arthouse heroes

Posted in: Movies

At 24 Frames, our must-read sister blog, Steven Zeitchik wonders if the great arthouse experiment is losing steam in superhero cinema.

darren aronofsky The Wolverine: Darren Aronofsky and failed arthouse heroes

Darren Aronofsky (Robyn Beck/AFP-Getty)

When Christopher Nolan’s Batman” movies became a massive critical and commercial success a few years ago, it touched off one of the more unexpected mini-trends in modern filmmaking. Suddenly quirky directors were being handed the reins to big-budget men-in-tights tentpoles, as studios looked to replicate the formula that had the director of “Memento” scoring with splashy movies about a caped crime-fighter.

wolverine1 The Wolverine: Darren Aronofsky and failed arthouse heroesIt was an arrangement that seemed to give everyone what they wanted. Studios gained credibility and the potential for a massive hit, while the auteurs got to play with a bigger budget and on a bigger stage without (they hoped) giving up much artistic freedom. Plus they got to make a greenlighted movie, which in this climate may be the biggest selling point of all.

But these experiments have hardly yielded magnificence and wondrousness. This week’s news that Darren Aronofsky wouldn’t direct “The Wolverine” is the latest example; most reports had Aronofsky leaving the project for family reasons, but it nonetheless marked another pairing that didn’t work out as planned.

Two years ago, Gavin Hood, the foreign-language Oscar-winner, didn’t hit it out of the park with “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” “Superman” director Richard Donner was brought onto Hood’s set and may have even served as a helmer for part of the film, leaving Hood to defend his relationship with Fox executives in promotional interviews. The movie went on to perform only decently at the box office and underwhelmed a fair number of critics and fans.  The attempt by “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mindauteur Michel Gondry to give new life to “The Green Hornet” stumbled, too…


— Steven Zeitchik


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