The new black | Features | Guardian Unlimited Film
Whoah, love the new outfit Spidey!" So says a press photographer in Spider-Man 3, and the general reaction from the public will probably be the same. That black costume adds a certain edge, doesn't it? The ordinary red-and-blue Spider-Man was OK, but a dark Spider-Man, that's one notch better. Like a black iPod, or a plain chocolate KitKat. As comic fans will already know, Spidey's new look turns out to be the result of contact with Venom, a slimy alien parasite that darkens minds as well as wardrobes. In part three of the lucrative movie series, Venom randomly falls out of the sky and latches onto Peter Parker - of all people. And as well as his crime-fighting threads, it transforms his daywear. From being a self-confessed science nerd, Parker suddenly starts wearing his hair in a choppy fringe over one eye, dressing in a black suit and black shirt, and even sporting what looks like a trace of eyeliner. In short, Spidey goes emo!.....
The easiest place to spot this darkness, though, is in the recent run of reboot movies - those big blockbusters resurrecting tired old characters that were presumed to have breathed their last breath. Thanks to the miracle ingredient of darkness, they're all back, good as new! Tired of suave, smirking, product-placement playboy James Bond? Then try new hard-hitting, merciless, torture-loving Bond Dark, as modelled by Daniel Craig in Casino Royale! Fed up with camp, nipple-suited, production-overkill Batman? Then how about new tortured, fear-confronting Batman Dark, aka Batman Begins? No stomach for sunny, patriotic, squeaky clean Superman? Then watch him return as alienated, overburdened angst-filled Superman Dark!
Even kids' entertainment is going dark. The recently remodelled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles look like they could actually kill people. Michael Bay's forthcoming Transformers movie looks more like Terminator than Saturday morning TV. And in a few short years, Harry Potter has turned from a wide-eyed young magic chap into a brooding and alienated soul preoccupied with vengeance. You could argue that we live in dark times, that the world is generally on a bit of a downer right now, that we've become desensitised to violence thanks to Abu Ghraib/computer games/happy slapping or whatever. But for a generation raised on a diet of gothic-oriented pop culture (Buffy, Sandman, Marilyn Manson, The Crow, Tim Burton, etc) the parameters of what constitutes "dark" have shifted. What used to be considered dark is now just normal.