For better or worse, Frank Miller helped define superheroes in the ’80s with his grim and often violent stories featuring Marvel’s Daredevil and DC’s Batman. His work on those books had an influence that is felt in comics and film today, 30 years after the publication of some of Miller’s work. The most recent run of Batman films, directed by Christopher Nolan, bore significant Miller influence, not least being the title The Dark Knight. But Miller hasn’t seen those movies. In fact, Frank Miller hates Batman movies, and can hardly bear to watch any film based on characters he has worked on.
Speaking with Playboy, Frank Miller goes right into old man mode talking about other versions of characters he’s worked on:
When people come out with movies about characters I’ve worked on, I always hate them. I have my own ideas about what the characters are like. I mean, I can’t watch a Batman movie. I’ve seen pieces of them, but I generally think, No, that’s not him. And I walk out of the theater before it’s over.
Asked if his inability to watch Batman movies includes Christopher Nolan’s films, he says very much so.
It includes all of them. I’m not condemning what he does. I don’t even understand it, except that he seems to think he owns the title Dark Knight. [laughs] He’s about 20 years too late for that. It’s been used.
The “I don’t even understand” what Nolan does bit is pretty interesting, because Nolan’s pretty straightforward with his take. But if Miller isn’t even watching any of the films in its entirety, no wonder he doesn’t get it. And it’s OK, Frank, because most of us didn’t understand what you thought you were doing with The Spirit, either.
We’ve heard this from Miller before, as in this Reddit AMA, where he said,
I have a habit that I’ve developed over the years, which is to deliberately avoid any character in film that I’ve done in comics. Because I developed my own taste in them, and my own opinion of them so deeply, that I will hate it. They could do Citizen Kane and I would find something wrong with it. So I simply don’t go to ‘em.!
This isn’t a blanket rejection of superhero movies as a whole. Miller told Playboy:
One reason I enjoy the Marvel Comics movies is that they’re fun. A lot of superhero movies are pompous. At one point I was watching Superman, and all I could do was an impersonation of him saying, “Hi, I can fly and you can’t.” Whereas Captain America, the Hulk and Iron Man are a bunch of mixed-up crazy kids, just like the readers.
But how much of this is revisionist history? Miller has had good things to say about Nolan’s movies in the past. Maybe he’s just a much more grouchy old man now. For instance, this NPR interview has more open talk about Nolan’s first Batman movie. Elsewhere, Miller talked about Batman Begins to the now-defunct NowPlaying:
I totally thought they did a damned good job. It was the first “Batman’ movie I’ve genuinely liked. I sat there, I watched it, and I came out of there going, ‘Well done, man.’ Sure, they used my stuff – they used everybody’s stuff, but they used my stuff a lot – but they did it well, and that’s all I care about. It was Batman. What I mean by that is, I thought the character was true. You understand, when I work on a character, I have a very, very hard time seeing anybody else’s interpretation. I get very possessive. But when I went out to see this thing, I said, ‘This is a pretty cool Batman.’ I wasn’t sitting there going, ‘This is a merchandising tool.’ I felt like it really had heart and substance, and Christian Bale with no doubt performed the best Batman I have ever seen”.
When asked about that quote during the Reddit AMA linked above, Miller did not respond.