The Damage: Negligible.

Of all the things that won't stay dead, sex in sci fi is perhaps the most resilient. As hard (however unwittingly) Star Wars worked to cut the carnality out of the genre, its myriad imitators brought it soaring back almost immediately. Notorious Italian Wars-knockoff Starcrash featured Caroline Munro blasting robots in a two-piece prison uniform. Earth-bound fantasies like Conan the Barbarian and Excalibur brought loincloths and chain-mail lingerie back in style, Flash Gordon's storyline is driven in large part by the planet-sized amorous appetites of its Evil Princess. Even Wars itself couldn't stay chaste forever; the "Jabba's Palace" segment of Jedi is a Frazetta/Vallejo-style "Den of Alien Debauchery" come to life. Fast forward to today, and Avatar, the current "biggest hit ever." is mainly driven by the hero's romantic designs on a twelve-foot-tall blue catgirl.

The Dark Knight

The Crime: Gritty realism.

Christopher Nolan's Batman movies are, thus far, all about reshaping the bizarre universe of DC's Dark Knight Detective into something that might plausibly take place in the real world, or at least the movie real world. For the most part it's worked, and Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are modern classics of the genre.

Unfortunately, the "boiled down to its most plausible elements" method of adapting Batman doesn't seem to work all that well for most other similar characters, but it hasn't stopped Hollywood from trying. The "grim 'n' gritty" fad that crashed the comics industry in the 90s often seems poised to crash genre film in the 2000s.

The Damage: Averted ... possibly.

"Nolanizing" was the hot trend for long enough to yield some unfortunate results (see: Street Fighter - The Legend of Chun-Li), but for a change Batman wasn't the only superhero setting the box office ablaze at the time. Marvel Films' one-two punch of unexpected megahit Iron Man and respectably popular Incredible Hulk not only flew their super-silly comic book colors proudly, they drew back the curtain on a bold plan to bring shared universe comic book continuity into the movie realm. Is the success of these films, the even more bizarre follow-ups of Captain America, Thor and Avengers plus similarly realism-rejecting hits likes X-Men: First Class enough to put a ceiling on Dark Knight imitators? We'll find out soon enough.

The Evil Dead

The Crime: Horror is funny.

Sam Raimi's Evil Dead, alongside its followups Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn and Army of Darkness, is a legitimate modern masterpiece, a low-budget horror flick that was so wildly inventive it rewrote the rules of not only its own genre but also several others, transforming Raimi and lead actor Bruce Campbell into Nerd Gods and changing the way countless subsequent films would be shot, edited, and acted. It's a no-holds-barred landmark, but not every new idea it had needed to be repeated.

The main bad lesson the horror genre learned from Evil Dead was that "scary" had become less important. The first film has its share of jump scares and creepy moments, but Raimi's old-school slapstick sensibilities eventually turn the third act into something more like an ultraviolent absurdist farce. Many of the series' endless lesser imitators took this as a cue to drop all pretense of mood or tension and become joke-laden showcases for what the makeup FX team was capable of. Some very good movies came out of this, but some pretty bad ones did, too.

The Damage: Bad.

Not only did too many horror films simply become bloody comedies by misunderstanding what Evil Dead was actually doing, the notion that all horror was meant to be laughed at has infected the movie-watching culture for decades. How often have you been to a (theoretically) scary movie, only to have every scare spoiled by an audience member who laughs just a little too soon and just a little too loud because they think they're supposed to?

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you've heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.

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