Logan provides a fitting end to the saga of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, but I’m worried about the future it portends for superhero movies.
A washed up, no-longer-Wolverine James “Logan” Howlett and an increasingly senile and inadvertently dangerous, no-longer-Professor Charles Xavier manage to survive in a makeshift bunker around the U.S. Mexico border until they are thrust into one last adventure.
Stylistically the movie works. The overwhelming yellows and browns of the landscape and visuals intentionally evoke both the Old West with outlaws and gunslingers and a post apocalyptic future where natural born mutants no longer exist.
The almost relentless gore and death further cement those two film genres as both inspiration and residence of Logan‘s story.
But even while blood gushes, limbs are severed and heads roll (literally), the heart of the film still beats on—a story of identity and purpose and meaning.
Instead of yet another world-saving moment for the remnants of the X-Men, this is James and Charles trying to save one life, no matter the cost to themselves. When the fate of the galaxy is not always hanging in the balance, you can feel the weight of a single life.
This may have been one of the only films in which I was thrilled by an action scene, jumped in shocked, turned my head in disgust at gore, and shed tears at a tender moment.
So why does a film like that cause me to worry about the future of comic book movie adaptations? Other filmmakers and, more importantly, studios can learn the wrong lessons.
Much like the direction DC movies took after the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, one could see the success—both critically and commercially—of Logan and decide dark, gruesome R-rated films are the path forward for every superhero film.
Rather than noting exactly why dark and violent works for characters like Batman and Wolverine or why R ratings fit Deadpool, studios merely get lost in the type of movie and try to force that on other characters (*cough* Superman *cough*).
There should be a lesson here for studios to learn from Logan (and Deadpool), but that lesson has to also include the other successful superhero movie in theaters right now—The Lego Batman Movie.
Instead of taking cues from whatever superhero adaptation genre happens to have been successful most recently, allow filmmakers the freedom to go in unique directions.
Encourage them to draw from the source material and make a film that resonates with the history of the character, not the whims of the industry.
I love Marvel movies as much (or more) than the next guy, but the time has come for them to become even more creative. What has made them more fresh than most comic book movies of the past is how they used different characters to fit within somewhat different genres.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us period films, space operas, comedies, spy thrillers, fantasies, etc. However, they have also—to this point—squeezed all those genre into the standard PG-13 Marvel blockbuster style.
Logan should not encourage Marvel to go darker (or DC to remain there). It should free studios to take risks by staying true to characters who resonate with real life, which is complicated.
Use these timeless superheroes to explore the themes that are universal to the human condition. Have some feel the brunt of human depravity and the gravity of death. Let others swim in joy and laughter.
There are significant emotions and experiences left unexplored by comic book movies (and movies in general) that would naturally fit across the rating scale from G to R.
Human beings have fallen from unimaginable heights, but still continue to reflect the image of greatness. Logan captures well a small slice of that.
Hopefully, superhero filmmakers will be inspired to better understand, develop and portray the slice in which their characters best fit, instead of looking to mimic what worked for another.