'Logan' and the future of superhero films

Thursday, April 20, 2017 - 8:17pm

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The Wolverine trilogy within the X-Men cinematic universe has steadily increased in quality with each film. The trilogy started with a film many believe to be the worst overall film, “X-men Origins: Wolverine” and recently finished the trilogy with  “Logan.” “Logan” is the second movie in the X-Men universe to be given an R-rating , the first being last year’s “Deadpool” starring Ryan Reynolds.

“Logan” is the first Wolverine movie to capture its title character to the fullest. Extremely violent and emotional, it contains some of the most gory scenes I have seen in recent memory. These are not qualities you find in the typical superhero movie. “Deadpool” was a whole new kind of superhero movie, but “Logan” proved that the success of “Deadpool” wasn’t a fluke; rated R superhero movies that actually take themselves seriously can be both commercially and critically successful.

The movie is a fresh breath of air because although watching a montage of several superheroes trying to prevent the destruction of a city is entertaining it’s nice to get a break from the typical superhero plot. “Logan” also doesn’t have an excessive amount of central characters leaving more time for meaningful character development. The movie revolves around Wolverine’s relationship to the other characters. Professor X (Patrick Stewart, “X-men 2”) and Laura (Dafne Keen in her film debut) have dynamic and genuine relationships with Logan (Hugh Jackman, “Prisoners”). The dialogue between Stewart and Jackman’s characters is often gut-wrenching and vague conversations about their past leave the audience yearning for more information, creating a tension that makes “Logan” the first superhero movie since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy that made me eagerly anticipate dialogue while watching.

One of the most unique things about “Logan” is it’s appeal as a western as well as a superhero film. It hammers its influences in the audience's face; the most obvious instance being when Professor X and Laura are watching television at a hotel and are watching “Shane,” a 1954 western. Stewart’s character talks about how he remembers seeing the film as a child in his hometown, and how much it meant to him at the time.  Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, “Narcos”) the main antagonist in the film is a part-cyborg working for the government to try and eliminate all rogue mutants. Boyd and Logan play a kind of reverse on the classic sheriff and outlaw plot of old westerns: Logan is technically the outlaw, but clearly in the right, while Boyd’s the sheriff, but clearly evil in his motivations.

This hammering isn’t overwhelming though, it’s valuable for audiences to recognize that what they’re watching is a western. Hopefully it will get them to open their minds to how other iconic movies could influence future unique superhero movies. “Captain America: Civil War” half-heartedly tried to be a spy movie but still had much more of a superhero than a spy feel. It would be great to see a true horror superhero mashup or have a film blend with the spy thriller genre the same way “Logan” fused with westerns.

The film also cost less money than the usual superhero movie. Don’t get me wrong, it still cost an obscene amount; the budget for the film was $97,000,000, but this is less than half of a typical Marvel or DC movie budget, making it relatively cheap. The previously mentioned “Captain America: Civil War” cost an estimated $250 million and the previous X-Men film “X-Men: Apocalypse” cost an estimated $178 million. As film budgets continue to balloon, studios will likely look to have options that are less of a risk, but still have the opportunity to attract large audiences: lower budget superhero movies are a great answer to this. “Logan” turned out to be a huge success for 20th Century Fox. Although it was seen as a gamble because of its R rating, the film has already earned $596 million making it the second highest grossing movie of the year so far.  

I appreciated “Logan” for its distinctiveness in a sea of superhero movies that make me feel like I’m watching the same plot over and over again. The characters of “Logan” felt genuinely human, which is a wonderful switch up from the cardboard characters of the Marvel and DC universes. Audiences will be attracted to this new kind of superhero movie: One that can inhibit new genres, rely less on big budgets and have a more distinct feel from movie to movie.