The 20th Century Fox movie “Logan” opened with $88.3 million over the weekend, exceeding the estimated industry projections of $85.3 million and leading to a global total of $247 million. The film has received stellar reviews, even coming in with a 92 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics have praised the movie as a perfect way to end Hugh Jackman’s journey portraying the character Wolverine. The name of the film implies that viewers will get to experience a previously distant side to Wolverine’s character, one embodied by his ‘normal’ name, Logan. Logan’s story is finally told in a raw, emotional piece, completely focused on Logan without the distraction of the other X-Men.
Unlike most of Marvel’s other superhero movies, “Logan” is not a movie that is suitable for children. The R rating makes this abundantly clear. The film contains graphic violence and strong language throughout, and it deals with heavy themes, such as trauma and identity, that younger viewers would find harder to grasp. One might think that because the movie is losing such a large demographic of viewers due to its R rating, that it would not perform as well in the box office, but just the opposite has occurred.
Many factors could explain this phenomenon, but at the end of the day, it comes down to one point — audiences are ready for varying plotlines in superhero movies, instead of the formulaic and almost trite combination of action and humor that is present in movies from “Fantastic Four” to “Iron Man 3.” I have no doubts that the upcoming film “Spider-Man: Homecoming” will follow this same basic outline as well. The R rating, however, allows filmmakers more freedom and creativity, lessening the bounds of what is appropriate or not for the viewers. “Logan” and “Deadpool” have proved that audiences enjoy a shift from the usual safe story to more unexpected, grittier tales. We are finally able to see the uncensored destruction Wolverine’s adamantium claws are capable of unleashing, and witness Deadpool’s honest, oftentimes crass thoughts. In addition, several times throughout the movie, Deadpool breaks the fourth wall to directly address the audience, a move not done in other superhero movies. In this way, that R rating almost acts as a signal for moviegoers that this superhero is not like the others, and a certain formula will not be followed, so a certain ending cannot be predicted.
Adding to the appeal of “Logan” and “Deadpool” is the realization that these two characters are not typical superheroes. Rather, they are the perfect antiheroes, not adhering to any conventional moral code but their own desires and motives. Wolverine and Deadpool are able to connect to the audience by showing that they are multi-faceted, complex characters with glaring flaws just like any one of us. Moreover, in their respective films, the personal backstories of Wolverine and Deadpool are explained, which gives the audience a deeper understanding of why the characters might behave or think in a certain way. As we are living in the age of the antihero, these types of characters are more of what viewers want to engage with, since they are in a sense realer and more relatable.
However, the success of future superhero movies does not depend on whether or not they are given an R rating. Instead of feeling constrained by a certain formula, filmmakers should feel they are able to apply their creativity to films targeted toward a broader audience. The films “Ant-Man” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are the best examples of movies that have breached the classic formula. Hopefully in the future, fans of the superhero movie genre will be able to expect films more like “Logan,” in terms of its depth and dissimilarity to other superhero movies.