People keeping tabs on upcoming movies may know that Fox is making a third Wolverine movie as part of their X-Men series, called Logan. Set some time after Days of Future Past, North America has turned into a lawless, post-apocalyptic place. With the X-Men and mutants gone, an older Wolverine and an even older Professor X get involved in an adventure to protect a young mutant girl. Logan’s rating was officially announced as being R, for “strong brutal violence, language throughout, and brief nudity.” With this development, I am extremely disgusted with everyone involved.
I had a vaguely similar experience last year when Deadpool, a spinoff in the X-Men series, was also revealed to be an incredibly gory and crass R-rated movie. I have not seen it as a result. However, by all accounts, Deadpool is not essential viewing to follow the core of the X-Men series, so at least Fox wasn’t punishing fans who weren’t up for it, however annoying the situation was for me.
History seems to be repeating itself here. While all cited reasons for Logan getting that R rating encompass material I object to, I’m going to be focusing on the problems I have with the movie using graphic violence, since I think that discussion will be the most interesting. This unfortunate situation may have been inevitable. Logan is loosely based on the 2008 graphic novel Wolverine: Old Man Logan, which was a very violent and disturbing story (although popular enough to get a sequel in 2015’s Secret Wars event and a subsequent regular series).
On top of that, Wolverine’s most notable superpowers are a healing factor and his claws, which would make for really bloody battles in real life. So, in some ways, it may be surprising that it took so long before someone wanted to make an R-rated Wolverine movie. The thing, though, that makes the situation so frustrating is that, unless the story pulls something unexpected, the filmmakers did not need to put R-rated material in their film.
It can be argued that violence can serve a narrative purpose and that scaling back could compromise the story. I would agree in some cases. For example, the final fight between Spider-Man and Green Goblin in the first Spider-Man movie is pretty brutal, which sets the tone for how desperate Spider-Man’s plight is and Green Goblin’s vindictiveness. I never saw The Passion of the Christ due to how graphic the depiction of the Crucifixion was, but the material is used to give Christians a better idea of the full magnitude of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for humanity. Similarly, toning down Holocaust movies, like Schindler’s List, would be disrespectful to the historical events they’re trying to present.
Since Logan hasn’t been released yet, we don’t know what kind of story it’s supposed to tell, leaving open the possibility that a gorier movie is needed to tell it properly. However, I remain skeptical of this possibility. Based on the previous series installments, Wolverine doesn’t need graphic violence to work as a character or have effective stories. His best prior material — his efforts to piece his life together, the surrogate father/daughter relationship with Rogue, his time-travel mission, some good one-liners — had nothing to do with him being a killing machine and would still have worked even if he never unsheathed his claws. The character isn’t defined by brutal fight scenes.
Not that previous movies didn’t make good use of him in a fight. In fact, there were several. The defense of the Institute in X2 got a lot of praise. I personally thought the Statue of Liberty duel in the first movie was a lot of fun. In all cases, the filmmakers were able to make exciting scenes without resorting to slathering the sets and actors with fake blood or showing the villains getting beheaded or disemboweled in anatomically correct fashion. We enjoyed those scenes because of interesting set pieces, clever combinations of superpowers, and the stories that they advanced. Creating more graphic battles doesn’t improve those things and risks alienating more viewers.
Intentional or not, the rating also punishes fans who don’t have the stomach for more mature material. At least with the Deadpool movie, you could skip it without getting lost in the subsequent films. Logan is continuing the story of a character that started in the more universally accessible core parts of the movie series. Skipping it means that you’re missing a piece of that story, something that many viewers of all stripes are invested in.
What makes this situation with Logan especially disappointing on a personal level is that I’d wanted to see this movie really badly. I’d viewed the initial trailer before the rating was announced. The trailer had nothing to suggest that the film was going to be worse than the previous X-Men movies and really sold me on it. Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman are returning as Professor X and Wolverine, evidently for the last time. I enjoyed their performances as the characters in the other movies and would want to be there for their final curtain.
The movie is also introducing X-23 to the films. Being a big fan of the X-Men: Evolution cartoon that introduced the character, I was really interested in seeing how they translated her to the big screen. The trailer also seemed to strongly suggest that, like in the source material, X-23 and Wolverine would have a surrogate family relationship. This premise has been done really well with Wolverine and Rogue in the original moves, so that was something I was looking forward to seeing here.
While I object to the movie ruining Days of Future Past’s happy ending, the story itself looks like it could be a good one. A lot of emphasis was placed on the characters, and it seemed to be setting up a theme for finding hope in dark circumstances. It would be something different than the average “save the world” superhero films that swamp the summer box office. I got interested in where it would go and finding out what would lie at the end of the journey.
So, my grievances are that I feel shut out of a movie I very much wanted to see and will be missing a piece of a film series that I had hoped to follow in its entirety, all for reasons that seem to have nothing to do with telling a better story or making a quality movie, but to appeal to the lowest common denominator, at the cost of making something that fans could universally enjoy.
So, the million dollar question: will I be seeing Logan in spite of all my misgivings. If the movie is indeed as bad as promised, I will not. I don’t have the stomach for gory violence first and foremost, nor do I appreciate movies that have excessive profanity. Between those two factors, I doubt I would be able to enjoy myself, regardless of how well made the final product is or how good a story they come up with.
As I understand it, everyone involved in making Logan went out of their way to ensure that it would be R-rated, thinking it was a good decision. I can’t agree. It is not a badge of honor. There is no dignity to be found here. There is no good reason for this movie to be what it is. The X-Men series is stumbling; loosing its way. Whether it’s lost forever remains to be seen.
So, what do you think? Have you been wanting to see Wolverine be the best at what he does in a movie that isn’t very nice, or is the character being taken down a darker, dangerous path?
– If you choose to see the movie, it’s coming out on March 3, 2017. The director is James Mangold, who also directed the previous solo Wolverine movie, The Wolverine. (The latter was well-received by critics as a good story about the character despite being given a mere PG-13 rating. Shocking, isn’t it?)
– So, who’s X-23, anyways? As mentioned in the article, the character was originally created for the X-Men: Evolution cartoon, guest-starring in two episodes and having a cameo in the finale. She was later incorporated into Marvel’s comics, becoming a mainstay in the X-Men franchise. The basic backstory is that she’s a Wolverine clone made during an attempt to re-create the infamous Weapon X program. The scientists made her female due to damage to the DNA sample they were working off, and she earned the “23” part of her designation since she was the twenty-third attempt to create a Wolverine clone. She subsequently escaped and wound up joining the X-Men. (Given X-23’s dark past — she was treated worse than an animal by her creators — this could well be another reason why everyone involved was so anal about making an R-rated movie.)
– It’s ironic that I’m so bothered by this fiasco, given that I’m not actually a big X-Men fan. I’ve liked the movie series and the aforementioned Evolution cartoon, but I’m not interested in any of the other cartoons or comics. Besides some of the movies, the only stuff I have copies of are an Ultimate X-Men trade paperback and a Star Trek crossover novel, and I only got those because they guest-starred Spider-Man and the Next Generation cast respectively.