In many respects, Logan is an anti-thesis of the modern superhero movie. Not only does the R-rated movie not feature any of the usual heroic genre conventions, but Logan focuses on some bleak themes that something like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) would normally shy away from. According to the director behind the Wolverine's last ride, the only way this could have been done was if he had some hatred for the superhero movie.
James Mangold And The Benefits Of Contempt
While chatting with The Hollywood Reporter about Logan and the possibility of a spin-off movie about the much beloved Laura a.k.a. X-23 (Dafne Keen), James Mangold revealed that a cynical streak in regards to the superhero film helped him craft a critically-acclaimed finale for Hugh Jackman's iconic role of the #Wolverine.
“I think I have a kind of healthy contempt for this kind of film. Even the genre."
This, however, doesn't mean that Mangold hates anything with superpowers or colorful costumes in its narrative. Rather, the Walk the Line director grew tired of the repetitive and risk-free formula that the genre has found itself trapped in, and he wanted Logan (and the genre by extension) to be exact opposite of the kind of superhero movie that audiences have grown accustomed to.
"I tried to bring with it a kind of jaundiced eye about formula that we’ve gotten really in the habit of delivering on, and trying to deliver a picture that offers some of the same sense of wonder and imagination that these films tend to offer, but doing so in a way where it’s less about fetishizing costumes and equipment and CG effects and more about character.”
In an earlier interview, Mangold echoed the same sentiments when he told Flicks and the City that "spectacle is not enough." For the director of 3:10 to Yuma, superhero movies need more than just a big city-wide fight against a deadly beam in the sky if they want to be taken seriously.
"The thing that we're trying to differently is trying to invest in character. The fact is that a lot of these movies are a collection of set pieces of action with very short connective things basically explaining how we go from action piece A to action piece B. We wanted to make a movie that's really a drama. If you cut out the action, what you'd have is a powerful drama about interesting character. Whether that makes us different or not, I'll leave others to judge but I think it was our goal to make a movie that earned its audience from feeling real. Really feeling human or feeling intimate."
There's nothing wrong with a formulaic superhero movie if it's done right, but Mangold has a point that directors working in the genre should take note of. As superhero movies become more popular, the more they tend to repeat a formula that quickly becomes saturated and tiresome. Because of this and despite the filmmakers' good intentions, the superhero movie has become more predictable than some would hope for.
By going against the norm with Logan, Mangold was able to deconstruct the superhero movie while still paying homage and respect to its comic book roots. As a result, Jackman's swan song as the titular mutant has been heralded as the best example of the genre since Christopher Nolan's equally celebrated The Dark Knight for similar reasons. Logan was equal parts mature and campy in a way that only superhero stories could pull off, and it was one of the best movies to come out this year.
As the superhero movie continues to grow, hopefully, more directors follow Mangold's brand of "contempt" to help make the genre mature and improve in ways no one would expect.
What do you think of James Mangold's insight and "contempt?" Do you agree or not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.