There is something gluttonous about the superhero cuisine. The drawback of a fictional universe where there are, in theory, no limits, is that eventually, you need to go bigger, you need more explosions, a more powerful villain, more characters to enter the fray, a bigger threat. As visual effects now make even the wildest of dreams a reality, the size and scale of superhero movies is exponentially growing.
Logan, in its stripped back, low-key return to basics, is the perfect antithesis of the overstuffed and sluggish formula at the core of many modern superhero movies. A film fitting that description, X-Men: Apocalypse, may've been the X-Verse precursor to Wolverine's final curtain call, but the two movies couldn't be further apart in structure.
In an interview with ScreenRant, #Logan director James Mangold explained the decision to resist the urge to add more characters than necessary, instead keeping most of the focus on #Wolverine, Charles Xavier and mutant newcomer X-23. He said:
"We toyed with it but one of the things I’ve been very conscious of is that I think one of the reasons a lot of different movies are in the comic book arena these days, is they keep operating from the 'more is more' philosophy."
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How Superhero Ensembles Sacrifice Character Development
Mangold also bemoaned the "arms race in visual effects and cast" that doesn't necessarily "yield more" with the final cut. In many ways, it can also have a detrimental affect on the final movie, with a large number of superheroes all fighting for both the future of humanity and for screentime. In those circumstances, building a solid foundation for each character can be tricky.
Two recent movies within the #DCEU, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, both fell victim to this arms race, ending up with convoluted plots and the lack of real, meaningful character development in the race against the film's runtime. As a result, the highs and the lows have less of an impact.
The #MCU handles things differently, instead opting for a series of solo films to build rapport before leading in to an eventual team-up, such as The Avengers (2012), Age of Ultron (2015) and Civil War (2016). There's no doubt this approach works more effectively; each Avengers ensemble has been a huge success, after all, but there's the sense that there isn't enough space to truly explore and humanize each character, with the number of characters growing in each film, and increasing again in the upcoming Infinity War (2018).
'Logan' Puts Character Ahead Of Quantity
Considering the popularity and financial success of such movies, it'd be naive to say this format is redundant. However, Logan illustrates how fruitful it can be to hone in the focus on a select few, take a step back from the larger-than-life spectacle, and instead delve into the mindset of the main characters, or as Mangold says, "get to go deep with them."
Although Logan works on many levels, Mangold's fitting exploration into Wolverine's character is heightened by the film's R-rating, as well as the #XMen's diminished powers. The former removes the shackles of censorship from his bloody, vicious outbursts of rage, while the latter adds an element of vulnerability that is crucial for the full spectrum of emotions to resonate in audiences.
Focusing more on characterization is an approach that also worked with Deadpool, and outside of big shared universes, a formula that has made the Batman such an alluring character over the years. However, variety is the spice of life, and the beauty of the superhero boom is that fans of the genre can switch between deeper, character driven stories and ensemble excess to their heart's content.
Logan is released on March 3, 2017.
Are superhero movies becoming overstuffed with too many characters?