Things could get a lot darker and that's not a bad thing
An in-depth look at Logan's opening weekend success, and what it means the future of comic book movies.
Boasting a franchise best opening weekend box office and a stellar 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Logan already can safely be added to the growing list of comic book film successes. While this success may not seem like a surprise for a film boasting the farewell performance of one of the most popular superheroes to appear on film, there's little beyond that in Logan that resembles a modern comic book movie. Logan is a bleak, brutal film interested in showing the pain that comes with a violent life, but it's also notable for straying away from model set by the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While superhero franchises have recently prioritized continuity and using its marquee films as springboards for spinoffs and sequels, Logan instead opts to be a true stand-alone film. Requiring only a vague familiarity of the central character, the film treats itself as a pure drama that just happens to feature characters with superhuman abilities.
Now because the film industry is based on imitating what's successful, the question becomes how we might see future comic book movies try to follow Logan's example? Perhaps the most realistic result of Logan's successful will be an increased sense of freedom for serious directors to reinvent comic book properties. So often in the ongoing duel between the MCU and the DC Extended Universe, we've seen directors conform to these companies' "house style" rather than trying to create something unexpected. It's the reason Marvel films largely have a sense of interchangeable zaniness or DC's feature their own brand of highly stylized grimness. Yet director James Mangold's work on first The Wolverine and now Logan, has shown an artist can have success by treating a superhero seriously. In many ways Mangold's contributions seem like the logical progression from Christopher Nolan's grounded work on his Batman films. Because of that, don't be surprised if DC tries to imitate this style again as they prepare their new, reworked Batman standalone film for theaters.
Another more obvious result of Logan's success is that we can officially put to bed the old wives tale that viewers will not turn out for an R rated superhero film. Between Logan and Deadpool, Fox has proven comic book films can still be lucrative even if they're not designed to sell happy meal toys. While Marvel may stick to its more family-friendly style, DC has flirted with more adult elements in films like the financially successful but critically maligned Suicide Squad and could opt to finally bite the bullet and go for a more explicit sequel.
The last thing to watch for is whether or not Marvel and Fox will have the discipline to let this franchise truly be finished or if its success will lead them to plot a revival. As we now find ourselves with our third Spider-Man and fifth live-action Batman, Wolverine could very easily be rebooted and brought back for more adventures if they are willing to recast him. For all the creative achievements Logan has accomplished, some people may walk away from it thinking the only thing it proved was people like Wolverine.
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