Kim Masters interviewed James Mangold, director of the recent Logan film, this week on The Business. Masters reported that “before he had got involved with the X-Men franchise, Mangold had built his career on character driven dramas…” much to say about the modern action/adventure genre, primarily his distaste for its lack of original content and depth. He compares many of the modern franchise Marvel movies and other action series to very expensive television episodes, which blurs the line between film and television. Mangold even goes so far as to say that these franchise films (most of them anyways) are not movies. He argues they are simply a way to promote the next “bloated” episode in the series, which leads to formulaic writing that does not allow each film to stand alone as a strong piece of cinema. Mangold did not wish for Logan to be another episode, so he set this film in a much darker world than other X-Men movies, which contributed to it being R-rated, a departure for many Marvel films which usually don’t go past the PG-13 rating (with the exception of Deadpool in 2016). This film has much more profanity and heavy issues, like parenthood, brain diseases, and child experimentation.
Mangold knew from the start that if he were going to do this film, he would need to set it in a darker, more drama-oriented field than the other Marvel movies in order to stay true to his artistic vision. He was not the only one. Hugh Jackman, the actor who has sustained the role of Wolverine (Logan) for over a decade, decided that he wanted a more complex character to play before he left the role completely. This is Jackman’s last appearance as the character of Wolverine, and he wanted to portray much more depth to his character than he had in previous X-Men films.
Mangold and Jackman did an excellent job by maintaining their artistic integrity. The film translates as much more character driven than other X-Men movies, and it is much more intense as a result. It departs from the usual cookie-cutter Marvel movie and shows Mangold’s affection for adult dramas while still allowing it to enter the realm of the Marvel universe with great fight scenes. One can only wonder if another Mangold will be given the chance to direct another Marvel film and offer more sincere superheroes. As Mangold demonstrated, rich characters and action films are not mutually exclusive elements when making a great film.