The last 18 months has seen two mainstream comic book movies released in theaters with an R rating: Deadpool in February of 2016, and Logan in March of 2017. Although Batman Vs Superman has an R rated cut, it wasn’t released that way originally (though it probably should have been) so I’m not going to include that in this post, instead I’ll just be looking at the two X-Men universe movies, and the doors that each movie has opened for movies based on popular superheroes going forward. There will be spoilers for both movies within this post. If you haven’t seen either yet, then you should rectify that as soon as you can, because if you’ve read this far then I’m assuming you’ve seen them
both and will not be moderating myself for spoilers.
Before I begin, I want to let you know where I stand in regards to both movies so you’re aware of any bias I may or may not have. Full disclosure and all that.
At the time of this writing, Logan came out just over a week ago and in the interest of full disclosure, after having watched the movie twice, not only do I absolutely love the film but I also think that it is quite possibly one of the best movies I’ve seen in the last decade. This is a flick that rises above being a great comic book movie; it’s a defining moment in cinema for the character, with three fantastic performances from the leads, and currently occupies a place firmly within my top five movie list.
Yes, I think that highly of it.
I’ve always had less time for Deadpool than I’d care to admit, yet I still enjoyed seeing Deadpool when watching the movie in the cinema. But even a year on, I’ve still only watched the movie once – although enjoyable, I wasn’t wowed by it; for me, Deadpool was just a good comic book movie that showed Hollywood an R rated superhero flick is more than viable with audiences of today, so while I acknowledge it’s importance for what it has done for the genre, it doesn’t find a spot in my top five comic book movies.
Now that the stage has been set with an excessively long introduction (it was much longer) is out of the way, shall we get on with the rest of the post?
Although both movies share a rating, I think there’s a difference in what the R rating allowed Deadpool and Logan to accomplish. With Deadpool, the R rating allowed the film makers to stay very close to the perceived core of the character; the gun and sword play, and his sense of humour; even though there are very few R rated Deadpool comics, had the movie been rated PG-13, then I don’t think the character would have shone as brightly as he did – not because of the violence (which was admittedly quite thoroughly depicted), but the toilet humour laced throughout the movie that would have felt neutered had the studio gone for the lower rating.
Could you imagine the opening sequence with a lower rating? That opening set the tone for the entire movie, and a lower rating just wouldn’t have the same impact on the audience – not because of the level of the violence, rather because that scene let you know you were about to watch a superhero movie unlike any you had seen before. Yes, it was violent, but there was also a level of slapstick comedy there that worked because of the casual ease with which Deadpool sliced through a bunch of armed guards.
Deadpool proved that an R rated comic book movie could make a significant amount of money. No, it wasn’t the first R rated comic book movie, but it’s the most successful. Without it, then I genuinely doubt whether Fox would have green lit Logan with the same rating.
Although Logan did have explosive moments of graphically depicted violence, the R rating enabled the film to become a much deeper movie. As James Mangrove, Logan‘s director said“for me, what was most interesting in getting the studio to O.K. an R rating [for Logan] was something entirely different. They suddenly let go of the expectation that this film is going to play for children. And when they let go of that, you are free in a myriad of ways. The scenes can be longer. Ideas being explored in dialogue or otherwise can be more sophisticated. Storytelling pace can be more poetic and less built like attention-span-deficit theater.”
Whilst the R rating for Mangrove’s film certainly allowed him to depict Logan’s claws wreaking more havoc on human flesh with less cutaway shots than in previous films as well as allowing the character to curse and swear much more freely, both things you can’t help but notice, it wasn’t until the second viewing of the film that I noticed the subtle ways that the R rating allowed Mangrove to tell the story. For example, the movie drops hints about the other X-Men throughout the film, and while it never explicitly states what happened to them, there are enough hints through radio broadcasts, Logan’s actions and Charles’ last words that enable you to figure out that they died during one of Xavier’s seizures. Nor is your hand held until you reach the conclusion that Logan’s failing healing factor is allowing the adamantium poisoning to finally kill him – although the answer is given to you through the doctor’s “there’s something inside of you that’s killing you!” you’re never explicitly told what that “something” is… although it doesn’t take a genius to put it together – especially when Logan basically tells Laura later the cause of his illness (although the words “adamantium poisoning” aren’t used).
It’s the more subtle things like these , I think, that Mangrove alluded to in the above quote rather than over the top violence many were expecting (although we certainly got R Rated violence, it felt somewhat more brutal than Deadpool‘s stylized offerings), but at the end of the day both are highly enjoyable movies that took the R rating in slightly different directions. Yes, I preferred Logan, but that doesn’t make you wrong if you enjoyed Deadpool more.
I have completely forgotten what point I was trying to make.
Both movies are great R rated offerings that perfectly encapsulate their title character – and as fans we should be very fucking happy with each. But I still like Logan more.