Death of the Critic

Logan and the R-Rated Superhero

Written by: Tom Blaich


came out almost a year ago and somehow managed to be a huge commercial success. With Logan coming out today, many have predicted that this success will be repeated. But what does this mean for the comic book superhero? Comics can be dark, frequently being much more explicit than their on screen counterparts. Glossy pages splashed with blood and gore, provocatively dressed heroines, and sinister plots spanning decades. Movies aren’t afraid of violence, but blood and sex make them squeamish.

The American viewership is strange in what they find taboo. Prime time television can have counter terror agents running through cities, gunning down homes of AK toting bad guys, but if you were to show the actual effect that bullets have on flesh, it would quickly become too much for the viewer. We are fine with someone getting shot in the head, just not with the messy aftermath. The notable exception is zombies, as they are not human, and therefore we can splatter their entrails across the scenery without a care in the world.

AMC has been slowly stretching the bounds of censorship with Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, where kids can get shot and zombies curb stomped, but saying “fuck” is simply too far. Yet in the midst of this, Deadpool, a multimillion dollar superhero movie was allowed to be rated R, flying in the face of Hollywood common sense as to comic book movie viewership and audience expectations. What was thought to be a box office death sentence ended up earning 760 million dollars on a 58 million dollar budget.

Gears started turning in Hollywood. For a long time, fans have been clamoring for an R-rated Wolverine movie. Logan has always been a violent character, a PTSD stricken berserker with knives strapped to his hands and plenty of enemies. Yet in all of the previous X-Men movies, the bloody aftermath of his actions were ignored. We got a hint of the aggression that he carried in X-Men: Apocalypse as he breaks out of the lab at Alkali Lake, tearing through waves of soldiers like a horror movie slasher.

Compare him to characters like the Avengers of the Guardians of the Galaxy, who’s larger cast and more lighthearted tone wouldn’t fit with an R-rated film and the more explicit depictions it can bring with it. Being rated R doesn’t automatically make a movie better, especially if the subject matter doesn’t fit, even as fans grew up and clamored for more R-rated superhero movies. Films directly catered to them.

Logan is already receiving amazing reviews (and we look forward to publishing our review next week), and with that widespread critical and commercial success, you have to ask: what comes next? Studios are notoriously adverse to taking risks, but being two superhero blockbusters in two consecutive years being successful while being rated R could open some avenues for more of these movies to be made. And there are plenty of comic book storylines ripe for this more adult take. The Batman universe alone has dozens, with The Killing Joke or The Long Holloween or Year One being ripe for live action adaptations.

But this doesn’t just affect superhero movies. R-rated blockbusters are few and far between, but what might studios greenlight with these successes in mind. There are so many movies that have been held back by being forced to adhere to a PG-13 rating (The Expendables 3) that it would be more than a little refreshing to see creators have the ability to bring their vision to life, no matter how many times the main character says fuck.

By allowing Logan, Deadpool, and the upcoming Deadpool 2 to be rated R, the blockbuster has been changed. Filmmakers are being given more freedom than ever before, and the possibilities are endless as to what might come next.



Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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