The new wave of R-rated superhero movies – why it works.


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“Logan,” a superhero film, was released on March 3 to the public with a R-rating, something rare for the genre. After Logan’s successful release at the box office, there is potential for more superhero movie directors to visit darker themes with more artistic freedom in a R-rated movie.

by Anjay Saklecha, Sports Editor

The blood-drenched, claw-ripping final chapter in the Wolverine saga, “Logan,” was released on March 3 to the public with a rare R-rating by Twentieth Century Fox, in addition with Marvel Studios, and mandated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

Aside from “Deadpool,” released in 2016, “Logan” is the second R-rated X-men movie in recent years. Like “Deadpool” before it, “Logan” differentiated itself from the flood of other films about costumed superheroes by embracing this R-rating. Innovative edgy posters, character focused red-band trailers and social media hype as Hugh Jackman’s last Wolverine movie all led to the successful marketing of this adult-geared film.

“Fox produced both movies…the studio, which licenses the rights to X-Men characters like Wolverine and Deadpool, seems intent on carving out a niche for itself by making grittier, tougher comic book fare that’s in stark contrast to Disney’s sunnier “Avengers” series,” Brent Lang, the Senior Film and Media Editor wrote for Variety in his piece “‘Logan,’ ‘Deadpool’ and Why the World Is Ready for an R-Rated X-Men Film.”

However, when it comes down to superhero movies, the question arises as to why Fox decided to green light a movie that would likely have an R-rating for “Logan.” “Logan’s” violence and intense language are key to achieving the Wolverine character’s full thematic potential.

“I think also about feeling the weight and the loss that the aftermath of violence results in.” Hugh Jackman said in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “And that is what I was most interested in, in making an adult-themed film, a more sophisticated film. For us, getting the studio to agree to rated R is also when the movie stops being about the four boxes.”

However, movie studios have not made any R-rated movies in the past, because of money, essentially. In the past, the majority of viewers at movie theaters are children under the age of 17 years. By slapping the R-rating onto a superhero movie, it restricts a major source of box office revenue – young teenagers. Yet, movie studios are willing to limit creative freedom and sacrifice thematic potential in order to reach the highest box office numbers.

It’s not the draw of a certain rating that makes a film a success, but rather a desire of the masses to see something unique and more “real” that fits the characters of the film, which is why “Logan,” is deliberately not made in the same vein as the other movies in the PG-13 X-men saga. In fact, Jackman, the star of the iconic character of Wolverine voluntarily took a salary cut in order to ensure the R-rating for “Logan,” as he felt that a PG-13 rating could not show the darkest implications of Wolverine’s power. The R-rating allowed the most opportunity to accurately convey Jackman’s interpretation of Wolverine as the most dark, most violent, and most true to the character, as shown in the comics.

Essentially, it comes down to the notion of artistic freedom. With an R-rating, the MPAA places guidelines that the government enforces that few, if any, children will be present in the theater, and the studios directing, producing and writing the movie get to be a little more creative with the character. Although the superhero movie genre targets more of the younger audience, the idea of having full freedom to include unprecedented violence and gore, coercive language, crude humor and dark thematic elements of mortality and depression makes the superhero story, more faithful to the director’s and actor’s vision.

Of course, the MPAA has its flaws to reinforce their regulations for the protection of children, but for right now, the strategy for “Logan” is working. Both of Marvel’s R-rated movies slammed box offices with surprisingly high sales – “Logan” debuted to a massive $237.8 million globally and “Deadpool” ended its run with nearly $800 million worldwide in 2016. With these two blockbusters successes, the old belief that viewers would not be attracted to an R-rated superhero film has been proven false.

The fact that two movies in recent years have now been released with an R-rating, this may be the change that will come – rather than the repetitive nature of splashy and gimmicky movies being a stepping stone for the next sequel, directors should take risks and implement creative methods that support the character’s DNA. Ultimately, the goal is to make a thought-provoking movie that does justice to its characters and storyline, and not just trying to fit it into the desired rating category.