With very few exceptions, movies in the super hero genre are branded with a sort of disclaimer. There seems to be a difference between a good movie and a good super hero movie, as if the superhero genre is held to a lower standard. For instance, if you said to the critics that Captain America: Civil War was a great super hero movie, most would probably agree. However, if you said it was a great movie—without the disclaimer of being a “super hero” movie—they would probably shake their heads and say, “The Godfather is a great movie. Citizen Kane is a great movie. Civil War is not a great movie. It’s a great super hero movie.”
Other than Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, movies categorized in the comic book genre remain pigeon-holed. Ironically, bad super hero movies don’t have that same disclaimer. Fantastic Four and Batman v Superman are just called terrible movies, not terrible “superhero movies”. Good super hero movies seem to hit a cinematic glass ceiling that apparently only Christopher Nolan knows how to pass. Until now.
That brings us to Logan. With a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and fans giving it a 95% positive rating, can director James Mangold’s excellent film escape the stigma of being grouped as just a “great super hero movie” and be considered a great movie?
ABC Radio called Logan “The Dark Knight of the X-Men film universe”. As NPR writes, “The only problem with calling it the boldest and most affecting superhero flick in many years is that it’s barely a superhero movie at all.” The San Diego Reader compares Logan to classic westerns, saying “Mangold drags Wolverine – -much older, if not much wiser — into a Western, and ends up with the best superhero movie in recent memory”. The Detroit News equates Hugh Jackman’s lead performance to the work of Clint Eastwood, saying “Jackman’s performance is Clint Eastwood-esque, and the lines in Jackman’s face tell the story of his worn character; he plays Wolverine as a man at the end of his line, adding at least a decade to his 48 years.” The Wall Street Journal described it as “A model of ambition, complexity and old-fashioned showmanship.”
With all this praise, can Logan transcend the glass ceiling of being a “good super hero movie”? The super hero genre is a sub-category of the sci-fi genre, and even there, if you look back at the long history of science fiction, you’ll see that most movies in this field of cinema also suffer from the disclaimer syndrome. When film historians and experts argue about whether Star Wars episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back or The Godfather: Part 2 is the best sequel ever made, the answer most industry experts would give is “The Empire Strikes Back is the greatest science fiction sequel ever made. The Godfather 2 is the greatest sequel ever made”. In the past 100 years, only four sci-fi films seem to have broken through the disclaimer glass ceiling…Metropolis, King Kong, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. These are the Mount Rushmore of sci-fi which are called great without the disclaimer.
Can Logan join the Dark Knight in starting a Mount Rushmore of comic book films that are called “Great” without the disclaimer label of “super hero”? (What will the other two be?) In the years to come, will Logan be seen as a great movie or a great super hero movie?