Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold made Logan with the full intention of defying conventions of comic book and superhero films. The final installment of Jackman’s solo run as Wolverine stands out among most of its peers thanks to its unflinching violence, R-rated content, and the star’s memorable, committed performance as the title character.
Mangold’s final product does have its share of action and contains some common elements of comic book films. But ultimately, Logan is a refreshing outlier among a crowded field of standard exercises in superhero fare that fail to elevate themselves in ways that Logan did. Most modern comic book films, both good and bad, would qualify as “tentpole” productions, the high-concept pillars of a studio’s annual push for profits. Logan may be a box office hit, but it certainly wasn’t made like one — and Mangold wanted it that way.
Speaking in a new interview with KCRW (via Cinema Blend), Mangold made it clear how much he has come to detest tentpole films. In discussing the challenges of avoiding “franchise fatigue,” Mangold gave a scathing description of what he views as “two-hour trailers,” referencing the idea that every new superhero film inevitably leads into the next one:
“Tentpole movies in general … they are not movies, generally. They are bloated exercises in two-hour trailers for another movie they are going to sell you in two years. There are so many characters that each character gets an arc of about six-and-a-half minutes at best, and I’m not exaggerating. You take 120 minutes, you take 45 of it for action, what are you left with, divide it by six characters, you have the character arc of Elmer Fudd in a Warner Brothers cartoon. That formula is empty for me.”
Mangold, who also directed 2013’s The Wolverine, clearly did not set out to make a run-of-the-mill blockbuster with Logan. Ironically, the film is a huge commercial success anyway, having already surpassed $500 million at the worldwide box office. The success of Logan is potentially a game-changer for comic book films in general. It shows that tentpole films don’t necessarily need to be family-friendly, over-stuffed with characters and action scenes, or constantly setting up for sequels in order to win with theatergoers. Mangold did acknowledge, however, that not all tentpoles are necessarily bad films, citing Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy as examples.
As harshly cynical as Mangold’s viewpoint may be, he makes a salient point with the “two-hour trailers” statement. Even Captain America: Civil War, an acclaimed Marvel tentpole that explores complex social and political themes, still spends plenty of its runtime setting up for future installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Spider-Man: Homecoming and The Avengers: Infinity War. But films like Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy are proof that tentpole films can still be memorable experiences. Nonetheless, Logan is a welcome departure from the usual formula.