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R-rated 'Logan' doesn't look fun

Posted February 9

Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine and Dafne Keen as Laura in "Logan," which is set to release on March 3. (Deseret Photo)

So the Super Bowl was almost as exciting as the commercials this time around. If you knew how deeply disinterested in football I truly am, you would recognize that as quite an enthusiastic response on my part.

Actually, it wasn’t just that the game was great; it was that the commercials were pretty mediocre. I don’t recall any real standouts, so I just focused on the TV spots for movies and shows I want to see. "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" looks to be amazing, and the second season of "Stranger Things" had the kids in Ghostbusters outfits, which hits all the right ’80s nostalgia buttons.

But there was one spot that left me both excited and disappointed at the same time. It was the commercial for “Logan,” the latest entry in the X-Men cinematic franchise. It features Hugh Jackman in what he promises is his final performance as Wolverine, as well as Patrick Stewart in his swan song appearance as an aged Professor X. It looks to be gritty and raw, and both actors are talented men who will no doubt give their all for their last go-round in the X-Men universe. You’d think I’d be the first in line to see this one, but I don't think that’s going to be the case.

“Logan,” unlike all the other times Wolverine has been on the big screen, is going to be rated R. And, if you believe the buzz surrounding the release, it’s going to be a very hard R at that.

This is by design. Hugh Jackman reportedly took a huge pay cut this time out in order to ensure an R-rating, according to slashfilm.com. He felt like the violence inherent in the character was constrained by a more family friendly PG-13, and he wanted to push the envelope of what Wolverine could do. James Mangold, the movie’s director, said that this allowed for “the kind of aggressive, classical Wolverine action that we want in the movie — more of something that fans have been asking for, for a really long time.”

I have no doubt that’s true. I’m sure there are many fans who want to see the real-world kind of blood and guts that would ensue if some guy with unbreakable metal claws started slashing everything in sight. I just don’t happen to be one of them.

One of the reasons that I find comic books so appealing is that they offer an escape from reality. As you read their brightly colored pages, you enter a world where people can fly and good and evil are brought into bold relief against often absurd situations that bear only a passing resemblance to those in the world where we actually live. My favorite comic book films, therefore, are the ones that manage to capture that tone even as they have to make concessions to the more naturalistic medium of cinema. The first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies set the standard as to how to walk that often delicate line, and much of what has followed has fallen short of that standard.

Superman’s 21st-century film appearances have been dark, dour and brooding affairs. “Logan” looks desperate to plunge even further into that kind of darkness, and I confess that I don’t fully understand why. Aren’t superhero films supposed to be fun? I don’t think you can do bleak and fun at the same time.

To each his own, of course. There are so many other comic book movies on tap that I’m sure to get my fill of fun elsewhere. Just don’t look for me in the audience on the opening night of “Logan.”

Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.

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