The reviews for the new X-Men spinoff Logan are in, and the only thing everyone can agree on is that it’s easily one of the most violent superhero movies ever made. Heads and viscera fly left and right and men explode like blood-filled gushers whenever Hugh Jackman’s hero enters a battle. Such ultraviolence helped earn this superhero swan song an R rating, as well as more than a little derision from critics. Vulture caught up with the film’s director and co-writer, James Mangold, and he offered a defense of his choice to up the gory ante.
There are several different levels to exploring it. One is that the rating systems around the world seem to have a much easier time with bullets than knives. Knives penetrate flesh, and it’s almost kind of a porn standard: If there’s visible penetration involved, it has to be [rated] R. But something that we should all be asking ourselves is, Is it okay when people are getting mowed down with machine guns, just because there’s less blood? Is that somehow less troubling than when suddenly you feel the ramifications of death?
This movie is very much about violence and its results. Violence and its weight, the toll it takes. Shane [the 1953 Western referenced in the film] is a Golden Age Hollywood film, but it’s also a meditation on the toll that violence takes on a life. That last monologue of Shane’s, which we repeat in this film, is in essence a character saying, I can never have a life, because I have taken life. That is a question for us to think about as individuals and as entertainment manufacturers: Why do we depict violence without consequence?
The movie is quite intentionally designed from the beginning to suck you in, in a kind of [John] Wick-ian way to the violence and the inescapable reality that it can be euphoric. But then, you start to come to understand the weighty consequences of death, and the finality of death, and that life ends.
Plus, in Mangold’s defense, the Wolverine movies are about a guy with foot-long knives in his hands, so it was only a matter of time before things got gross. At least it happened while he was fighting and not while, for example, using the bathroom.