All action and no story. That is the reputation superhero-comic book films have received over the years. Opinions may be changing as the genre is maturing and the films are exploring new depths. When the nominations were announced for the 2018 Academy Awards last month, a surprise entrant was among the films. Fox Studios’ Logan, a superhero-comic book film, received a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. This is significant because Logan became the first superhero-comic adaptation to receive a nomination for its story.
Comic book films have been getting nods for technical aspects of filmmaking but are often overlooked for their ability to tell great stories. This recognition justifies what comic book fans have known for years; comic book films can have just enough depth in storytelling and emotion as any other dramatic film out there. Just because a film is genre specific, it does not mean it should not be shut out of the award season.
A few years ago, the film industry fell in love with the term “graphic novel”. It was a more mature way to describe a film that had its main source come from a comic book. A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, From Hell, Old Boy, and Ghost World are a few of the films that received critical praise that was based on a graphic novel. What sets these films apart from Logan is that the main characters were not “superheroes”. Logan is significant because its source material was based on a story where the main character has “superpowers”.
The film was written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green. It was adapted from the limited comic series Old Man Logan. Like the comic, the film follows an aging Wolverine in a dystopian type future. The writing team incorporated aspects of other comics, mainly the introduction of the X-23 character, who was portrayed by Dafne Keen in the film.
Comic book and genre-specific films have done serious business at the box office over the past 10 years. Yet, they have had little to no luck on the award circuit. Film critics and award committees see them as summertime films that have no storytelling depth. Hopefully, now Academy members will pay closer attention to superhero-comic book films for their substance rather than their box office numbers.
The last time the Academy recognized a superhero comic book film in a major category was when Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor. Ledger was awarded for his iconic portrayal of the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. In an interesting side note, the nomination for Logan came just a day after the 10 year anniversary of Ledger’s death.
The nomination is also a fitting end to Hugh Jackman’s tenure in portraying Wolverine on the big screen. After the success for Deadpool, Jackman campaigned for an R-rated Wolverine movie. It is great to see the passion Jackman put into the character over the years pay off with a nomination. When a director or actor is given creative freedom from the studio, good things can happen. Fox Studios let Jackman and Director James Mangold take the lead, and they received an Oscar nomination for it.