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In recent years, the X-Men universe has been at the forefront of R-rated comic book movies with films like Deadpool and Logan, as the restrictive ratings have allowed characters like Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) to swear like sailors and brutally dismember enemies. However, for Logan director James Mangold, the R-rating was about more than blood, guts and foul language; it was a means of getting away with a far more mature movie. The director opened up at the 2018 Writers Guild Association Beyond Words Panel presented by Audi in Los Angeles and said:
You have to have a slightly off-pedal goal for your film, and the people who are gonna go "What the fuck is that 8-minute scene between Professor X and Logan? that's light 8 minutes of two guys in a tank talking.' And it's like 'Yeah. that's not gonna change because the vibe of this movie is an adult drama.' That's why, for instance, we wanted an R-rating. It wasn't because of the violence and it wasn't because of the language, but because I didn't have to write a movie, and neither did my compatriots, for 11-year-olds. If we had a rated-R movie there were gonna be no Happy Meals. There can be no action figures. There was gonna be no marketing on Saturday morning cartoons or anything like it, so that suddenly you're not making a movie written for someone under 14, 15. And that changes the length of scenes. It changes what they're talking about.
James Mangold talked at length about his desire to set Logan apart from typical comic book movies over the course of the film's development, production and eventual release. His aversion to a film designed to sell toys is well-established by now, but the R-rating was apparently also instrumental in allowing him to get away with lengthy dialogue scenes and a marketing campaign that didn't appeal to children -- unless your kid likes Johnny Cash.
Making a mature, hard-R comic book movie did not come without its own set of drawbacks. To make Logan work better than 2013's The Wolverine, James Mangold had to operate with a small budget relative to what we're used to seeing from the genre. Even Hugh Jackman took a pay cut to portray Wolverine one more time. In the end, however, the result was a Wolverine solo movie specifically designed for consumption by an older and more mature audience.
This is not to say that a PG-13 movie couldn't allow them to handle mature content as well. Over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, movies like Captain America: Civil War have allowed filmmakers to take comic book heroes and broach some deeply political topics and tell mature stories between behemoth action sequences. However, the difference here is that Logan never had to cater to a younger audience at any level of its production.
In the end, the decision to push Logan towards that R-rating seems to have paid off, as the film ultimately went on to earn an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. You can watch the film duke it out against the other nominees for the award when The Oscars air on Sunday, March 4 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.