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  • All big movie genres have life cycles:

  • they're born, they become popular, they exhaust themselves,

  • and then, if they're important enough, they transform.

  • Hugh Jackman's 17-year tenure as Wolverine,

  • I think, bookends two important milestones in the superhero film genre.

  • 2000's "X-Men", directed by Bryan Singer, was effectively the start of the superhero craze

  • that's come to dominate Hollywood for nearly two decades.

  • And now, 2017's "Logan", directed by James Mangold, represents a response

  • to the public's exhaustion with that dominance.

  • If you want to understand how genres change,

  • the writer to look at is definitely John Cawelti,

  • whose famous essay on generic transformation is, I think, a good rubric for what's happening in "Logan."

  • Cawelti is basically interested in what occurs when genre conventions become so well-known

  • that the audience demands something new.

  • What forms does that change take?

  • Well, Cawelti identifies four: burlesque, nostalgia, demythologization, and reaffirmation.

  • Burlesque is essentially a ridiculous exaggeration, or a parody of genre conventions.

  • To finish Leo Braudy's quote from the start of this video,

  • "Genres turn to self-parody to say, 'Well, at least if we make fun of it for being infantile, it will show how far we've come.'"

  • Mel Brooks is, of course, a master at this kind of thing, and not just for westerns.

  • Moments of burlesque can be found in serious movies too

  • when a trope is made to suddenly look ridiculous, undercutting the fantasy with reality.

  • In the superhero genre, "Deadpool", a film that helped pave the way for "Logan", is a burlesque through and through.

  • "Superhero landing. She's gonna do a superhero landing, wait for it!"

  • "Whoooo! Superhero landing! You know, that's really hard on your knees... totally impractical, they all do it."

  • Nostalgic films, the ones that are good, anyway, do more than evoke a romanticized past:

  • they update tried-and-true story lines with contemporary elements;

  • they make the audience aware of the relationship between past and present.

  • Cawelti cites "True Grit," but Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" fits the bill as well,

  • a hard-boiled detective story in which many of the tropes are deromanticized,

  • but the story ultimately follows the same beats of discovery and heroism.

  • "All done." [sighs]

  • Demythologized films are the most complex of the bunch.

  • They subject popular myths and conventions to a reality that undercuts and exposes them as inadequate, or even harmful.

  • Cawelti's archetypal example of this is Roman Polanski's "Chinatown,"

  • a film that follows the hard-boiled detective genre of classic films like "The Maltese Falcon" or "The Big Sleep,"

  • until events become so dark and twisted and devoid of moral content,

  • that justice is never served, and the detective is left severely traumatized.

  • Another movie like this would be the Coen Brother's "No Country for Old Men",

  • in which the lawman of the New West, Tommy Lee Jones, not only fails to capture the villain,

  • but fails to understand him.

  • ''But I don't wanna push my chips forward

  • and go out and meet something I don't understand"

  • The final transformation is the reaffirmation of myth:

  • the kind of film that subverts genre

  • like the demythologized film, but, in the end, choses to reafirm the myth

  • not as something that's real,

  • but as something that we need to believe.

  • I wonder if you can think of a superhero film that might fall into that category...

  • So, what is "Logan"?

  • Clearly, it represents some shift in this extraordinarly popular genre.

  • If "Deadpool" signals a self-awareness that

  • the myth of the superhero movie is losing a bit of its power, then

  • I think "Logan" is an attempt to interrogate the contours of that myth

  • in order to see if there are any interesting directions left for it to go.

  • Director James Mangold is a movie buff,

  • and something that's really interesting about "Logan"

  • is how he uses one genre to understand another:

  • Mangold states "Logan"s key theme via a scene from "Shane", one of the most popular

  • and acclaimed westerns of all time.

  • "A man has to be what he is, Joey.

  • Can't break the mold.

  • I tried it and it didn't work for me.

  • We want you, Shane.

  • Joey, there's no living with...

  • with a killing.

  • There's no going back from one"

  • Westerns are really the perfect genre to mesure the superhero movie.

  • The myth of the superhero is, in many ways, a reincarnation of the myth of the gunslinger.

  • Both are heroes who act outside the law to protect the community at large.

  • Mangold makes these parallels explicit in a sequence mid-way through the movie,

  • when Logan, Charles and Laura are taken in by a kindly family, the same way that Shane is taken in.

  • Both Logan and Shane help the family with work and protect them from greedy bussiness interests,

  • but, though Shane is somewhat haunted by his life as a gunslinger,

  • his purpose and the code of laws he lives by

  • is still necessary to protect the community in the end.

  • In Magold's version, the violence that follows the heroe can't be contained.

  • Far from the valley being saved, Logan's kindly family is mercilessly and utterly destroyed.

  • And, if the point wasn't clear, it's by none other than a clone of Logan himself.

  • This is the closest that "Logan" comes to demythologization

  • The whole movie is a meditation on the violence that all superhero films implie.

  • By earning a R-rating, Magold and Jackman get to show a type of visceral brutality that complicates the

  • heroics of Logan's past, as well as those of the X-Men , and all superheroe's.

  • Like it does Shane, Logan holds up the romanticized past of previous superhero movies

  • in the form of comic books.

  • " You do know that they're all bullshit, right?

  • Maybe a quarter of it happened,

  • and not like this."

  • Logan is attempting to expose the inadequacy of these fantasies,

  • trying to show that no personal moral code can wield power without risking devastation.

  • This is made painfully clear in the character of Xavier, whose aging mind, it's implied,

  • may have unintentionally killed a number of inocent mutants.

  • But, for Logan himself, the past exploits of heroism from the other movies

  • reamerges as trauma and nightmares.

  • "[grunting]"

  • In the touching with Laura near the end, he even admits to contemplating suicide.

  • "Actually, I... hum

  • ... I was thinking of shooting myself with it...

  • ... like Charles said."

  • In the end, Logan makes the final turn into reaffirmation:

  • one last act of sacrificial heroics that reaffirms the myth, even after

  • exposing it as inadequate.

  • You know, it makes me wonder if this is the limit of superhero movies.

  • It's unclear whether a film that's sought to fully demythologize this myth could ever really get made

  • or if the genre itself is even mature enough to handle such a thing.

  • In fact, I think "Logan" leaves us with these exact questions.

  • The movie itself is a conversation between nostalgia for the genre

  • and our increasing frustration with its limits.

  • More than anything, I'm just excited for what's to come.

  • Because, it's transition periods like this, as Cowelti might say,

  • when the really interesting things begin to happen.

  • Hey everybody thank you so much for watching.

  • Subscribe to this channel for more videos;

All big movie genres have life cycles:

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Logan: Superhero Movies Get Old

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    timemachine posted on 2018/06/25
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