Comics on Film: 'Logan' Gets Well-Deserved Academy Award Recognition

Comics on Film: 'Logan' Gets Well-Deserved Academy Award Recognition

Jan 26, 2018

Comic book films and the Academy Awards have often had a relationship that can likely be described as "minimal." While the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has often been perfectly willing to acknowledge the technical accomplishments made by the filmmakers who meticulously craft superhero cinema, more often than not, the genre at-large is viewed as far too pedestrian and generic to attract any significant critical attention from the Hollywood elite.

Although superhero films account for a significant amount of business at the box office these days, it is precisely because of that fact that more "serious" cinematic observers – both inside and outside the industry – are predisposed to ignore even artfully meritorious examples in the genre.

There is, of course, an exception to this rule: Heath Ledger's posthumous win of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the Joker in 2008's The Dark Knight, directed by Christopher Nolan. By-and-large, though, comics-based films are often snubbed even in the instances of their absolutely best examples in creative and performance categories, but thankfully, that changed this year in at least one way.

 

Logan's Nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay

While the Academy Award nominations seem to have some kind of disappointing sub-headline attached to them every year – with this year being no exception – there was at least one pleasant surprise. Logan, Hugh Jackman's and Patrick Stewart's final collective turn in the X-Men film series by 20th Century Fox, received a nomination: one not found in a technical or production category, but instead in a creative one. James Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green are all named in the film's nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The importance of this nomination can't be overstated. Comic book films have, of course, flirted with Academy recognition over the years, with some efforts even seemingly going out of their way to try and stand out as "epic" fiction both in spite of, and because of the fact that they include mythic characters in capes. The recognition for Logan, though, comes from a film that was a bit understated in its approach by having a square focus on a rather intimate character journey, a swan song for a performer who's lovingly crafted a potent and engaging iteration of a comic book icon for the better part of two decades.

When Logan was first released last March, it made an immediate impression on audiences and further cemented a renewed reputation of ambition on the part of 20th Century Fox's use of the X-Men IP. While X-Men: Apocalypse was largely seen by many critics and audiences as a relatively typical addition to the series, both 2016's Deadpool and 2017's Logan showed the studio taking a bit of a different approach – albeit through two very different projects – with the built-in audiences that these characters have. Logan's achievement here is not only surprising, but it's just as equally well-deserved.

Whether or not it has a sufficient chance of winning against its rivals in this category is another question entirely, but a little bit of recognition definitely goes a long way. It also portends potential good things for the future.

 

Dealing With Disappointment

Still, it's hard not to come away with some disappointment if you're a fan of comics-based cinema. The biggest of these for many people likely rests on the fact that Wonder Woman, one of the more popular films of the year as well as an important landmark in both the genre and blockbuster cinema itself, didn't earn any nominations. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earned a visual effects nomination, but nothing else. The performance categories also remain elusive as well, even though Patrick Stewart's performance as Professor X in Logan was largely considered by many to be worthy of official acknowledgment.

We have a long way to go until comic book cinema itself starts to earn more general recognition at the Academy Awards, but of course, the films also need to be special. Logan and The Dark Knight represent the kind of pedigree that the best in the genre are aiming for, but those films have earned their high levels of regard for both their craftsmanship and their heart. From my perspective, Wonder Woman earned that kind of recognition, but I also recognize that I have a fair amount of bias.

Still, Logan's recognition – whether it wins the award or not – definitely deserves celebration, and hopefully it will send a message to studios and filmmakers fortunate enough to tell stories with these mythic icons to continue aiming up in the sky.


Chris Clow is a comic book expert and former retailer, and a writer with work having appeared in the Huffington Post, Fandango and others. He also hosts the podcasts Discovery Debrief: A Star Trek Podcast and Comics on Consoles. You can find his weekly Comics on Film column every week here at Movies.com, and you can follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

Categories: Features, Geek, Editorials
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