After 17 years, Fox’s X-Men franchise is perhaps in its most creatively fruitful stage. Despite the underwhelming reception to X-Men: Apocalypse, the series contributed culturally significant entries into the superhero movie canon with R-rated game-changers Deadpool and Logan. The former may have missed its chance at claiming top honors during awards season — we’ll chalk that up to its comedic take on the genre more than anything else — but that hasn’t stopped the studio from positioning Hugh Jackman’s third Wolverine film as a major awards contender this year. Whenever a blockbuster (especially one with such broad appeal) guns for Oscars, it could very well wind up being a pipe dream. But what if it’s not? For your consideration, here’s our rationale for why Logan could be nominated for some of this season’s highest honors.
Pushing the genre creatively
For a superhero film to be taken seriously by voting bodies like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it needs to do more than adhering to the traditional storytelling formula. That’s why so many are still frustrated that The Dark Knight only earned a single major nomination, ultimately winning for Heath Ledger’s performance. For its contribution to the genre, Logan has been compared to that film. With a distinctive aesthetic and a boatload of subtext, the 10th installment of the X-Men franchise is easily the most narratively ambitious, a fact that will only boost its awards chances.
Co-writer/director James Mangold executes a singular vision with Logan, his second Wolverine film. Inspired by classic Hollywood Westerns, he uses the archetypes of films like Shane (referenced in the film itself) to ground the mutant shenanigans. Utilizing desolate settings and a moody lens, Logan has a vastly different color palette — moreso for the black-and-white version, dubbed Logan Noir — and tone than nearly any other comic book film ever made. Moreover, its reverence for as Oscar-friendly a genre as Westerns certainly bodes well.
Critical and commercial love
More often than not, the film that wins Best Picture is not a blockbuster by any means. Last year’s winner, Moonlight, only earned $27 million domestically, for example. Regardless, if a film is critically beloved, then earning piles of cash at the box office can only help its chances at landing major awards. Studios naturally don’t have to try so hard to campaign and spread awareness about films that everyone has seen. Coupled with Logan‘s $226 million domestic take, its near-universal rave reviews therefore only enhance its respectability and merit as a film worth a few gold statuettes.
Packing an emotional punch
At its heart, the X-Men franchise is a sci-fi action series. Although Logan finally unleashes Wolverine’s adamantium claws in all their bloody glory, the film’s intense action sequences aren’t the centerpiece of the movie. From beginning to end, it’s a character study that follows Wolverine’s emotional journey and takes a deep dive into the psychology of a damaged hero known for leaving the bodies of loved ones in his wake. With a more scaled-down, personal approach than many of its contemporaries (no CGI monsters or blue beams in the sky here!), Logan is as intimate a superhero film as we’ve gotten to date.
Logan may be Jackman’s ninth go-round as Wolverine, but the Oscar-nominated actor is more committed than ever before, giving us the clearest portrait yet of who this iconic hero is. Moreover, Patrick Stewart’s layered, nuanced performance as an ailing Charles Xavier instantly inspired serious awards talk for the first time in X-Men film history. Of course, let’s not forget the revelation that is young Dafne Keen, who creates an unforgettably complex character in Laura/X-23 without saying a word for most of the film. If the performances in Logan don’t at least garner some awards love, then we’ll know for certain that award-giving bodies are biased against superhero films just on principle.
The end for Wolverine
If for some reason you still haven’t seen Logan (we doubt it), we’ll remain spoiler-free, but suffice to say, the film marks the culmination of Jackman’s 17-year journey as Wolverine, providing a definitive end to one of the most iconic portrayals of a comic book character in cinematic history. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King already proved that awards shows tend to wait for a genre story to reach its conclusion before honoring it. So perhaps that same logic will apply to Logan, which provides a satisfying conclusion to the franchise while simultaneously elevating it.
Do you think Logan has a shot this awards season? Share your thoughts in the comments section!