I went out to the movies with my family over the weekend. We used to do this more when we all three lived in the same city, but having the kid in town enabled us to go out as a group. We went to see Logan, the "last" in the Hugh Jackman Wolverine saga. We laughed, we cried, and winced a little at the carnage. We all knew what we were getting into, since this wasn't our first rodeo with the berserker with adamantium claws. And an anger management issue. It was my son, interestingly enough, who brought up the level of mayhem first.
He wondered if it was truly necessary to make an R-rated comic book movie, or if this was a response to the success of last year's Deadpool, which made a point of going over the top to make its own place in super hero extremes. The audience for those scientifically or genetically enhanced has grown over the years to create a place where truth and justice aren't the only things we need for the American Way. We need some splatter. Some compound fractures. Some head shots.
As the paterfamilias, I chose to take the counter argument: Maybe this is the only way we can get to the place where we start to understand the struggles of a super hero. When a simple sneeze or hiccup during a handshake could result in somebody's arm getting torn off, Losing one's temper when one has the proportionate strength of an insect could cause some real trauma. Maintaining relationships, as a result, would be difficult if not impossible. And didn't we all need to know exactly what it looked like when Wolverine healed himself of those machine gun wounds?
Maybe not, but we are also living in a world that has increased access to video of carnage generated by non-super heroes. Whether it is security feeds or Facebook, we are gifted each day with death and dismemberment that are just a click away. In order to compete, Hollywood must push the boundaries of what might once have been good taste, much in the same way they once felt the need to expand their screens to ridiculous proportions to compete with the new square box of television. A couple of months ago, I watched Warren Beatty's Bonnie and Clyde. On a television that was manufactured to reflect those giant screens of yesteryear. The finale, where Warren and Faye Dunaway are ambushed and cut to ribbons by machine gun fire was still terrifying in its brutality, but felt at the same time just a little tame. I have seen so many worse things since then, on TV and on the big screen.
Did it need to be R? I understand my son's point, but I also know that we live in an unrated world where we are just as likely to burst into song and dance as we are to cut someone in half with our razor sharp claws. And the scariest part of all is this: we haven't seen it all yet.