Logan director and co-writer James Mangold doesn’t feel any better about post-credits scenes now than he did earlier this week when he trashed the modern blockbuster trend made popular by Marvel Studios. Mangold remained critical of those scenes Saturday night, though he at least watched his language.
Mangold took to Twitter to explain why he feels so strongly about the subject. As he carried on with his thread, the recent Oscar® nominee took things even further than he did before, criticizing those who lie about just how much planning goes into their cinematic universes, the press who believe and regurgitate those falsehoods for profit, and even those lovely little Easter eggs fans love so much in movies.
“Many folks commented on my diatribe re: end credits scenes. Good points made by some who disagree. My vehemence comes from a belief these scenes r cinematic MSG/crack. Of course they feel good. They are designed to do that, like ads, as they hook you to buy the next film/s…
“And at the same time, I feel like the omnipresent expectation of them cheapens the integrity of a theatrical experience as the movie doesn’t stick its ending but rather dribbles to an end with a series of pleasing vignettes/ads for the thing they will sell you next year
“So its not so much the scenes I despise as much as I fear that movies (an art form I deeply love) are not advanced when they are no longer functioning as a form with a beginning middle and end but rather as part of a serialized money machine.
“These scenes promote a slightly false sense of fully realized ‘universe’ as if everyone behind scenes knows exactly what’s next in a saga, when the truth is a bit less charted despite what many tell a sycophantic press that makes $ on the ‘universes’ & the gossip mill they create.
“Lastly, the term ‘easter eggs’ a bit infantile &, at least 2 me, feels condescending toward a thoughtful & intellectual audience that might be treated w/ more respect than imagining them as kids jumping around trying to guess storylines from breadcrumbs dropped by corporations.
“One more thing. The argument that these scs. make people watch end credits is just lame. If you have to offer shiny objects to keep people watching the names of the crew, then they are not showing an ounce of respect for the crew. Just waiting like dogs for milk bones.”
There is a lot to unpack here. First, I don’t disagree with everything Mangold argued in this thread. The audience should not expect scenes during or after the credits on every movie they watch, even if it’s based on a comic book. I wonder if Mangold has simply grown tired of people asking him about or being critical of the lack of any such scenes attached to Logan. I know of one example that is probably the thorn in Mangold’s side, but more on that later.
Fans will obviously expect post-credits scenes from Marvel Studios because that’s been happening for 17 consecutive films (and it’s 18 now with Black Panther). Beyond that, however, the expectation really should not exist and even the expectation within the Marvel Cinematic Universe should change if the studio ever decides to stop doing them.
I do not agree with Mangold that the mere presence of a posts-credits scene means a film did not stick its landing before the credits started rolling. I didn’t feel that way when Mangold put one of those scenes in The Wolverine, nor have I felt that way regarding just about every post-credits scene I can recall. They are, at most, supplemental material not needed to complete the story just told, or a hint of what is to come in a universe that we all know is set to continue.
I would genuinely love to see Mangold discuss this subject with Joe and Anthony Russo. Mangold is clearly sticking up for the classic approach to cinematic storytelling, which he and many others believe to be the only one. Movies begin, some things happen in the middle, and then they end. That’s it. Many filmmakers agree with that, but The Russo Brothers, who are now directing their third and fourth Marvel Studios movies, have been very outspoken regarding the evolution, or at least expansion of filmmaking into new narrative structures that include the kind of serialized storytelling with which Marvel has been so successful.
This is not a call for The Russos to come put Mangold in his place. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s always enjoyable, to me anyway, when smart, accomplished filmmakers engage in conversations like this. A good debate with intelligent people passionately and respectfully arguing opposing views on the very nature of film is often enlightening for the participants and observers.
As for Mangold’s point about many people giving the “sycophantic press” a false impression that these cinematic universes are more carefully planned out ahead of time than they actually are, that simply hasn’t been my experience. I’ve attended several press events for shared universe movies. I’ve also interviewed James Mangold. No one has ever told me, individually or as part of a group at a press conference, that they’ve planned out every step of their universe from the beginning.
Yes, there are hands guiding the process along, but even the grandmaster of shared universes, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige, has only described his future planning as a loose outline at most. The film that they are making right then and there always takes priority. The existence of post-credits scenes does not change that methodology, nor does it invalidate the sincerity of the filmmakers insisting they are prioritizing the present film.
The words “sycophantic press” are going to make Mangold a hero amongst the crowd that hates how much praise the MCU and Star Wars have received in recent years while the DC Films Universe has struggled. Of course, a couple DC movies have had post-credits scenes and Mangold has had one. Many of the same critics and entertainment reporters that have often praised the MCU also loved Logan to pieces last year. Were they also being sycophants then?
There are a lot of problems within entertainment reporting. The mere existence of post-credits scenes, however, is not one of them. This is where it’s probably getting personal for Mangold because he was very annoyed with The Wrap about a year ago when the outlet reported Deadpool would make some sort of appearance in Logan, probably during or after the credits.
Mangold shot down the story and got into heated discussions with the reporter behind it, Umberto Gonzalez. Ultimately, there was no Deadpool appearance in Logan, but there was the Deadpool 2 “No Good Deed” short that played in front of Mangold’s film last year. I wonder if any lingering frustration from that sequence of events is fueling Mangold’s comments this week.
Finally, Mangold’s remarks about Easter eggs are just plain curmudgeonly. That’s the nicest way to put it, as he’s also being hypocritical (both of Mangold’s Wolverine movies have Easter eggs) and perhaps a bit pretentious. His argument that the audience is being infantilized while on the receiving end of Hollywood’s condescension presumes that those same moviegoers who carefully watched and enjoyed his Logan are incapable of performing those same tasks for other films while also noticing a nice little cinematic or comic book homage that takes up no more than half a second of their attention.
None of this is to say Mangold’s larger point should be casually dismissed. These are the kinds of conversations we should be having about movies and how they can best tell stories. I look forward to whatever else Mangold has to say on the subject, as well as any other filmmaker who agrees or disagrees with the Logan director.