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Oscar nominations 2018: why Logan’s Best Adapted Screenplay nod is such a surprise

It’s rare that the Academy recognizes comic book or superhero movies beyond technical categories.

Hugh Jackman in Logan.
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

The 2018 Academy Award nominations were announced on Tuesday morning, and one of the biggest surprises was the recognition of an X-Man. More specifically, Logan and its writers — Scott Frank, Michael Green, and director James Mangold — were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.

The post-apocalyptic Western is loosely based on the Old Man Logan comic book series — hence the “adapted” designation of its screenplay nomination — and envisions a world in which no new mutants are born and Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, is a scarred hero and relic of the past.

Logan’s nomination isn’t that surprising in the context of its stellar reviews, but it is surprising in terms of its place in the superhero genre: Live-action superhero movies have received very little attention from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences beyond the costume and technical categories. Pixar’s The Incredibles was nominated for Best Original Screenplay in 2005, but that animated film, while excellent, is a different breed of superhero story from the comics-inspired blockbusters that have dominated much of the cultural conversation for the past decade.

Last year, some critics believed that Deadpool, which garnered Golden Globe, Producers Guild, and Critics Choice nominations, was snubbed by the Oscars, but that’s nothing compared to the biggest head-scratcher regarding the Academy’s habitual neglect of the genre: Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, generally considered one of the best modern superhero films, was shut out of the major nominations in 2009. (Heath Ledger won a posthumous Best Supporting Actor trophy for playing the Joker; the film also won for Sound Editing.)

If Logan were to win, it would be an indication to fans of the genre that superhero movies might finally be getting the recognition they deserve — though its nomination alone is already a big step forward.

The Academy Awards will be presented on March 4, 2018.

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