When Logan first came out back in early 2017, much was made about it being the rare Marvel film that lacks a post-credits stinger, something that has been all but requisite in most superhero films ever since Samuel Jackson showed up to tell Tony Stark about the Avengers Initiative back at the end of Iron Man in 2008. At the time, director James Mangold said he was trying to do something different, arguing those scenes are little more than “ads for another movie,” and all but saying it’s lazy filmmaking to tack an additional scene onto the end of a movie. (“That’s not how the best movies are going to get made… in any genre,” were his exact words.)
It seems the intervening year has done nothing to soften Mangold’s dislike of post-credits sequences. Cinema Blend reports the director opened up over the weekend at the Writers Guild Association Beyond Words Panel, where he took the opportunity to gently remind everyone of his opinion on stingers by labeling them “fucking embarrassing.” In case you thought Mangold would pull punches, he didn’t. At all:
The idea of making a movie that would fucking embarrass me, that’s part of the anesthetizing of this country or the world. That’s further confirming what they already know and tying in with other fucking products and selling them the next movie while you’re making this movie, and kind of all that shit that I find really fucking embarrassing. Like, that audiences are actually asking for scenes in end credits when those scenes were first developed for movies that suck, so they put something extra at the end to pick up the scores when the movie couldn’t end right on its own fucking feet.
While many would have figured they had made their point with such a statement, and gone home to tick off the box on their to-do list that read, “Publicly excoriate anyone who participates in the process of making comic-book movies that include post-credits scenes,” Mangold wasn’t quite sure you got the message. So he went on to assure everyone that, yes, he was shitting on those who participate in such a process.
Now we’ve actually gotten audiences addicted to a fucking bonus in the credits. It’s fucking embarrassing. It means you couldn’t land your fucking movie is what it means. Even if you got 100,000 Twitter addicts who are gambling on what fucking scene is going to happen after the fucking credits it’s still cheating. It’s just cheating, but there’s all sorts of bad habits like that that fucking horrify me, man, that have become de rigueur in the way we make movies and I think the fear of being one of them that did that end then everyone’s patting me on the back and I feel like shit inside because I know I cheated, is probably the greatest thing that scares the shit out of me.
We all say things in the heat of the moment that might be a little stronger than we had intended. Especially when you’re debating the merits of a particular piece of pop culture, or just teeing off on something that irritates you, it’s not hard to go from “I don’t like that thing” to “Anyone who likes that thing is stupid,” just to emphasize your point—even if you don’t actually believe the latter. And as with many of us who held court late at night about a topic only to regret our choice of words in the morning, io9 points out Mangold took to Twitter over the weekend to make a slightly more nuanced version of his argument, in essence saying he think its cheapens the cinematic experience and weakens the impact of the film by adding what are in essence marketing materials for a subsequent story.
So, there’s a couple of issues to unpack here, but overall it seems like Mangold is being unnecessarily harsh on the idea of the stinger. His point that movies need to stand on their own—a story with a beginning, middle, and end—is more or less accurate. (Exceptions can obviously be made for intentional trilogies or larger stories; no one’s mad that Empire Strikes Back doesn’t resolve the larger narrative.) And his fear of movies just becoming part of a “serialized money machine” is certainly valid—we’ve all seen shitty cash grabs of films that should never have made it out of the development stage.
But his anger seems weirdly misguided in a lot of ways. Post-credits scenes, at least in the modern era, are largely limited to comic-book films, embracing the serialized nature of the genre while hearkening back to the “tune in next time” era from which many of these stories first evolved. Of course they’re designed to get you excited about future installments—no one is disputing that. But the idea that it has any correlation to a film failing to “stick its ending” doesn’t pan out. Either a movie works or it doesn’t, and there’s zero evidence to support the idea that a stinger scene makes anyone think differently about the movie that preceded it.
His third post evens seems to reaffirm this, as he admits his issue is less with the scenes themselves than with the “fear” that they contribute to the reduction of the film as an art form, which, again, no evidence of that as far as I can tell. The whole issue of a cinematic universe does raise plenty of questions about how individual films relate to the larger whole, but contrary to Mangold’s point, it doesn’t really matter whether the people behind the scenes have a clear a grasp of a larger story as marketing sometimes makes it seem. Audiences will continue to evaluate these narratives as they come, one at a time, and no stinger scene (or Captain America cameo in the middle of your lackluster second installment) is going to change that.
Lastly, the idea that the term “Easter Egg” is condescending rings false as well. If you’re looking at it from Mangold’s point of view, as a way to get “kids jumping around trying to guess storylines from breadcrumbs dropped by corporations,” then oof, yeah, that sounds pretty bad. But that’s not actually what Easter eggs are for the most part. They’re generally more obscure references, or deep-cut symbolism/imagery from a beloved canon that provides depth and framing for fans who have known these properties intimately for a long time. Are there stupid Easter eggs? Sure. But there are entire stupid movies that damage the superhero genre far more than some set designer hiding a map of Wakanda in the background of an Iron Man 2 scene.
Mangold’s general thesis about his concern for the state of cinema is perfectly sound. But his weird fixation on post-credits scenes as some meaningful symbol of the medium’s decline is misdirected. Still, we’re excited for that Logan spin-off movie. Perhaps it will really mix things up by including a mid-credits scene?