Thanks to the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the clusterfuck that DC calls an Extended Universe, superhero movies are often dismissed as childish soap operas where costumed elitists resolve drama by punching each other for 15 minutes. Logan averts this so much that it could be mistaken for a Western if not for its protagonist who has knives in his knuckles.
In a bleak future, Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) are two of the few remaining mutants, who are now nearing extinction. Living in isolation and tired of life, Logan is forced to become the hero he once was when the life of the mysterious girl Laura (Dafne Keen), who has abilities similar to his, is threatened by sinister forces.
As shown in the trailers, Logan promised to be a different kind of superhero movie. The third Wolverine entry succeeded in not only fulfilling these promises, but in setting a new standard for a genre nearing dangerous levels of saturation and repetition.
From Spandex To Alcoholism
Given how Logan is still a modern superhero movie by association, some might worry that the film would one more set-up to yet another planned franchise of interconnected movies. Instead, Logan is the mature stand-alone story that fans of Jackman’s career-making performance have been waiting for.
Gone are the epic fights where the X-Men fought threats to peace between humanity and mutantkind. In these heroes’ place is a lonely, broken Logan who relies more on alcohol poisoning than his healing abilities to mend his scars. For his last run as the titular character, Jackman gives it his all and delivers a performance that somehow turns gore and the word “Fuck” into emotional beats that hammer in the hopeless atmosphere Logan avoids by drinking himself to death.
Without a team of mutants (or otherwise) to crowd the screen, the latest X-Men spin-off gives more than enough screen time to every member of its small cast. Doing so makes each individual’s story just as compelling as Logan’s, but not enough to overshadow the central arc. The minimalist nature of Logan in comparison to other examples of the genre drives home the point that it is a personal story about an old man who just so happens to have the best immune system ever known to man.
In a time when cinematic superheroes almost always end up as toys being sold to kids, Logan is more than just a change of pace that brings a mature understanding of grit to the genre. Logan also serves as the much needed wake-up call for superheroes to grow the fuck up.
Despite being a grounded and serious adaptation of an X-Men character, Logan is still a comic book movie at heart. While its characters deal with relatively mundane problems like balancing jobs and buying medicine, they still live in a world where the Cuban Missile Crisis was instigated by an evil super-powered Kevin Bacon, not communists or the allies of the Soviet Union. Due to the trappings of comic book movies, the progression of events in Logan may come off as predictable to observant viewers. But even if this may be the case, Logan is told with such skill that the movie’s more harrowing scenes successfully draw the desired emotional response from audiences.
I can attest to this because there were some moments when I was close to crying like a bitch.
It also says something about the filmmakers’ capabilities when outlandish elements like mad scientists, cybernetically enhanced soldiers and a surprisingly foul-mouthed Patrick Stewart don’t tone down the story’s tension and bitterness. Even if one particular character who shows up halfway through the movie may be considered to be too much of a “comic book moment” to be taken seriously, this newcomer still manages to be an intimidating presence who may be deemed forced rather than dramatically ironic by some jaded audience members (i.e. killjoys), such as yours truly.
Yet even if it had the right to shit all over the recent X-Men movies for being too similar to what Marvel churns out on a biannual basis, Logan instead pays tribute to its predecessors. Whereas Zack Snyder used Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice to insult Superman’s altruistic legacy because the director’s disturbing Batman-themed fascist power fantasies get him hot and bothered at night, director James Mangold used Logan to show a fan-favorite character at his most adult and visceral form.
Seeing ageless action figures punch evil things while spouting quips may be fun, but the party can only last so long. Logan knows this, and shows audiences the logical, cynical extreme of an aged superhero. Thankfully, this is done in a respectable manner that it come as timely for older viewers instead of mean-spirited, like an entire movie dedicated to showing how useless Superman is.
We’ll Miss Him So
Outside of a middle act that bogs down the pacing, there’s little else to say about Logan. What few faults I cited can be chalked up to personal preference, since these gripes do little to affect the movie as a whole. Logan is a well-made superhero take on age and mortality that has more similarities to an old-school Western than a blockbuster superhero movie, and yet it still proudly shows off its comic book roots.
Jackman’s finale for a character he cares for is currently the closest thing to superhero movie perfection. It’s obvious that Fox won’t stop making more X-Men movies, but the generation of mutants that Jackman and Stewart defined is definitely over. As painful as this may be for nostalgic fans, there is no other fitting swan song for Xavier’s gifted children than Logan. The movie’s lack of the obligatory post-credits scene speaks volumes in a landscape dominated by superhero franchises.
Logan is different, emotional, and something fans should not miss. For those who outgrew the indistinguishable heroics of standard superhero fare, Logan is the depressing breath of fresh air that proves that comic superheroes can mature when given the chance.
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