Logan Isn’t Afraid to Break New Ground

March 3, 2017


Logan, the newest X-Men movie from director James Mangold, delivers the best send off to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine that fans could have hoped for. It’s no secret that Fox’s X-Men franchise has had its ups, downs, and outright flops, but Logan, like last year’s Deadpool, offers a fresh take on a superhero genre that has been growing stale. The film wisely avoids the veritable mess that is the storyline established by other X-Men films like Apocalypse and Days of Future Past and instead chooses to set itself in the far future. Mutants are a thing of the past, and an aged Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is the caretaker of a dementia-addled Professor X (Patrick Stewart). From the onset, the movie deals with themes of loss, grief, and acceptance with an intensity seldom found in blockbusters. Watching the two actors embody their characters for the last time is bittersweet, to say the least—just as Jackman and Stewart take a final turn in dealing with their characters’ flaws and vices, so too must Wolverine and Professor X come to terms with their imminent demise.

Jackman and Stewart have dealt with their characterizations of famous superheroes, on and off, for 17 years. With their performances in Logan, both actors exhibit their thorough understanding of Wolverine and Professor X on an intensely personal level. Both performances establish and accent the tone of heavy dread and helplessness the movie creates, while their constant banter injects levity and reveals the close connection the two actors have formed over the years. The supporting cast of the movie, which features Stephen Merchant, Richard Grant, and Boyd Holbrook, adds life and is able to build a believable world for the characters to evolve and form relationships in. Dafne Keen in particular, only 11 years old, delivers an outstanding portrayal of the enigmatic Laura, a child whose relationship to Wolverine is kept under wraps and teased out with near perfect pace and rhythm.

The quality of Logan’s writing and plot development is, bar none, the best work done in the superhero genre to date. While Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy deliver fun, fast-paced action and attempt to add depth to their characters, Logan is a harrowing two-and-a-half-hour journey into what it means to develop a family and deal with loss. The relatively smaller focus of the film—no planets are about to be destroyed, nor governments toppled—grounds the story firmly in a world that, despite its fantasy, is intensely human and understandable. The death of one character, by consequence, means more than any alien invasion or annihilation of a city in your run-of-the-mill superhero blockbuster. The writing team, headed by Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green, does superb job of making each character unique and encouraging the audience.

Logan’s true strength lies in embracing what makes it unique. The R-rating allows every scene—from the visceral brawls to the quietest moments—to gain an extra edge. Whereas all other films in the franchise (excluding Deadpool) constantly had to pull punches in storytelling and action sequences, Logan is free to tell the story of discrimination, brutality, and loss that its characters deserve. The writers, unfettered by concerns of appealing to the widest audience possible, were allowed to delve into what it means to accept one’s mortality and the hardships involved in reckoning with one’s past. The fight choreography is superb, and action scenes often do just as much to characterize Wolverine and company as their dialogue. Whereas the Wolverine movies of the past always felt like one foot was held over the brake, Logan steps on the gas without a second thought.

This is not to say the movie is without its faults. Occasionally, the R-rating that frees most of the movie is a bit too liberating, in a “did we really need to see that metal claw go through all of their heads?” kind of way. Although cutting ties with the rest of the X-Men franchise was a smart move, it leaves much to be explained, and exposition is occasionally told rather than shown. The writers are able to cover it well, but certain characters seem to have been created for the express purpose of introducing new concepts and building the world around them. However, at the end of the day, between the fluidity of the action and the meticulous attention to detail of the plot, such flaws are easily forgiven.

Most importantly, Logan is a superhero movie without superheroes. Captain America is not insisting on the righteousness of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Tony Stark doesn’t drop a clever quip every other line. The movie accepts that it isn’t made for some (those who considered X-Men: Apocalypse a franchise high-point may want to consider skipping this most recent installment) but delivers a rare treat to those it is catered toward: a story that embraces its niche position in both its own cinematic universe and in our movie theatres, pandering to no one. Logan isn’t afraid to treat its characters like humans—humans who are fallible and ultimately willing to change.

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