Logan (2017)

Directed by James Mangold

Contains spoilers.

The superhero genre has reached a plateau much like the comic industry wherein stories, characters, scenarios, and even jokes are formulaic and recycled into oblivion. Logan, on the other hand, only has a single line of dialogue that could be considered generic or cliche. The rest of the film is as original and thrilling as any film could be.

Logan transports us to a near future in which mutants are a vanishing species. Logan is working as a limousine driver in Texas. He takes money and medicine over the border to a hideout where he's taking care of the ailing Xavier with the help of Caliban, another mutant. They have a plan to eventually buy a boat and live on the water, where they'll be safe and out of the way. Before they can save enough, however, a nurse named Gabriella arrives from Mexico City with 11-year-old Laura in tow and asks for his help in getting her all the way to Canada. Although initially reluctant, he gives in to Gabriella's promise of $50,000, agreeing to ferry them through America.

Despite Wolverine's legacy as a ruthless, cold-blooded killer, Logan takes it's time to bring us up to speed without being overbearing or tactless. Mangold brings us into a world that's nothing, if not empty, to Logan. He's no longer the Wolverine, and the world at large holds nothing for him. All he cares about is keeping Xavier safe. Beyond that, we can see his apathy towards living. Mangold takes the requisite time to show us Logan's measured alcoholism and his reluctance to accept his increasingly varied physical ailments. There's nothing in his world to be happy about, and the mood of the film reflects that.

This film marks a massive departure in tone and pacing for the comic and superhero genre. This measured, purposeful style  of comic storytelling hasn't been seen since M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, and the only recent superhero films that compare are those of Christopher Nolan's Batman. The production invokes recent favorites like Sicario and even Mad Max: Fury Road at times, with the atmosphere swaying seamlessly between thrilling, pulse-pounding, and desperate urgency.

...these resounding themes, measured pace, and bleak tone reflect and amplify the fact that Wolverine isn't Wolverine anymore.

 

While many comic films have resounding themes of patriotism, heroism, honor, and doing the right thing, this comic film finds itself in the sweeping throes of themes like desperation, hopelessness, the feeling of being an outsider, inner turmoil, denial, loneliness, and even dependence on loneliness. Wolverine used to be our typical antihero. He was rebellious, uncouth, and suave in a desperado-kind-of-way. But these resounding themes, measured pace, and bleak tone reflect and amplify the fact that Wolverine isn't Wolverine anymore. His life used to be colorful, eventful, and meaningful, but he is no longer those things; he's Logan, now. In much the same way that Laura is trying to escape the future that she's decided she cannot live with, Logan is running from the past that he cannot live with.

Mangold shows us an evolved Logan. He shows us that there's no longer a Wolverine seeking redemption; there's only Logan seeking purpose, far from the bravado of his youth and willful heroism. This is a complete turnaround from previous entries. X-Men used to show mutants with dogged determination, full of pride and eagerness. Logan emphasizes that this is no longer the case.

 

Hugh Jackman crowns his turn as Wolverine with a tour de force as he hands his reigns to Dafne Keen, a bilingual, energetic youth who still shrouds the film in mysterious pensiveness. Each was the perfect choice for their iconic roles. Patrick Stewart leaves us with an equally compelling performance, displaying the frailty, fragility, and vulnerability that contrasts the once immense power of his character.

Cinematographer John Mathieson creates a bleak and open world in which Logan and Laura are running, and composer Marco Beltrami creates a haunting insistency that underpins their odyssey.

 

The result plays out like a perfect concerto. There's a methodic build that involves us with the characters. There's a Western-styled story that turns hiding out into desperately running from certain doom. There are problems that we actually give a shit about. Amid the bleak and lonely tone there's a visceral, gut-wrenching aspect throughout. The visible pain, the unbelievable fragility, the constant doubt... The real art of Logan are these small moments of picturesque and beautiful breathing room that capture the longing loneliness and desperation that drag us from our fourth wall into a state of care.

The soundtrack pulses perfectly with the plot as the it reaches crescendo after crescendo of emotionally charged action. As an R-rated superhero movie, this is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Deadpool. Whereas the Merc with a Mouth is action-packed and full of comic relief, Logan's story is far more based in dramatic tension and thrilling odds.

Despite this metered beauty, the script does suffer from a few pitfalls, like Logan's personal inner conflict with the demons of his past being brought to literal personification as the primary, physical antagonist, X-24. X-24 is a clone of Wolverine, containing the same healing abilities and even the same adamantium skeleton and claws, but he has no soul. He's a tool and nothing more, never speaking or showing any emotion beyond rage. The trouble with a villain who has no emotion is that he has no purpose, so in the end he serves only as the foil to Logan. There are some perfect villains who could've fit into this story, such as Daken, Logan's son, with a motivation that could've reflected perfectly against the bond being built between Logan and Laura. However, X-24 does serve to bring some finality to the inner turmoil that Logan has long suffered from, creating a good blend of simplicity and savagery. Even if he is an ultimately forgettable villain, he allows Mangold to spend more time building the film's world, drawing us into it's straightforward odyssey.

Logan proves to be the Winter Soldier of the X-Men franchise. It's the Winter Soldier that Civil War should've been. Logan has officially set a new standard for comic films. In place of a character-packed reference-travaganza with a deus ex machina of a story we have a perfect storm of seat-gripping tension and spine-tingling action with characters and emotion that actually matter: the danger is real and no one is safe. Unlike the Captain America films, where every hero is safe, people actually fucking die.

 

TL;DR: We've seen Logan as an energetic warfighter. He's been happy to be a hero. And he's been a dependable comrade. But this time, for once, it's uncertain if our beloved mutant can beat the odds. Logan is a story that had to be told, and is told with unmatched skill, precision, and beauty. No dance-like fights. No padded casts of unnecessary characters. No safety. Only survival, despair, drama, and face-numbing suspense that the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn't yet experienced. It remains to be seen if it's possible for a superhero film to be made that is better than Logan. Time will tell but, for now, Jackman and Stewart's final runs in the franchise shall stand as the penultimate plateau of the comic genre.

  • Acting – 18 / 20
  • Story – 16 / 20
  • Cinematography – 17 / 20
  • Soundtrack – 10 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 10 / 10
  • Thriller/Action/Superhero – 8 / 10
  • Other – 9 / 10

Grade B = 88 / 100