A gleaming piece of work that defines yet masterfully transcends the superhero genre.
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Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart
Release Date: March 3, 2017
MPAA Rating: R
It’s finally happened – an original superhero film that isn’t a superhero film; A bold, fearless vision that will be remembered as one of the great comic book movies of all time, yet have its own place in anomaly. Logan is that movie, the final chapter in the story of former X-Men mutants Wolverine and Charles Xavier, epitomizing the whole superhero genre itself.
The year is 2029, and the vast majority of the mutant population has been wiped out. We find both Logan and Charles Xavier aged and void of their past. Logan has become a limo driver, trying to make as much money as he can to care for the ill Xavier. When the two come across a young mutant named Laura, who is being hunted down by an evil organization called Transigen, they learn more about themselves, each other, and life than ever before.
Set against the barren and barbarous backdrop of the American Southwest, the film is truly a rousing action-Western, with non-stop fun and grit. The grisly action is indulgently exciting, yet the pathos in between is what takes the story to another level.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, both saying goodbye to their X-Men roles after seventeen years, couldn’t take their final bows in a better way. Both are truly fantastic, able to evoke incredible performances of sentiment unlike any comic book film ever. 11-year old Dafne Keene is additionally quite impressive in her subtle yet fierce performance as Laura, bringing a hidden depth to her character that becomes a Hallmark of the movie.
James Mangold’s story and screenplay is finer than just maybe any superhero film ever. The way he delicately captures mature themes while also balancing out the weight of the X-Men universe is outstanding. Throughout the story, Mangold is able to bring out that the true conflict lies within Logan, trying to be at peace with himself. He’s been alive for two centuries, and he is quite incapable of feeling love.
These fervent themes are found in Logan’s intimate moments, in lines such as when Xavier says, “Logan, you still have time.” or “This is what life looks like: people love each other. You should take a moment.”
This strength and potency never stops building, even into the final brilliant moments of the film, leaving quite an impression when the credits roll.
But, unfortunately, in its resolution, Logan turns back to some of the stale and annoying superhero clichés of previous Marvel works. Its brashness feels out of place from the exquisite minimalism that defined the entirety of the story, almost aggravating the preceding mood. If it wasn’t for the recurrence of these antics smack in the heart of the final act, the film could have joined the ranks of the great action movies of all-time. Nevertheless, it doesn’t get out of control and stays grounded in its soulful themes and grown-up action.
But even within all the violence and ferocity that happens throughout the film, it is still able to find an ethical root, even having small yet genuine moments of philosophy and existentialism.
The story undeniably emphasizes to choose not to see the negatives in your life, but rather what makes you special and unique. As Logan is crippled and resentful at who he has become, Laura is able to bring out the good that is deeply hidden within him. He is able to see that being made into a war machine will not define who he is, but rather the true Wolverine – Logan – will, just as Laura sees in the X-Men comic books she carries with her. Continually realizing this little by little, he tells Laura, “Don’t be what they made you.”
Indeed, that is the ideal that was created with the X-Men – to not isolate yourself because of your differences, but to rather use those differences for the good of you and others alike; to embrace who you are. Logan will undoubtedly be a symbol of those themes for much time to come, a gleaming piece of work that defines yet masterfully transcends the superhero genre.