Genre: Superhero, Drama Director: James Mangold Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
My subtitle for this review was almost “another dystopian superhero movie” giving the implication that I’m exhausted with this type of depressive film surrounding a well known superhero. I’m not sure why… I can’t think of a single number of superhero films attributed to a certain comic book company that sacrificed fun for the sake of being depressing watches…
But I didn’t use that subtitle.
Simply put, Logan is a film that will be remembered for a long long time. It will be considered a standard which future superhero movies will be measured up against. The last time that this occurred was the Batman film The Dark Knight, and for many of the same reasons this is very much history repeating itself.
Do I think that Logan is worthy of that recognition? Well yes, but for somewhat different reasons.
But first the plot; it is the distant future, mutants across the world are on the brink of extinction, with many dying off due to unknown conditions. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is hiding out on the Mexican border working as a limo driver while caring for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is suffering from a brain condition that makes him dangerous to others. One day this exile is disrupted by a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who was used for experiments by evil corporation Transigen. On the run from them and their Chief of Security (Boyd Holbrook) she turns to the Wolverine for help, only to find an ageing and dying Logan instead.
So what I’ve got to talk about first with this film is the tone; it’s depressing and quiet atmosphere suits the nature of the story perfectly and makes moments where things turn intense and violent all the more dramatic. Having a tired and worn out Logan alongside a desperate but still kind Xavier adds to this sense of hopelessness that carries throughout the film. That, as well as the use of the road trip style plot gives Logan a depth and personal investment that can be difficult for other films to reach.
This isn’t to say that all of it is grim and serious; there’s still laughs to be had throughout, and even a moment which made me think of Fawlty Towers.. I’ll let you theorise which one.
The acting is of course very well done; as a swan song for Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, this was – in my opinion – the best way to do it, with a definitive ending to their stories. Dafne Keen as the quiet but by no means inconsequential companion to Logan works very well, and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye if she intends to do more films.
People have compared the dynamic between Logan and Laura with Joel and Ellie from the Playstation game The Last of Us. But while there are similarities in situation and character, I would argue that there is still a difference between the two. Logan is more tired with the world and with fighting than even Joel ever was and Laura is more reserved than Ellie. It’s different enough to make the distinction.
Other characters do crop up of course, some stronger than others. Pierce is a great villain for this sort of film, coming off as a fan of the Wolverine, while also being calculating and shrewd in his actions; he knows when he is outmatched and how to outmatch his opponent. I wish there was more to him though, as it would be interesting to know more.
There’s also another mutant character named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who’s story in this is just tragic by the end. He could have been a bit more central to the plot; while he does play a role in many parts of the film, I just think that role could have easily been fulfilled by others. There’s the nurse character who first contacts Logan, Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who’s role – while short – is still pivotal to the plot and done very well. And finally, there’s Zander Rice (Richard Grant) who’s role is the most inconsequential out of the main characters in this film; it could easily have been done without him and have his part done by others.
And that’s that really; these are the reasons why I think Logan is good. It has a depth to it that other superhero films lack at times, it’s more of a somber march to the end than an attempt at energy and vibrancy that Singer’s X-Men films have. I wouldn’t even call it an X-Men film since – beyond the references to the very first of the X-Men films and even an easter egg from The Wolverine I think – none of them are brought up in any great detail. Logan is very much it’s own film, and it’s stronger as a result of that.
But going forward, not every film needs to be Logan.
Logan may benefit from being underplayed, dark and dramatic but the same isn’t true of all other superhero films. Remember when Fan4stic tried this and failed? Remember when Batman V Superman tried this and failed? I can bring up a lot of examples where copying the tone and style of a single film that’s successful is a bad idea.
Not that it’s a bad idea to take notes from Logan; just that not every film is suited for it.
But I digress, one other aspect of Logan that I really liked was the use of it’s comic book source material. And I don’t just mean plot elements; actual comic books of the X-Men are used as a plot device in the film, and I think that’s a really cool thing to do. Marvel’s Cinematic Universe does this at times too – use of it’s real life properties and merchandise used or referenced in their own film. It gives the films more life rather than being set within their own worlds.
Logan is a great film, I will not deny that. I’ve told you why I think it’s great, and if you’re interested in superhero films that have deep characterisation and story, definitely check this one out. I know it may seem pessimistic to be cautious about what lessons will be taken away from Logan it is a point that is worth making.
And in the future if people say that superhero movies can’t be dark and serious and be considered good? I’m gonna point to Logan (and The Dark Knight) and say “there is your film.”