BY ZOEY SMITH:
I’m just going to come out and say it.
I hate super hero films.
No, I don’t…. But like….
I think what bothers me is how staid the genre’s Hollywood presence has become. Marvel’s philosophy of making ‘safe-but-good-enough’ films rarely leaves me feeling satisfied, excluding the studio’s more adventurous projects like Ant Man and Guardians of the Galaxy (which admittedly still feel a bit focus-tested, at times). My expectations for Marvel films are rarely surpassed, nor are they let down. I’ll always buy tickets for a new Captain America film, but will these thrills always remain the same? Will I always have to live with this unappeasable anxiety that I’ll never be given a reason to adjust my expectations?
I honestly had no idea what to expect from Logan, the 3rd and final X-Men spin-off film featuring the franchise’s most popular asset, Huge Jackman. Prior to seeing the film, I felt that the prospects of an R-rated super hero film held interesting potential. Early trailers revealed what looked like a bit more of a dramatic, serious experience than your typical big-budget comic book adaptation, but with that nice R-rated cherry on top. This new direction looked very promising! BUT, if films like Zack Snyder’s Watchmen are any indication, nuance and integrity vital to so many comic-book stories aiming for thematic resonance can be lost on filmmakers more interesting in leveraging the more superficial details and crowd-pleasing spectacle of the super hero story in question.
In Hugh Jackman’s final performance in his iconic role, we see an aged, morose, purposeless Wolverine get roped into helping a young girl with mutant power escape from U.S.-sanctioned mercenary death squads hellbent on eradicating on what was a failed experiment to engineer super soldiers out of laboratory-grown children.
We find Logan at the start of the film as a man that’s all but given up on the world. With nearly all of mutant-kind has been eradicated, the Wolverine’s days as an agent of good are of no value to the dominant society; shadow agencies have ensured that the status quo remains dominant in society with nearly limitless use of violence. There is no reason to be good, because there is no thanks, no respect, no acceptance of mutant-kind. How bleak.
In many ways, Logan dives heavily into tropes from Dystopic and Western fiction; the distant loner is faced with doing the right thing, the ever-present threat of lawless consequence, the torment of knowing that violence his behind every corner, the need for sacrifice to protect those you love.
Nothing about this film is fun; the nerd-gasmic proposition of cool, gritty Wolverine battles are completely displaced by the urgency and bleakness surrounding every encounter. Every action sequence is undercut with anxiety, a desperate hope that our heroes will have enough time to get the heck out of whatever nasty corner they’ve been backed into.
Hugh Jackman’s pitch-perfect performance is accompanied by Patrick Stewart’s astoundingly tragic performance as Charles Xavier/Professor X. Dafne Keen’s performance as Laura Kinney, code-named X-23, is simply arresting. Child stars rarely measure up to the performances of those around them, which makes Keen’s unnaturally adept presence even more striking.
On a technical level, the film is marvelous. Even with a 137-minute run time, there is not a wasted moment on screen, as every encounter steers the plot into interesting and unpredictable directions. Every exchange is expertly crafted, every line of dialogue one adding character depth and tension. Back this up with a suitably evocative (if unmemorable) score and you have the perfect recipe some of the most effective drama to take place in an action film in a long time.
I was not prepared to see such heart and emotion in what I dreaded was going to be one of the first cynical cash-grabs in our post-Deadpool world. Instead, we got a seriously somber, poignant film about loss, violence, and survival in the clutches of a cruel, callous world. Absolutely see this film.