While the past two decades saw a continuous uprise of superhero movies and birthed new comic book-based film franchises that now keep on chugging out new films (Marvel has been especially high-yielding, producing several Marvel universe movies each year), the staleness that started to show on the face of this trend first received a breath of fresh air in the form of the deliciously inappropriate Deadpool (2016). But beyond the inappropriate humour and risqué stunts, the ‘other’ side of the superheroes stepped into the light – funnily enough, by doing so, bringing a certain level of realism to the fantasy of it all. This was actually first done (at least on film) already in the rival DC Comics’ Man of Steel (2013) where Superman was faced with the ultimate dilemma; and especially in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), which took a more pronounced look into the flaws and dilemmas of each of the two titular superheroes. The concept of two superheroes battling it out as they battle their own demons was then replicated in Captain America: Civil War, finding its way into the movie scopes of Marvel universe.
Logan, inspired by the graphic novel Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, took a page from the book of heroes in dilemmas who are not quite in their best state. This was used only as a foreword to delve further into the darker realms of the Marvel universe, giving the Wolverine saga one of its alternate endings, but instead of having him battle another super hero, made him battle a replica of himself (used before in DC Comics’ universe, but quite fresh for Marvel). Wolverine was – from the get-go – one of the darker, perpetually guarded and more cynical Marvel characters. Stemming from that and from various apocalyptic scenarios that the X-Men went through in the source material, the story brings us to the year of 2029 – without any proper foreword to explain the actual course of events that brought us into this alternate reality.
The mutants are now almost extinct; we learn that it has been 25 years since the last new mutant was born. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now working as a limo driver in El Paso (Texas). This aged guy, who right from the first scene on looks uncharacteristically sick and tired, has little in common with the fast-healing hero who was once known as Wolverine. We soon figure out that he now lives just across the border, in Mexico, with the albino mutant tracker, Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) himself – but Professor X seems to be suffering from some sort of dementia; consequentially, his telepathic seizures pose a danger to anyone in a mile radius. To keep his escaping powers at bay and to keep his seizures from happening, Logan has been buying drugs to keep him sedated and locked away from the society in the middle of the desert. The situation is as grim and as hopeless as it gets already before Logan is approached by Gabriela, a nurse, who wants to hire him to escort an 11-year-old girl named Laura to North Dakota. Before Logan manages to get all the facts about her request, the shady government clouds descend and he finds himself on the run with Charles and Laura, who apparently has much more in common with him than the fact that she also turns out to be a mutant.
Being in line with the other X-Men movies, the story does take its superhero twists and turns, but that is hardly what Logan is about. This is the final stretch for the hero and all claws aside, it offers a heartfelt family/character drama. (Spoilers ahead!) While Charles tries to use whatever time he has left to teach Logan more about life, love and hope, the ultimate lesson comes to the latter in the form of Laura, who turns out to be his own (artificially created) daughter. Without it getting too cheesy, the audience gets to feel his slow, begrudging transition into Logan who might allow himself to genuinely love and care for others; he proves his devotion for Charles – the love that he holds for the man who changed the course of his existence all of those years ago is clearly evident especially in the final moments of Charles’ life. The fact that Charles meets his end at the hands/blades of X-24 is extra heart-breaking (and enraging), though it is hardly surprising that the perfect killing machine that the government facility – Transigen – devised in its quest to control mutants is, in fact, the ‘other’ Logan.
It is worth noting that the fictional Transigen’s quest of killing off the old while cleaning the slate for the new is completely in line with the death toll of the film. With the hinted deaths of past and the in-movie body count, the new is all that is left at the end, with Logan dotting the ‘i’ by self-sacrificing in order to bring about the possibility of the newly created mutants actually having a future. In those final moments, there is a nano-second when the feels spill over just a tad too much, but there probably could not have been a better way for Hugh Jackson’s Wolverine to bow out.
So. Logan in terms of acting? Brilliant, moving, with no stops pulled on all sides – as it was to be expected with the A-grade cast, and with an amazing feature film debut by Dafne Keen. Direction? Basically without a hitch. Screenplay? Mid-level fresh, but moving, much much more that your average superhero screenplay usually is. Meta level? High, with X-Men comics used as a storytelling method within the story. Violence level? Heads, quite literally, roll. Kleenex? Heavily recommended. All in all? A total must-watch, even if you’ve never seen an X-Men film in your life.
Written by Sanja Struna
All photos © 2016 – Twentieth Century Fox