We’ve suffered through a few rough installments of the X-Men series, and frankly, we’ve been suffering through a lot of superhero movies that blatantly ripped apart character development or spat in the face of canon all for the sake of the Big Audience. Blockbuster movies have been a staple of the superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genre for decades, and for many viewers, the predictable plot lines, deaths for shock value, and poor application of special effects, editing, or cinematography have made the movie-going experience a little stale. But we’ll go because we love the genre, and the production houses know it.
Last year, Fox Studios was backed into a corner when it released Deadpool, a rated R superhero (antihero) movie that featured sex, cursing, and more bloody murders than any red suit could conceal. It was a hilarious punch in the face to movie execs who swore that the superhero movie’s target audience was the PG-13 crowd, and it couldn’t be a success if there wasn’t the opportunity to market the movie to the whole family and pump out some serious merchandise for kiddos to gobble up.
What Deadpool did for the genre in terms of shaking things up, Logan has taken a step further by doing the unexpected. Going a step in another direction, Michael Green, David James Kelly, and James Mangold present a grim character-driven film that does what X-Men has always (or should have) done – presented the audience with interesting characters, a social commentary that is culturally relevant, and questions that stay with them when the lights go up.
Logan is a lightly-played prophetic dystopia of what feels like a very realistic future. It drives into the heart of society, of Logan and Charles Xavier, and of our own humanity while posing questions about personal autonomy. Mangold’s story has depth without exposition, and paired with John Mathieson’s eye for shooting compelling scenes, Logan is a beautiful film – something that most superhero movies can’t claim. There’s action, explosions, and all the other traditional action fodder that audiences eat up, but it’s done in a way that is compelling. There were moments while watching I was captivated by stunts and choreography that I hadn’t seen before. And even better, Logan doesn’t guarantee anyone’s safety; there’s no sense of the hero shall prevail. Instead, the audience is in the moment, not sure whether or not anyone will make it to the next day. There’s no nightmare to wake up from, and everything will not be okay.
Beyond the outstanding visuals and somber story, the acting of Sir Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Dafne Keene (who we should all most certainly watch) was superb. Perhaps there was more body to the script than previous movies, but Logan simply stands out from the performances of previous installments. The supporting cast, including Orange is the New Black‘s Elizabeth Rodriguez, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, and Eriq La Salle, is excellent as well, seamlessly adding to the dynamic of the narrative.
At this point, I don’t have any criticisms of the film – the questions left unanswered aren’t truly relevant to appreciating the story we were given. There was drama, humor, action, and meta-references that actually prove to aid the story and aren’t a standalone prop for fans to point and smile at. To top off the already deep satisfaction of the film’s ending, Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” plays us off in a fitting tribute to the title character. Hopefully the success of this film leads to more R-rated, character driven flicks that do these characters and their stories justice. These movies don’t have to be guys and gals in spandex who never curse; take these characters and ground them in reality and you still have an extremely compelling story to tell, both through narrative and visually.