Short version: a very good movie that manages to have grit and pathos occupy its same space. Far from a cinematic worse-case scenario of what would happen if movies based on superhero comics embraced all of the things that usually stay on the page (read: in this case the, “grim and gritty” comics trend of the 1990s), what we have is a movie that is here because of years of build up and cultural osmosis similar to that of the, “Toy Story ” movie series, yet stands out as its own brutal, tragic beast. I teared up quite a few times while watching this, and I love how the movie is able to be political and about the plight of minorities, similar to Bryan Singer’s first two, “X-Men” efforts, without relying on obvious narrative tricks or symbolism (until the end, anyway). Please see this, because James Mangold, co-writers Scott Frank and Michael Green, composer Marco Beltrami, cinematographer John Mathieson, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and ESPECIALLY Dafne Keen (amongst others) deserve a hell of a lot of praise for pulling this off.
Longer version: while the movie is very good, it’s like, “The Dark Knight” in that it piggybacks on the trends and motifs of other movies and stories to create a pretty damned good remix of the movies that just so happens to have one of the most well-known comic book characters as the protagonist. That’s not necessarily a criticism (and besides, at least James Mangold has experience, what with directing the, “3:10 to Yuma” remake with Russel Crowe), it’s just the way it is. It appears that the trick to making a damn good superhero movie that just so happens to be well-liked by critics is by stripping off the outlandishness of the comics and presenting the end result to the audience like a salmon filet. Which…well, isn’t a bad thing, it’s just curious how director Bryan Singer can make the X-Men outright mock the yellow and blue spandex of the source material in his first, “X-Men” directorial effort while this movie all but has Logan do a meta pox on Marvel for ever creating him and somehow actually holds up in comparison.
My preceding paragraph probably breaks the rule of discussing the core movie as opposed to going on tangents about subjects I find to have similarities to it (like that’s ever stopped me before). But the hard truth is the movie has a lot of impact mostly because we live in a culture where characters like the X-Men are so well-known across different mediums. Which isn’t to say the movie doesn’t have some solid to great moviemaking chops. There are moments that play out like an imitator to the fatalism and politics of, “Hell or High Water”, followed by a sequence where Dafne Keen’s character Laura, Hugh Jackman’s Logan and Patrick Stewart’s Charles watch key scenes of the movie, “Shane” together in a hotel room, with this used as a potent callback by the movie’s end. And you know what? That’s fine. It’s just that one can’t help BUT approach the work as a cultural piece and not just as a movie. This is pop-culture, twisted, given a political edge and in some ways not too dissimilar to the infamous Warren Ellis-written comic series, “Ruins”. Thank fuck that the movie doesn’t feature The Hulk’s orc-like spawns from the, “Old Man Logan” comic series, however.
The movie is also quite political, just in ways that are demonstrated through the setting and character motivation and in masterful ways. Without giving too much away, the movie somehow works in some harsh looks at anti-immigrant/racist facism by utilizing not just the movie’s sparse cast of mutants, but the entire situation that Logan, Laura and Charles find themselves running away from. This even gets demonstrated through a slow but gruesome 2nd act, as these mutants interact with humankind and get fleeting moments of kindness followed by moments of distrust and persecution. It’s heartbreaking stuff that only works because the movie actually allows these characters to smile, crack jokes, argue and just be themselves in the midst of its tragic circumstances, with some especially potent moments from Sir Patrick Stewart that would probably send younger me rushing out of the theater in tears (and also probably some trauma, because good god do people get fucked up in this movie).
“Logan” is not necessarily innovative, but that doesn’t mean that the movie lacks power and grace because of it. It earns its R-rating while demonstrating an understanding of why we care about these characters, culminating in an ambiguous ending that may or may not be the start of something new (sans Hugh Jackman in this case). Well, I mean, let’s be real: given that, “Deadpool” basically printed money despite being banned from theatrical release in China, the suits at 20th Century Fox and other entertainment companies are definitely devising ways of milking this likely cow they have from producing a movie comic fanboys obsessed with surface ideals of, “maturity” have been begging for. But, for now, let’s try to savor the good this movie brings.
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