Logan introduces yet another sub genre of superhero movies – the serious, adult drama. It’s full of graphic violence and expletive-laden language. Its tone is light years away from the Avengers, and even though Deadpool also contained the language and the gore, that was very much in the context of a satirical take on the genre itself. Logan, on the other hand, takes itself very seriously.
That’s not a bad thing, and director and writer James Mangold has produced a gritty, well crafted and emotionally charged story that relies on its characters. Yes, this would have been a good drama without anyone having superpowers. In fact the use of special effects here is relatively slight. There are some comic touches, but not many, and when they arrive the audience last night lapped them up with welcome relief. (** See more on the screening at the end of this post)
The story, as with most of these movies, draws from various strands of its comic book ancestry. Prominent here is the Old Man Logan graphic novel, and the stories which featured X-23, a younger female Wolverine-type character. But in its treatment the film Logan really doesn’t feel like a comic book movie at all, which is ironic given that actual comic books feature quite heavily in the story.
The film is set in 2029, and finds a much older looking Logan (Hugh Jackman) scraping together a living as a limousine driver, while caring for Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who’s frail and ill, and whose mental powers are dangerously askew. Helping Logan care for the Professor is the mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant).
Into their lives comes a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen), who looks about ten or eleven, and who doesn’t speak, other than shriek when she’s displaying her fighting skills. Is she a mutant? In this story it seems there are very few mutants left – certainly there’s no sign of the -Men – and apparently there’s no hope of more mutant children. Why this is, is not explained and only hinted at, but followers of the comics will come to their conclusions. What is clear is that Dafne needs Logan and the Professor to take her north, to a safe place called Eden.
A dangerous group of bounty hunters called The Reavers are after Laura, at the behest of genetic scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). Logan doesn’t want to help Laura, knowing that anytime he has previously become emotionally attached to anyone it has ended in tragedy. But, help he does.
And so after its set up, the film settles into a tale of Logan, Charles Xavier and Laura on the run. “Settle” is perhaps the wrong word, as the pursuit from The Reavers is relentless and brutal. There’s blood flying everywhere, and the film deserves its R16 rating here. It’s also rather confronting to hear the f-word coming so frequently from the mouths of actors Jackman and Stewart.
The X-Men/Wolverine stories have always dealt with character subjected to extreme prejudice, from ordinary people who don’t understand mutants and fear them. In this film, that theme is rather muted. The humans who come across Logan and co are rather accepting of them and actually feel rather sorry for them.
But what this story does confront head on is the matter of mortality. Despite the mutant powers of its main protagonists, they all feel rather human. And that’s how the actors seem to approach their work.
Jackman gives us a world weary Logan and Stewart unveils a Charles Xavier without his veneer of professorial decorum. They work wonderfully against each other, and Dafne Keen as Laura pretty much steals the show. She manages to avoid the cute clichéd nature of many child roles in films like this. The best compliment for the performances is that they would have made the film work well even if none of the characters had superpowers.
So, Logan is recommended, especially for those who want a gritty violent thriller rather than the light escapist fare of a fantasy style superhero story.
I went along to see Logan at a special screening organised by Auckland comic book/graphic novel store Heroes For Sale. Propietors Stu and Sue Colson have run these evenings for several years, and their friends and customers packed out the auditorium at the big screen at Hoyts in Sylvia Park. Stu and Sue had a few words for the fans, ran a quick quiz, and then the film ran. Check out the photos on this page for a few of the cinema-goers who attended in style! Thanks to Sue and Stu for a prime seat in the house and if you want to know more about their store, check out this link. http://www.heroes.co.nz/