Logan, and Breaking the Marvel Mold

logan

As the credits began to roll for Logan, I had two thoughts that were at the forefront of my mind. First, though it was not without its flaws, it was altogether a very good movie, and second, James Mangold took massive strides away from the Marvel brand. There is absolutely no need to qualify the “good movie” statement with a “for a superhero movie.” It’s been painfully obvious over the last ten or so years that Marvel has been perfectly content with dwelling on the surface of conflict and destroying any notion of purpose by heaving nukes into outer space or throwing up large chunks of the Earth’s surface into the atmosphere. Mangold’s Logan, however, does not fit the Marvel mold, and instead makes a much-needed departure.

Logan is unabashedly dark, violent, and above all, authentic in the way it faces its characters’ problems. It is this aspect of the movie that sets it apart from its studio counterparts. The film opens with Logan (Hugh Jackman) trying to sleep in his car while some men attempt to steal the tires off his car. Logan is forced to come out and deal with the problem in what normally would have been typical Wolverine fashion. But it seems that Logan is doing more taking than giving; he’s much slower than what we’ve seen in previous movies, less powerful, too, yet far more violent. Later, it’s made clear that Logan is dealing with problems much more formidable than the disease that is slowing him down. For the first half of the movie, it is rare to see Logan without a bottle of some sort. What’s more, Logan has long been considering taking his own life, almost toying with the adamantium bullet he carries with him wherever he goes (adamantium is a fictional metal alloy from the comic books and supposedly the only way to kill Wolverine). And the dear Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is dying and battling a degenerative brain disease. Logan must care for him, giving Charles his medicine and, in one of the movie’s more light-hearted scenes, help him use the restroom. Should Charles not receive his medicine, he suffers seizures, causing his telekinesis to go haywire. Laura (Dafne Keen), the young girl who has much in common with Logan, is ultimately what drives Logan when he reluctantly decides to take her to a place for any surviving mutants called Eden.

The movie doesn’t skirt around Logan’s problems. The issues with Logan is what makes the character so genuine. He faces real problems that people watching the movie face. There is no Iron Man suit that Logan can jump into that takes away his physical pain, no sleek black jet in which he can escape to Eden. One of my favorite scenes from the movie shows Logan and Laura driving down a one lane highway in an old Ford Bronco. Logan struggles to keep his eyes open as his failing body once more gets the better of him. Scenes like these are littered throughout the movie, each one demanding that you care more and more for Logan. And when the movie breaks from these scenes into action scenes, it does so in stride. The action is unlike any Wolverine movie before, or any superhero movie for that matter. Where other Marvel movies may take wide shots and use elaborate stunts and CGI for fights, Logan’s action takes place in tight shots and features the gore one would expect when Wolverine drives his claws through a man’s skull.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of Logan is that it harkens back to Westerns such as Unforgiven and Tombstone. One can easily picture Hugh Jackman, with graying hair and tired eyes, hobbling toward one last shootout. He is without family, friends, or purpose. But, for however brief a time it may be, Logan finds one last thing to fight for. His eyes momentarily flicker, and he no longer limps helplessly along. Instead, he’s sprinting full speed, roaring as he slashes and hacks his way through foes. For a moment, we see the Wolverine we used to know.

Aptly named, Logan is not about Wolverine the superhero. Superheroes aren’t alcoholics battling depression and suicidal thoughts. Superheroes don’t search for purpose, or get reduced to caring for a dying man while staving off their own demise. No, Logan is about Logan the man, and the demons he must finally face. Logan is as human as a superhero movie can be.