‘I’ ON CULTURE
New film Logan is one of the best examples of how superhero movies can be when their characters are not simply being… well, superheroes. The most recent version of that type was X-Men: Apocalypse, where one group of good superheroes goes against a group of bad ones. That gets boring; we know who will win.
In the new movie, Logan (Hugh Jackman) fights mortality far more than any bad guy. Old age can be nasty even when you have adamantium claws. But the film also shows heart, something often missing in these films.
That may be because in many ways, this is like a western. Although there were references to Shane in it, this flick reminded me as much of films such as High Noon and The Shooter, where older men deal with issues that go far beyond simple good vs. evil.
Logan, the Wolverine, is much older than we’ve seen him before. It is 2029 and he’s a drunken limo driver, living off the grid, taking his tip money to buy drugs, not so much for him but for very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who lives just across the border in Mexico in a huge metal tank that protects others from the damage his brain can do if he has convulsions. Logan provides drugs, but Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant whose power is to track other mutants, does the day-to-day care.
Right from the start, it is clear the film earns its R rating. The violence is extreme and often close-up. After killing a group of gang members trying to strip his car, Logan comes into contact with nurse Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who wants him to drive her to North Dakota along with young girl Laura (Dafne Keen). Soon after, bounty hunter Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) along with a huge number of soldiers comes after Logan, Xavier and their young charge. The girl has incredible fighting skills and, after she and Logan kill a goodly number of soldiers, they escape.
Much of the rest of the film tells the story of that escape, highlighted by the relationship first of Xavier and the girl, who is clearly a mutant, and then between Logan and the girl. She is a new mutant; no natural ones have been born in a quarter of a century, but she has been “manufactured” by mad scientist Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant), who wants her back. After all, he “owns the patent on her.” Laura wants Logan to drive her to “Eden,” a hideout in North Dakota, just across the border from Canada, where she assumes she’ll be safe. We know better, and the fight goes on.
Jackman is exceptionally good in the role. This Logan is not much wiser than he has ever been, but his powers are diminishing. He no longer heals quickly, and his claws do not even extend fully. But he knows about duty and, complaining most of the way, does it. Stewart is wonderful as Xavier. He gets the opportunity to really chew up the scenery, and he is one of the best at that. As the nonagenarian Xavier, he gets to display many emotions and is a master of all.
I liked Merchant as the hapless Caliban, suffering as he is forced to track them. Holbrook was excellent as the hunter; his role was the flashiest in the film and he did well portraying an opponent without mutant powers (although he had a very strong artificial hand and seemingly hundreds of soldiers) against a superhero. But Keen came close to stealing the movie from all the veterans. Fierce, essentially feral, she’s a tiny, feminine version of Logan.
The movie is not a typical superhero film in that there was a real point to it. Love and duty can work together, but all people can die. A lot of people died in the film. Some were peripheral, some were enemies, some friends. But as we watch Logan, Xavier and Caliban, all with their powers reduced and flawed, we can also feel our own mortality.
Batman, created in 1939, would probably need a walker by now since he would be over the century mark. In the words of Game of Thrones: All men die. The question is how well have you lived and how well have you died.
Again, this is a violent film, but it has a soft heart. I rank it as one of the best superhero movies I have seen. See it.