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This culmination to Hugh Jackman’s 17-year and 9-movie run as Wolverine packs a powerful punch. I had anticipated this film ever since the trailer appeared showing a grumpy old Logan, who seemed to be growling at gang members to get off his lawn. James Mangold, Hugh Jackman, et al, did not disappoint.
The story opens in the year 2029, with a grizzled Logan working as a limo driver in Texas and dealing with all of the problems that an Uber driver can encounter in one night. He is aging and hurting due to the adamantium poisoning his system. One of the few remaining mutants, Logan lives at a hideout in Mexico where he and Caliban are caring for a mentally-degenerating Charles Xavier.
Logan’s inciting incident is when a nurse tries to hire him to escort her and a young patient named Laura to a safe haven in North Dakota. Laura and the nurse have escaped from the Transigen Corporation, who are in deadly pursuit. Ever the reluctant anti-hero, Logan at first refuses, then accepts as his financial situation requires it. Cue the explosions, carnage, car chase, and mandatory road trip.
The plot adheres to a standard three-act structure. It sweeps the viewer along while simultaneously deconstructing the myth of the superhero that had been built up in previous installments of the X-Men franchise. Costumes are eschewed in favor of worn-but-practical clothing. The color palette is muted and washed-out–like the faded pages of the comic book shown in the movie. The comic book itself is a stand-in for exaggerated events of the previous films, which Logan says were “all bullshit.”
Despite all the myth-busting, cynicism, and gruff self-pity, the audience sees Logan better than he sees himself. From the very start of the movie, Logan is motivated by helping those closest to him. He also isolates himself, thinking that he brings death and destruction to anyone close to him. The events of the movie don’t do much to disprove that assertion, but Logan keeps trying. Like the Warden in Low Town and Jalan Kendeth in The Red Queen’s War, we like Logan because he is better than he thinks he is.
What Makes it Epic Grit:
- Adventure and Wonder: As with all X-Men movies, there’s plenty of adventure and wondrous abilities.
- Believable Characters: Razor claws aside (where do they retract to?), Wolverine has always been the character with the most depth in this franchise. This movie extends that depth and plausibility to each of the major characters, and even to the story of the family that they meet in the middle of the film.
- Real Consequences: What happens when a minority of people have very dangerous powers? What happens when a strong psychic has a degenerative brain disease? What happens to a self-healing mutant who has toxic metal fused to his bones? What would it really look like if an evil henchman was attacked with razor claws? This movie does not shy away from the answers.
- Epic in Scope: Logan has a smaller, more personal scope than the other films in the franchise. However, the stakes are still crucial, not only for the small group at the focus, but also for a society who may find themselves at the mercy of a faction that has weaponized mutant powers.
- Subverts “Good versus Evil” Tropes: This movie, even more than The Dark Knight or Deadpool, deconstructs the myth of the superhero and supervillain. Even good guys with great powers can be extremely dangerous to themselves and others.
- Different Perspectives: Some of the best moments can be found when Logan interacts with the various people he meets up with on his journey. Their perspectives enlighten him and the audience.
This one is my new favorite comic book movie–bumping The Dark Knight from it’s spot. While they both investigate heroics and the turmoil in heroes, Logan provides an unflinching depiction of the inherent violence and its toll.