LOGAN proves, once again, that for the sake of creating a compelling and memorable story, superpowers should be positioned as weaknesses. They’re demons in the hero called upon at great personal cost, a transformation that is self-destructive and sacrificial.
The pinnacle of the comic book superhero movie, THE DARK KNIGHT, does this in the most subtle of ways. The primary conflict that drives the soul of the movie doesn’t concern the Joker at all–he is only there as an irritant, a volatile ingredient. The true conflict is Bruce Wayne’s need to destroy the Batman, to render his alter-ego obsolete to save his life and any chance at normalcy. He fails.
LOGAN takes this to another level. We catch up with the titular character in a water-starved, dusty and desolate future. His trademark chops have filled into a full and mostly gray beard. He drinks. The scars from the past have started to stick, quite literally. The metal inside of him that was once a source of near-invincibility is now poisoning him, and he seems eager to speed up the clock, whether with the bottle or an adamantium bullet.
Professor X is equally broken, hidden away in a fallen silo so his diseased brain can’t unleash death on thousands. The horrors of Alzheimer’s are apparent in these early scenes, only with the higher stakes of Charles Xavier’s power to unleash WMD-caliber destruction during one of his episodes. Two once-great heroes are now post-prime, and more apt to kill the ones they care about than save them.
Enter Laura, a mute girl who escaped from a hospital where children were raised as mutant-powered weapons. Ripped straight from Wolverine’s DNA, she’s quite literally his daughter, a perfect copy, right down to the simmering rage. She brings along some foot claws as an upgrade and a terrifying, lithe agility that the movie puts to terrific use.
The story beats are by the numbers. Does Logan resist his call to action and not want to get involved with Laura? Does he eventually come around to the aspects of family and love? Does someone significant die around the 75-minute mark? Does he unleash old-school fury with should striations flexing and his facial hair re-crafted into the Wolverine we know and love?
Does a bear defecate in the woods?
Sure, we know how the story is going to go, but much like a classic piece of music, it’s all about how you play the notes.
The action setpieces range from terrific to astounding. Mangold is patient in directing them; we can follow the action logically, the decisions make sense, and the bursts of fury stand out, as they should, with this careful pacing.
The human moments are genuine and well-acted. The laughs are organic and plentiful. As the film makes its final play to squeeze your tear ducts, the attempt is well-earned. Here’s a story not pulled from superhero lore, but from classical tales involving samurai or last gunfighters looking to make things right.
The only thing missing from LOGAN is a transcendent villain that adds to the volatility. The whole thing feels quite linear without an “agent of chaos” around to change the rules. The villain-by-committee approach makes this film feel less like a superhero movie, and far more grounded, so perhaps it was the best decision for this particular story. Still, I think they left some money on the table.
The kinetic finale leads into an ending that left the theater dead silent when the credits finally rolled, and there were plenty of sniffles. Everyone waited for a post-credit scene, but there wasn’t any relief after the credits rolled.
Simply put, this is not only the Wolverine movie we need right now, but the one we deserve. Don’t miss it. It’s the one you’ve been waiting for.