Directed by James Mangold
"Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long."
Logan is the most thoughtful, the saddest, the most human comic book movie yet. There is no Stan Lee cameo, no end credit advertising. No seizure inducing editing, no attention deficit theatre storytelling. There are no hands waving in front of a green screen as CGI buildings and cars and characters fly around. No Ghostbusters ending with a giant pillar of light streaking into the sky. The story is streamlined, all excess fat trimmed. Past events are referred to in tantalizing and intriguing morsels, exposition is more tapas, less buffet. Logan is the most adult comic book movie yet.
The box office and critical successes of Deadpool and Fury Road has allowed Logan's team to stick the landing with their R-rating. Where Deadpool deconstructed the genre, mocking the tropes while turning them in on themselves, Logan stubbornly avoids as many of the genre's tropes as it can. But as much debt as Logan owes to Deadpool, it owes at least as much to Fury Road. At its grease covered glorious heart Fury Road is a deconstruction of the western, the story of a reluctant hero, who believes that "hope is a mistake", who is haunted by the sins of his past, who ends up finding redemption assisting others and accepting their help in return. Fury Road is less road movie than it is a western. A western with V-8s, but a western still.
In that same vein, Logan is less a comic book movie than it is a western. A western that centres around a guy with metal claws, but still, a western. The former hero, living a life of alcoholism and desperate anonymity, in need of redemption but never looking for any, always trying to avoid his opportunity, his responsibility. His aging body a map of scars and pain, is drawn into a role he wants no part of, into a fight he wants no part of. Hugh Jackman's Logan is equal parts Bill Munny, Shane, Max Rockatansky, and Wil Anderson. And like Fury Road, it isn't as simple as I'm making it here, it's far deeper than that, there is more going on than a deconstructed western. Logan also draws from films like The Wrestler. Like Randy The Ram, Logan is a man of great strength and power whose body and mind are rebelling against him, robbing him of his youth, of his vitality. The years of abuse have done great damage to his physical and mental health. Logan might be dismissed by some as just yet another comic book movie, as part of a franchise that has made some folks dump trucks of money but I think that might be a mistake. Logan is more than the sum of what has come before, it is more than a comic book/western mash-up. It is also an amazing treatise on what happens to the mind and body as we get older. And when you consider Mr. Jackman's age and his very public battle with skin cancer, this can't be an accident.
Let's go down the aging theme rabbit hole. Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier is in his 90s and suffering from a degenerative brain disease, the irony of which is not lost on the film. He is humiliated by his inability to control his mind, suffering seizures that have terrifying consequences for anyone nearby. He is also humiliated by the help he needs to do, well, nearly everything. The look on his face every time that Logan has to carry him, be it to a car or to a toilet, is simply heartbreaking. Logan walks with a limp, has a tremor and needs reading glasses. Still looking good for a man that is nearing his 150th birthday, but the years are piling on. In the film's R-rating comes the freedom to explore these ideas, this notion that sometimes fictional characters age.
Where the first two films in the X-men franchise were intentional statements on growing up gay in America, using the mutants as metaphors for hiding your difference in plain sight, the team behind Logan take their opportunity to speak to the adults in the room, the ones that have grown with the franchise over the past seventeen years. Showing these two characters, Charles and Logan, dealing with the humiliations and degradations and anguish that comes with aging, with feeling like you've outlasted your usefulness, is something that I don't think could have been done with any kind of respect in a family friendly film. To tell this story this way box office expectations had to be dropped.
What couldn't have been expected is the film becoming a metaphor for this new era in America. But that's where we are now.
Of course, the R-rating doesn't just allow for a mature story. It also allows Logan to do the one thing that has only ever been hinted at in the previous eight films. We get to see Wolverine go full berserker. Limbs are severed, skulls are stabbed. This ain't the Wolverine of the previous films. There are no bloodless fights, the violence isn't hidden in shadows. In past films Wolverine's violence was more inferred than direct. This time around… whoa. If this really is Hugh Jackman's last curtain call as Logan, he has bowed out in a shower of arterial spray.
In the same way that The Dark Knight and The Winter Soldier raised the bar for what a superhero film can be, Logan has raised that bar again. In fact, for some, Logan may replace The Dark Knight as the high water mark of the genre. It really is that good.