The title sums it up, this isn’t a movie about Wolverine—the animal inside—it’s about Logan, the human who deals with the consequences of said animal. Spoilers!
Logan takes place in a different cinematic universe from the other Marvel Releases. First, it’s void of the common thread running through every Marvel picture, Stan Lee. Second, X-men comics actually exist within the film—now, maybe this has happened before in the Fox franchise, but my doper memory can’t recall it. These two things seem small, they are remarkably significant in that they create an artifice which shifts Logan from a regular Marvel melodrama, into stark drama.
In cutting Stan Lee, they’ve removed the wink at the audience, and kept the characters firmly behind the fourth wall. And in the film, Logan scoffs at the comics, in particular his mythologized past. He derides that notion that they were ever a merry band of mutants, in bright coloured tights, kicking ass. This sends a heavy ripple through the franchise, because it implies that the other films we’ve watched up to this point are the same trite shit that Logan Despises—maybe Logan is the only accurate account of an X-man.
That said, Logan is not without its schlock elements, but the creators did a marvellous job balancing the campy and the realistic. Yes, the plot is about a bunch of genetically engineered mutant children that an evil corporation is training to become super soldiers, but its so far in the background of the narrative that it barely registers. Logan, the professor, and the runaway girl, on their road trip to “Eden,” takes the foreground of the story. The creators favour human over mutant; they squabble over the whether or not Xavier takes his meds. In fact, the trip reminds them what it means to be human again: To go on vacation, to enjoy a movie in, to eat a home cooked meal, to sleep in an actual bed, and most importantly to have a family.
The same goes for the young girl, Laura. Unlike Leon, Last of Us, True Grit, or any other narrative where a wizened man of action helps a young girl realize her power, Laura already has. She knows how to harness her ravenous powers. She knows what it means to be a mutant, but her time with Logan, and especially Xavier, she learns about her humanity. Her arch is fast and loose but she changes from a practical stray into someone with heart. The familial experience with X and Logan teaches her that while she can survive alone, she’ll only ever thrive together.
One may argue that I’m pulling too much loftiness out a of a simple comic book movie with tits and gore, but this isn’t the regular punch-em-up. The fights are downplayed; there’s no towering beam of light to the sky. Hell, they can’t even drive through a gate without getting their car stuck. The professor has no hold on his abilities, because his mind is in decay. Though Logan fights the baddies, the opening sequence demonstrates he neither has the patience nor the strength to fight fair. And Laura fights the Tasmanian Devil on PCP. All around the film is populated by brutal low blows. When someone dies it’s horrific, not melodramatic.
Even the campiest aspect of Logan, has a purpose. The baddies make a clone of Wolverine that functions off pure animalistic rage. The only one who can keep the monster in check is Logan. In essence, he fights the animal part of him that he hates the most. It makes Logan’s internal struggle unnecessarily external, but it’s executed well. For most the film, Logan’s on autopilot. He helps the little girl but only because it’s a paying job. Its only after the long road trip, that he remembers that family is something worth fighting for. He picks up his dropped mantle of “the hero,” and goes into battle one last time. He does it to protect Laura from himself, figuratively, and literally. She witnesses the sacrifice inherent to the Hero, and comes to understand that right and wrong is a brand, a brand that sticks.
Like Deadpool, Logan is a breath of fresh air. They may share in violence but their tones differ diametrically. And I hope that these two successes enlighten Disney, Fox, and Warners of the benefits of letting a group of talented creators follow through with their vision, however off-brand it may be. Sure sometimes giving a creator free license ends in a Box office disaster like One from the Heart, but Coppola’s success in The Godfather I & II, and Apocalypse Now, more than make up for it. Now, more than ever, we need flavour, not the same fucking baby formula they’ve been feeding us.