Do people still care what I thought of Logan? Another casualty of not blogging is that I missed the sweet spot where my review would be both topical and removed from hype. Still, I saw it, and I had feelings, so… here we go.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t originally going to see Logan in theaters. Though I’m a die-hard X-Men lover, going as far as seeing the dreadful X3 not once, but twice in theaters, the whole movie affair has felt… messy, the last few years. Struggling with direction, trying to find a balance between the subtext and the overall goofiness inherent to the X-Men properties (will we ever see an X-Men flick where they go to space), the movies have been extremely hit and miss. I do thoroughly enjoy a good portion of these stories, but they never really felt like “movies”. They felt like two hours of Saturday morning fan-service, except with big name actors and large production budgets. But when I heard that Logan bucked those trends, shedding the cartoonish elements and dealing instead with themes of disappointment, I said “Be still my beating heart” and bought myself a ticket.
Though I think comparing it to the Dark Knight is a bit much, the hype was for real. I would give the film a solid B+, a huge step above most Superhero films. It’s definitely the best X-Men film, especially since it’s their first actual X-Men “film”. This was a real movie, with subtext and drama that went beyond getting a costume or cracking one-liners. This wasn’t hours of “Look who it is! It’s THAT character. Don’t you love that we put THAT character in there and now you’re happy?” This was a film that didn’t need to spell everything out for me. It did try sometimes, and those were easily the weakest moments of the film (I didn’t need to hear the villain monologuing about how he… killed mutants with corn syrup? Am I remembering this right?). But mostly, it let me figure things out on my own. It tickled my imagination, it presented doors to a deeper world, and it never let me step through – but I could get a peek because they left it open a crack.
There’s also an interesting microcosm of film history and story here. We have two actors, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, who have been portraying these characters for seventeen years, probably experiencing their own level of fatigue and burnout after the series’ ups and downs. They embody the old comic book films, flights of fantasy that may or may not have played out the way we hoped or remembered. Those movies, and all the excitement and fun and loss and missed opportunities they represented, are now left behind. Maybe they were great, but they’re too distant now to really be sure. But as heroes will, the characters came back for one last ride, proving that they really were those heroes that inspired us way back when.
I wish more comic book movies took chances like this. And by chances, I mean tell a story that goes beyond delivering our favorite characters, villains, and story beats on a platter. Not that a film has to be dark and violent to deserve reverence. I just like occasional thematic depth beyond “Never give up” or “With Great Power Comes Great responsibility, so sometimes you have to fight a giant vulture or something even when you don’t wanna”. The larger subtextual themes are why I like superheroes: they can solve their social dilemmas and save the world from Thanos. And I think people responded so strongly to Logan because it did take the franchise more seriously than a 2D cartoon is able to. This movie wasn’t trying to unlock the secret of entertaining a blockbuster audience or stimulating our nostalgia and desire to see our favorite childhood moments come to life. It was just a story about a man who used to be called a hero, “but that was a long time ago…”.
I’d say, if you ever liked the X-Men film franchise, this one is worth your time, if not just as an adult looking back on what was and the promise of what could be. James Mangold and his team deliver a powerful production, and Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart really bring their A-game. Logan is not just a great movie, but an appropriately named one: it’s a damn good movie that just happens to star a bunch of X-Men. It sheds the costume, revealing the hero beneath.
Because you don’t need tights or a legacy to be a hero. You just have to act like one.