Logan ★★★★

Suicide Squad won an Oscar, not only one, but two R-rated films are at the top of the box office, and the Fox produced Marvel movies are doing better critically than the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The times they are a-changin’, and leading the pack of 2017’s blockbusters is James Mangold’s Logan, the gritty grand finale to the X-Men saga. I have no doubts most of you reading this have already heard a lot of noise about this film, and coming out of the theater I can say most of it is well deserved. Even in the theater I could say it, seeing Logan in a packed, sold out room on opening weekend was one of the most energized screenings I’ve been to in a long time. Everyone was piling into the seats with precisely no care for any trailer, and no one minded either, we all knew what we were there for. It was a mutual feeling of excitement that stretched across the rows that didn’t need to be said. Then the preview for Deadpool 2 came on, and people were laughing and having a good time, we all were in on the joke. And then the main feature started, and everyone was silent, except when we were supposed to cheer, gasp, or laugh, which was done a plenty. It was an experience that reminded me how fun theatergoing can be. Looking around from the sides of the giant screen to the mass of bodies around me, all I could think was, this movie is living.

Not only was the movie living because of the environment I was in, but because of the humanity in the film itself. Professor Xavier and Logan have never felt more real than here. It was heartbreaking to see the sage Charles reduced to a sick, rambling mess confined to a shed. Similarly, Logan felt old and broken, like someone who has lived too long. Yet, as the story goes on we see joy, for Charles in being a grandfather figure for the young mutant, X-23, and for Logan in allowing his attachment to Charles to shine through. These aren’t brooding figures, they have lived hard lives, but they are not alien. They can cry, laugh, make mistakes, and also do the right thing, The characters and their interactions are the highlight of Logan, because Mangold knows that they aren’t just action figures to fight for our amusement, they are character that have been a part of us for decades, and here they are given a heartfelt send off worthy of all those years.

For said characters to work they also need a world fit for them, and Mangold has created one. Much of the locale of Logan is desolate and lonely, with barren deserts and shady motels where not hearing a gunshot would be an irregular night. It is far different than any comic book movie of the last few years, and marks itself as a heavy breath of fresh air. The Western vibe complements the title character greatly, and gives a distinct flavor that makes the movie feel like its own, not part of any episodic narrative like the MCU’s latest offerings. It feels like people have been living, or more fittingly decaying, here for years before we set foot in it, and there is miles of life around us outside the fringes of our heroes, which is the effect every filmmaker desires when they craft a universe. However, and this is where I begin to disagree with the majority, Logan is not the second coming of Walter Hill.

Though it is a very good one, Logan still falls into the trappings of the Superhero genre it is trying to break free from. Like usual, the villain is incredibly forgettable and has little to no presence, and the third act starts to lose the control of tone the first two had and descends into the typical big fight climax. The most damaging issue of this restriction though, is that I couldn’t see more of the world. There is an epic neo-West in the distance, and the plot structure is a little too typical to properly embrace it. It’s somewhat disappointing Mangold couldn’t have gone the extra mile and completely radicalized the superhero formula, especially since he was so close to doing it. On a more minor note, I can’t help but feel the language used was a little overbearing. I adore Tarantino, who has some of the most vulgar scripts in the business, so the swears themselves are no issue, but their use here is rather clunky. To paraphrase Mark Twain, they know the words, but not the music.

Logan is not a definitive Western, or the best superhero movie (For my money, that’s Superman II), so you may have to temper your expectations a bit, but nonetheless it’s a great work of both genres and is a good sign of things to come. Like last year’s underrated gem Batman v. Superman, Logan is an experimental film that stumbles a few times along the way, but it takes chances in a way that it never loses your admiration. Hopefully with the box office success of Logan execs will be more willing to let directors go free with their visions, and the path it and others have started to forge will lead to a new era of completely unique mainstream cinema. Even if it doesn’t, it gave a graceful end to a franchise that has been anything but predictable in its quality, and surrounded by the people who care about it the most, which I will always be grateful for.

One final thing, though The Man Comes Around is a great Johnny Cash song choice, I think Cash’s Peace in the Valley would have fit even better with Logan’s conclusion. Just my two cents on it.

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