Logan

Logan ★★★★

Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world. Talmud.

Okay, let's review the heavy subjects this movie about a superhuman mutant with supermetal clawhands confronts and explores during its 2 and a half hour runtime: mortality, death, ageism, ableism, race, the future of earth's children, bilingualism's place in the culture of the future, the innate immorality of crimes against humanity disguised as scientific research, class, bigotry, bias, familial concepts in human relationships beyond the defunct and antiquated nuclear model, the exploitation of anything that exists beyond the confines of the status quo by the status quo, toxic masculinity vs nurturing care. Hell, even the power-constructed idea of borders in a world that is innately, irrevocably interconnected and interdependent.

There're more, I have no doubt, but this is everything I could think of after seeing this one time. Something is happening in American cinema, and it's undoubtedly been triggered by a vast array of stimuli, including everything from the American election and its deeply troubling domino-effect on everything we thought we were, to the inevitability of the brown, bilingual, intersectional and diverse melting pot that is the future of humankind. The first 2/3rds of this movie is the best "superhero" film I've seen on a conceptual level since Bryan Singer's X2 (which remains my favorite--the opening with Nightcrawler's knife emblazoned with the cry MUTANT FREEDOM NOW is forever seared in my retinas--and shares with Logan the reasons why I think the X-men are still the most engaging, diverse and emotionally resonant examples in the current landscape of "comic book" cinema). It's violent and dirty, but that's what life is fucking like. Everything is tinged with the shadow of death in human life, whether or not we are willing to confront that shadow in any consistent way. Logan is a narrative rooted in death, and like any effective story about death, is as much an exploration of human mortality--of what it means to be alive as a human on Earth, superpowers or no. Logan does this largely with triumphant, rattling poignancy.

James Mangold partially uses the structure of a traditional Western to engage us in the human elements of Logan with an intimacy and starkness we have rarely seen in this genre--Logan reminded me of Looper more than once, an existential time-traveling science fiction story also structured similarly to a Western, with a similar grittiness and emotional realism. Rather than escapism, modern film turns evermore to the innate mythicism of the human condition--the value and emotional worth in the struggles of our kind told with fantastic elements to emphasize our humanity, rather than detract from it. As I left the theater when this movie ended, I noticed the marquee outside featured this, Get Out and John Wick 2 alongside one another--and something in me swelled with a glowing hopefulness. If these three films, released within three weeks of each other, represent the future of American popular cinema, good god, am I excited to see what other stories we can tell. Cinema is not dead--cinema is resurrecting itself from the ashes of patriarchal white male storytelling and turning its eyes to an uncharted future.

There's some stuff in the third act that sadly bogs this story down, and keeps it from being truly great as a cohesive narrative--specifically the stuff with the doppleganger mutant, who I suppose could be interpreted as a personification of the hidden aspects of the dark side of Logan's personality--but who instead ends up being more of a distraction and contributes to a bloated runtime. But the first two acts elevate this narrative so entirely that the slight imperfections of the third act are almost entirely irrelevant beside their artistry. There are so many scenes here that took my breath away, and never in the same way (especially the sequence in the hotel where Logan struggles through Charles' destructive telepathic grip, the orchestration of violence, and Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart's devastating performances throughout, especially any scene they share together, two actors of impressive mastery and nuance)--and the sun-scorched palette, interspersed with neon, shadows, and the cool moonlight of desert evenings, make this an entrancing film to watch, even when the horrors of existence spatter us with blood and viscera.

If you're familiar with Wolverine as a character, you know Logan has always been morally ambiguous--he's not a good guy persay, though he's inclined to do morally actionable things to help those he cares for--and he has a deep, festering darkness nurtured by constant emotional and physical pain. Is a person who has done bad things morally redeemable? If so, at what point? If to kill another human is a mortal sin, and to save a human life is a redemptive and selfless act of empathy, what happens when these two qualities exist in the same person? Moral absolutism has no resonance when applied to daily life--for there has never existed a person who could claim they were without guilt. It's noted more than once that Xavier himself accidentally killed people in the recent past, an unfortunate side-effect from his encroaching Alzheimer's, coupled with a uniquely powerful telepathy. When a person dies, their positive qualities are often eulogized and emphasized ad nauseam--they were kind, they were generous, they were friendly. But rarely do we hear of their humanity; their personhood, in all its nuance and complexity, of their quality not on a moralistic spectrum, but the colors of their soul.

Logan's defining triumphs are the examination of one complex life, without platitude, in stark sunlight; and the dawn of a new way of life for humankind, if we can learn to atone for the sins of the past while we join hands and look to the horizon. The future is female, the future is bilingual, the future is intersectional, the future is all religions, the future is brown, the future is here.

Side-note: I've been hopelessly in love with Hugh Jackman since middle school, but Logan's tiny reading glasses murdered me in some fresh kinda way.

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