Released 2017. Director: James Mangold
SUPERHERO MOVIES ARE MOSTLY DERIVATIVE, REPETITIVE ABD UNMEMORABLE. They may be entertaining but after awhile they just blur into one another. Can you distinguish in your mind the various Avengers movies? What about the separate Iron Man and Captain America movies? Bit of a jumble?
On rare occasions, someone breaks the mould, like the first X-Men, Spider-Man 2, and most famously, The Dark Knight. These movies manage to stay true to their origins and transcend their boundaries, introduce new approaches and rise to the top of their genre. Logan is one of them.
While the majority of superhero movies celebrate youth, muscles and perfect body contours, Logan is about aging, weariness, sickness and dying, what you don’t associate with this genre. It dares to show us superheroes who are past their prime, frail and needing assistance to go to the bathroom.
In this offshoot installment of the X-Men series, no new mutants have been born in over two decades and the few remaining ones have aged. Once a formidable beast, Wolverine is now more like a wounded animal and the mutant warrior is losing his powers. His ability to heal and regenerate has all but waned and so with each new fight, his body now bears the wounds and scars that mark his approaching mortality. There’s a throwaway scene with Logan using reading glasses, just a glimpse but a touch of bleak poignancy.
Trying to leave the past behind, Wolverine goes by the name James Howlett and works as a limo driver, caring for a weak and dying Professor Charles Xavier in the company of albino mutant Caliban. These are superheroes living in shadows and just wanting to be left alone but trouble comes calling.
When a gang of thugs carjack Logan’s limo, he flicks his lethal blades and kills the offenders. This gets the attention of a nurse who beseeches Logan to transport a young girl, Laura, to a secret location to ensure her safety. Logan learns that a sinister corporation Transigen has been using mutant genetic materials to breed a generation of Mexican children in the lab to become super soldiers, Laura being one of them.
The sullen and belligerent Laura turns out to be the result of Wolverine’s genetic materials and displays her father’s killer instincts and knife skills. Newcomer Dafne Keen not only cuts a formidable figure of Wolverine Junior in her action scenes but the young actress also knows how to act with her eyes.
The movie’s R rating means the violence, including those involving Laura and her fellow young mutants, is more savage. We’re not talking about cartoonish fights with shiny special effects featuring heroes in tights but something altogether more disturbing because they’re perpetrated by children.
An added dramatic touch is the involvement of an innocent family who takes in Logan, Charles and Laura for the night on their cross-country escape. Their kindness brings up a rare sense of normality when we are shown regular people sitting down for dinner in their home. Amidst the chaos and bloodshed the movie takes a moment to extol the virtue of family, made clear when Charles tells Logan it’s not too late for him to consider changing his path and settling down.
Still wheelchair bound but having long said goodbye to a figure of authority, Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Charles Xavier is a portrait of vulnerability. The relationship between Charles and Logan is akin to father and son. Their need for each other, and having a fatigued son looking after an aging parent is what gives the movie a heart you don’t always find in a comic-book adaptation of this kind.
The tragedy that befalls nearly all these characters towards the end puts a stamp of finality in the saga. Hugh Jackman has now laid to rest in heroic manner the role that first made him famous. We’re not supposed to see superheroes die, but that’s what happens here. Wolverine finds his humanity, even fatherhood, as he fights valiantly till his last breath to protect those who matter to him. The title of this movie – the final in a spin-off trilogy comprising X-Men: Wolverine and The Wolverine – is tellingly and simply Logan and not Wolverine, because this is no longer a story of a freak, mutant or superhero but a man.
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