“Logan”: A Gritty, Character-Driven Approach to the Superhero Genre

I’m just going to say it: Logan is the best superhero movie since The Dark Knight. As Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, he really couldn’t have asked for a better way to leave the X-Men franchise. Director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman take a new approach with Logan, offering a self-contained, emotionally-driven story that gives us something most other superhero movies don’t: an ending.

The rest of this article will continue with the assumption that you’ve seen Logan, so I would stop reading here if you haven’t (unless you don’t care about having the movie ruined for yourself). Major spoilers lay ahead…you’ve been warned!

I think it’s fair to say that many of us have been suffering from superhero-fatigue. The constant stream of Marvel movies, all of the sequels, the spinoffs, and the origin stories, have been offering pretty much the same thing for years now: global conflicts, city-wide destruction, and CGI galore. Each new Avengers movie is essentially just a two-hour trailer for the next film. The characters never really undergo any meaningful changes or experience any growth and you never feel like any of them are ever in any real danger because you know they’ll be back in the sequel. The audience is given a couple of hours of mindless popcorn action that doesn’t really seem to lead anywhere or have any real consequences.

Logan is everything that the Avengers movies never will be. It trades large-scale action for character development and an emotionally-driven story. Logan doesn’t try to set up any future movies and simply presents an end to the story of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. It feels real and grounded. It’s brutal and yet touching. Logan evokes genuine emotion not normally felt during superhero movies and gives the audience a heartfelt and noble end to both Professor Xavier and Wolverine.

Logan house wallpaper

The start of Logan sets the tone perfectly for what will follow in the rest of the movie. From the moment a weary, aged, and boozed-up Logan drags himself out of his limo, takes a shotgun blast to the chest and proceeds to get up and violently slash, stab, and dismember the gang who were trying to strip his car down, the movie has already made clear that we’re going to be seeing something different from what we’ve seen in this genre in the past. The violence is gritty and real, the F-bomb is dropped every other sentence, and Logan is worn down and exhausted, his healing no longer as effective as it once was. The Logan we see at the beginning of the movie is concerned only with saving up enough money to afford a boat so him and Professor Xavier can live out their days in peace on the ocean. Logan’s plan is, of course, ruined as Laura, a young mutant with similar abilities to his own and the claws to match, comes into his care.

logan and charles

It’s remarkably refreshing to see a superhero movie take things small scale. The film simply seeks to explore the relationships between Logan, Laura, and Professor X as they embark upon a journey together. This journey begins when, at the insistence of Charles, Logan agrees to transport Laura to a supposed ‘safe haven’ in Canada. We get to see Logan change throughout this journey from a stubborn and unwilling source of transportation for Laura, to a reluctant guardian and, finally, to showing genuine love for the young mutant that also happens to be his lab-engineered daughter. Logan’s evolution doesn’t come easy though and he continually has to make difficult choices and endure extreme amounts of pain to accomplish the task that was thrust upon him. In the end Logan chooses to sacrifice his own life so that Laura and the other young mutants can escape. Logan has definitive character arcs and doesn’t depend on the any of the previous X-Men movies to make sense (even though it adds to the weight of the story if one at least understand’s that there used to be other X-Men but they’re all gone/ dead now). The complicated and confusing X-Men timeline that was created in previous franchise entries is pretty much ignored in favour of a self-contained, character-driven story.

Laura
Dafne Keen as Laura, Logan’s biological daughter.

One of the most touching and, at the same time, shocking moments of film comes near the middle when the three protagonists are offered a warm meal and a bed to spend the night in by a kind farming family. The first semblances of Logan’s softening exterior begin to show in the moments at the dinner table when all of the characters are simply talking and eating. Logan opens up slightly to this new family and we begin to see a degree of compassion shown towards Laura. This night of peace is, however, shattered by the arrival of X-24, a younger, stronger, and emotionless version of Logan himself. X-24 slaughters the entire farm family and kills Charles as well in what feels like a nightmare sequence. While many are unsure of the choice to add in X-24 as a central antagonist, it makes a remarkable amount of sense to see Logan battling a lab-created version of himself; he’s essentially fighting against the killing machine that he was designed to be and that he has continually sought to repress. Throughout Logan’s journey, the meaningful connections he made with mutants like Charles, Storm, Jean, and the other characters from the X-Men franchise made him more human. These relationships exposed Logan to love and companionship outside of a world of rage and violence, a world that X-24 was designed to never escape.

Logan and Laura grave

The ending of the film is just that: an ending. We see Logan, with the last ounces of strength that he can muster, fighting off the Reavers and X-24 so that the mutant children can escape to Canada. In the final battle against X-24, in which he is severely disadvantaged, we see Logan being hacked and stabbed to death before finally being impaled on the root of a felled tree. When Laura is kneeling by his side after shooting X-24 in the head with an adamantium bullet, we finally get a glimpse of a true father-daughter relationship between her and Logan. Logan’s final words: “So this is what it feels like,” really give a bittersweet end to the character. This moment is genuinely tear-inducing because we see Logan go out experiencing something he’s been looking for his whole life: family. While it’s likely we’ll see Laura and the other mutant children get their own movie in the future, Logan isn’t going out of its way to set up any further adventures. Logan’s story is over. Charles’s story is over. There’s no cliffhanger ending or post-credit scene because Logan was intended to have a definitive finality to it that pretty much every other superhero movie these days doesn’t have.

The acting is fantastic, the action is gritty, and the story is captivating. Even if you’re not a fan of superhero movies there’s something to be said for what Director James Mangold has done with Logan. It’s not just a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie. Period.

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Author: Ryan Northrup

I'm recent graduate of McMaster University's history program in Ontario, Canada and I have a passion for a good story.

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