Logan Could Redefine Superhero Movies

Image: Supplied

Logan has finished Wolverine's story with a film that has the potential to redefine what a superhero movie can be. I went along to a screening with Kotaku's Amanda Yeo, and after chewing over our thoughts for a couple of days we sat down for a conversation about it. Here's what we think of Marvel's Logan.


Amanda: I went to see Logan with cautious optimism. The trailers looked fantastic. The story sounded like it would bring something new to the superhero film genre. However I’d been burned by good trailers for bad films before (hi Suicide Squad), and there have been some real X-flops in the past.

But, it’s unfair to compare Logan to past X-films. Logan is a different country. While the X-films, and indeed most superhero films, portray their protagonists at their arsekicking peak, Logan is what happens when time marches on and reality ensues. Bodies break down. Regrets accumulate. Friends disappear. The film’s tone is of death and dying, not with a bang but with a whimper, a fade into mediocrity, then obscurity, then obsolescence.

With a description like that, you’d think that there would be a lot of navel gazing, a few “what is life?” conversations and staring into the middle distance for long periods of introspection. But this is still a superhero film, and an MA15+ superhero film at that, with all the action the title entails.

In fact, the first thing that really stood out to me about Logan was the blood. There was so much blood! And maiming! It’s the kind of blood and maiming you’d expect from an action film wherein the protagonist has ridiculously sharp knives sticking out between their knuckles. It felt dangerous in a way that previous X-films didn’t, the logical conclusion to fighting with adamantium claws. The gore wasn’t stylised or gratuitous – it was simply fact, and satisfying as a result. Rather than distract from the tone, it added to it.


Hayley: I think I saw exactly one trailer for Logan before seeing the film, and while I was impressed by Marvel's restraint in not putting a singular explosion in it, I can't claim I was too hyped for it. As a rule I generally don't like superhero films — but I'm not sure I agree with Amanda that Logan was a superhero film at all. It's certainly not a superhero film we've seen before.

Now, I don't think the level of blood or gore in a film really has any impact on whether said film is good or not (sorry Amanda), but I do agree that the action in Logan was great. It managed to stride the line between realistic and superhuman with a level of grace I haven't seen in any other superhero film. I usually just tune out as soon as Marvel movies get to ridiculously overpowered yet totally insubstantial action scenes, but the action in Logan was viscerally satisfying in the way all superhero movies should be.

One of Logan's biggest achievements: it nailed the 'gritty reboot' in a way that few so-called 'gritty reboots' ever do. I know Logan is less a reboot and more of a sequel slash alternative universe continuation (or something, no one's ever made it clear where it sits), but it does the concept justice.

Logan is good gritty — eschewing the shiny tech, beautiful architecture and fast cars of other movies in the genre for a dusty, beat-up aesthetic. Even in a future where giant quadrupedal robots harvest corn for the thriving high fructose corn syrup market (too real), the characters can still travel cross-country over dusty roads in a beat-up old pick up truck.

I think the main reason Logan does this so well is because it's not afraid to touch on themes you usually wouldn't see in superhero films — Logan is not gentle in its depiction of mental illness and physical wasting, doesn't shy away from poverty and is possibly the only big-budget Hollywood film where you'll see a young girl so thoroughly beaten up on by unrepentant adults.

Image: Supplied

And, as Amanda pointed out — there's such a big focus on death. Not superhero movie death where you know some deus ex machina is going to come along and bring the hero miraculously back to life when you 'least expect it' — but real death, and what inevitably must come after it.


Amanda: I agree in that copious amounts of gore do not a good film make, but I’d say that here it serves a purpose and makes sense. Logan would have had a much more difficult time nailing that ‘gritty reboot’ sensibility had it confined itself to a level of viscera acceptable to a lower rating.

That being said while Logan does nail the ‘gritty reboot’, the worldbuilding was a little unclear to me. It seemed like it wanted to evoke the lawlessness of a post-apocalyptic society, or the Wild West. But then Logan was driving a limo, chauffeuring around carefree women in wedding dresses and boys in ugly formal suits.

I suppose it could be that only Logan’s little section of the world has fallen apart, while the rest of the world keeps turning without him. That would make sense, and even be a bit poetic. But it isn’t reflected in the way other characters behave. Where are the police during all this? Where is the government? You’d think that, if there was a functioning society going on outside Logan’s world, he would butt up against it, what with the trail of bodies he leaves in his wake. But even with this quibble, it wasn’t an overwhelming issue — the story pulled me along and was entertaining enough that I could forgive and forget such quirks.

As Hayley mentioned, one of the great things that Logan does is to face themes that other superhero films — or indeed most action films – generally avoid. And it doesn’t only touch on them – it sprints at them, full tilt, claws out and screaming. Superhero films are usually two hours of fun escapism. In contrast, Logan punches you with mortality.

The deterioration of Logan’s body, through both age and repeated injury, is confronting when compared to how indestructible he has previously been depicted. Professor Xavier, known for his sharp intellect as much as his psychic abilities, rambles and whines, no longer in control of his own mind let alone anything else. They serve as a reminder that nothing is forever. You could be the best at what you do, but one day you will no longer be able to do it.

It’s a very depressing, persistent theme. But even so, it never gets to be too much or too depressing. This is because of Laura. Logan was really all about Laura, AKA X-23, played by Dafne Keen. Yes, the film is named for Hugh Jackman’s character, and yes it does feature a wonderfully pottymouthed Sir Patrick Stewart (the source of some of that aforementioned humour).

Yet Keen’s Laura is the main event. From her first action sequence, I couldn’t get enough of her. Even when she doesn’t speak, there’s a fierceness and surety in her — she knows exactly what she’s doing and doesn’t need to justify herself to anyone. Where Logan and Xavier are fading, she is rising, bright, headstrong and brutal.

Image: Supplied

Initially I was concerned about how Laura would be treated on the big screen. When the character was first introduced in the comics in 2005, there was no shortage of fans taking umbrage at the introduction of a female Wolverine clone, feeling that Logan was being forcefully replaced. But Laura is very clearly not another Logan, and she is taking nobody’s place. She’s making her own place, building a tower rather than filling a hole. She’s experienced firsthand the violence of how it was, and it’s now on her to determine how it will be. Laura is the next generation and through her life goes on, even in the face of so much death.


Hayley: I'm with you there, Laura was definitely my favourite part of the movie — and this with the context that usually I hate kids, child actors and any type of fiction that attempts to make children the main focus. Keen's performance is key to this, thankfully proving her to be a level above the usual standard of child actors.

I guess one of the reasons Laura works where so many other little on-screen brats fail is that she's so wonderfully, weirdly un-childlike. When her more 'childish' traits do show through a usually stoic and solemn demeanour, they make for beautiful little moments where we see through her eyes. This happens more and more as the film progresses — Logan closes off and Laura opens up and the movie subtly shifts its perspective. They way this story has been told is really well done.

I have to admit that I didn't have the same problem with the worldbuilding as Amanda did — I loved it. One of my favourite little things about the setting was the weird, fourth-wall nudging fact that the X-Men comics do physically exist in this world. Many of the characters have read them, comparing Jackman's Logan to the Wolverine that they read about in their comics. He's as much a reclusive celebrity as he is a superhero, constantly forced to explain that the comics were more some author's fantasy than a chronicle of what really happened. One kid carries around an action figure of Wolverine in his distinctive yellow outfit from the comics. It's another little detail that serves to set Logan aside from many of the more 'fantastical' comic book adaptations.

More broadly, I loved that the film didn't feel the need to tell you everything that was happening in its world. You only got the parts of it that directly impacted Logan and Laura. And they're really what this movie is about at its core. It's a surprisingly intimate story. There's no grand 'save the world' or 'protect the innocent' plot in play, and there's certainly no sinister energy laser beaming into the sky that the heroes have to stop. You do, of course, find out some details about the baddies' grand plots and plans, but it pales in comparison to the story of Logan and Laura just… getting to know each other.

Speaking of the bad guys, though, I feel like they were Logan's biggest disappointment — if I had to pick something to complain about, which I'm surprisingly disinclined to do with this film. While Boyd Holbrook is legitimately enjoyable to watch as Laura's ruthless yet charismatic pursuer Donald Pierce, there's nothing about him or Richard Grant's ominous doctor Zander Rice that is new or interesting in the way its protagonists are.

They fall into the usual superhero movie trap of being too one-dimensional, too randomly amoral, too evil. Granted that does give Logan more time to spend building up its heroes instead, but the times that the bad guys are on screen are the times when Logan most resembles the rest of the bland, indistinguishable superhero movies that Hollywood is currently saturated with.

One thing I am very glad of is that Logan avoided the lure of two notorious Marvel staples — the tie-in and the cameo. The aforementioned comic book thing was as far as they really went with this — there were no gratuitous Marvel TV show characters popping in to say hello, no characters introduced with that "I'll be back" set up for their own films, nothing. In Logan, Marvel has finally managed to stick with the one film they were actually making.

Logan just isn't your average Marvel movie. If you go expecting a superhero movie you'll probably be disappointed, or at least mildly confused. But it's a great film. I might even go far as to say that Logan is the first superhero movie that's also just a good film — no caveats needed.

This story originally appeared on Gizmodo


Comments

    Logan just isn't your average Marvel movie.

    That's because Logan is a FOX movie... it might be a Marvel property, but they've had pretty much nothing to do with the production of it from day one.

    I might even go far as to say that Logan is the first superhero movie that's also just a good film — no caveats needed.

    And I'm sorry but you'd be wrong. That honour goes to THE DARK KNIGHT which itself was a fantastic crime movie, no caveats needed, which resides alongside the best from people like Michael Mann, that just happened to star a dude in a costume who 'wasn't wearing hockeypads'. Logan easily stands shoulder to shoulder with TDK, as the two best movies made *about* superheroes, which are brilliant movies that just happen to have superheroes at their core, elevating them above, well above, their brethren.

    Though one can potentially and likely successfully make this argument as well for Guardians of the Galaxy which is a great Science Fiction adventure before one even *considers* it's comicbook attachment...

    Last edited 06/03/17 2:09 pm

      Another spot on comic/movie related comment from Weresmurf :D

      I think the caveat about TDK is that it's relies so heavily on one outstanding performance. TDK without Keith Ledger would feel pretty rote and forgettable. If Hugh Jackman had under-delivered in Logan it still would've been a fantastic film, with great performances by Patrick Stewart and the new girl, as well as interesting supporting roles with Pierce and Caliban. Jackman bringing his A game was just the icing on the cake.

        Unfortunately the same exception could then be made for Logan? Would it be as strong without Patrick Stewart? A huge element of this movie was the shifting dynamic of young to old. TDK I disagree in the rote and forgettable aspect, as without *Heath* Ledger we would've had someone else and another performance we cannot gauge without seeing theirs and quite frankly the performances from Oldman to Caine to Eric Roberts were all around fantastic, very high quality in general. Hell, even Maggie Gyllenhaal managed to make her character, Rachel Dawes likeable, which was a feat and a half given her characters origins. It's a bit of a non-factor in that sense. But as for Logan, as I said, when we remove one factor from one, we have to even it up and say 'Ok let's remove a factor from the other, and is it as strong?' and in this case, no, honestly it wouldn't have been without him as Stewart was to Logan what Heath was to TDK. His older, cantankerous Xavier was over the top (who didn't smile, laugh and feel all warm inside when he told Logan to 'fuck off' lol), heartfelt and amazing and likely THIS is the performance he'll be remembered for in the X-verse for years to come as Heath will be for the Nolanverse.

        Last edited 06/03/17 4:50 pm

      It's not even your average Fox Marvel movie though. It's a shame they haven't managed to put out anything this good in the main X-Men film series in a while.

        Absolutely, I'd love to see more experimental XVerse films like this and Deadpool made, that's for sure.

          I think it will be more interesting to see the impact on the superhero movies that Logan has.

      I guess someone had to be that guy. It is a movie made about a Marvel property featuring Marvel superheroes. Hence why I didn't call it a Marvel Studios movie or an MCU movie. Considering all the other X-films are also Fox, the comparison holds up.

      I'll give you that on TDK, though. I certainly didn't enjoy it as much as I did Logan but I won't deny it's a good movie (it just went on for an hour too long oh god why)

        Someone 'had' to be that guy because it wasn't the only time you mentioned it either?

        "I was impressed by Marvel's restraint in not putting a singular explosion in it,"

        Were you equally as impressed by Fox's restraint?

        You really didn't need to be snarky in your reply though, given I wasn't in mine.

          Apologies for the snark, I realise that that didn't come across in as good humour as I intended. Just thought I would explain why I made the editorial decision to use 'Marvel movie' as an easy go to for a movie based on a Marvel property.

          Agreed that that second usage of 'Marvel' isn't quite accurate though, on second reading. Whoops!

            All good. Hope you have a great day :) Fantastic movie though, seeing it again this weekend and taking a tissuebox...

      But it's a great film. I might even go far as to say that Logan is the first superhero movie that's also just a good film — no caveats needed.

      The parallels with The Last Of Us keep coming. I feel like that game was the first game (I truly mean that; video game stories are trash, even the best in class) you could say the same about: "a good story, not just a good video game story", and Logan is the same. This isn't quite as "The Last Of Us: The Movie" as I thought it would be but it's still damn close. I think Logan belongs alongside The Road and Children Of Men far more than any Marvel property, and thank christ for that.

      I hate superhero films for much of the same reasons Hayley does, but Logan stayed the hell away from all of the tropes to tell a compelling story that made its subject matter work for it, rather than fanboying over the material like Jos Whedon would (that's why his tv shows always get cancelled, by the way, he's too in love with the subject matter). Marvel needs to learn before the money train runs out of steam that they need to focus on making good stories first, and fanboy masturbation material second.

    I was left gobsmacked at the end of this film at just how good it is. Equal parts exhilarating and heartbreaking; I almost forgot I was watching a superhero movie at times!

    Dafne Keen is a revelation. She was so awesome as Laura!

    What a brilliant swansong for both Jackman and Stewart. Definitely finishing on a high note!

    And yes, the film is brutal - on more than one level too - but don't let that deter you from seeing it.

    Also apparently the director's making a special black & white version of the film. That will be amazing to watch!

    One thin I noticed, minor as it was, was the old Marvel logo at the start of the film, wasn't the new Disney one ... kinda interesting.

    Also didn't see the Stan Lee cameo ... although didn't see the 'Pre-trailer for Deadpool ether which is apparently not showing in Australia ....

    Last edited 06/03/17 3:36 pm

      Details like the logo and such are likely because it's a Fox movie, not a Marvel Studios movie.

      And in the event you aren't already aware, the Deadpool video is up online now if you want to watch it...
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5ezsReZcxU

      Last edited 06/03/17 3:51 pm

        Bingo, and man I loved the Deadpool 2 teaser! Both of 'em! (The original leaked one with the Superman theme playing instead of the other music, and the extra F Bomb).

          I found the teaser online a day later so all good. I do remember reading somewhere, Hugh saying 'Not at this time' for a Wolvering/Deadpool movie, he didn't say outright 'NO', so im holding out hope. It all depends on how much $$$ and CGI they do.

      The new logo is exclusively for Marvel Studio's films. It to differentiate the 2

    Movie was decent, but it was also very predictable. Plot pieces were instantly identifiable and quickly discarded after use. Some scenes were unnecessarily prolonged, while scenes that fealt like they should have been fleshed out were short.

      I did a bit of an eye-roll when the wolverine clone appeared, yeah. X-Men love doing those sorts of things and its definitely a vestige of the campiness of the prior films.

      I think while it was predictable in some ways, being completely unfamiliar with the X-Men universe (the last film i saw was X2) helped me feel on edge with every fight scene. I knew that people were going to die in this one, it was only a matter of when. The Logan / Laura arc had already been done beat for beat in The Last Of Us, so it definitely felt predictable.

        For me it was whenthe bullet was shown, I told my friend sitting next to me that there would be a double of X23 or Logan.

        Some of the writing was really lazy.

          Well the Chekhov's Gun principle would dictate that it would have been used for something, of course, but it could have just as easily been used on one of the main characters as well. I think that's a pretty specific leap to make from the appearance of that object though, good job for getting it right, but I don't think that was particularly obvious.

          One thing i thought was just flat out stupid and pulled me out of the film completely was that iphone footage part. It just made no sense that the footage would be allowed to be taken especially as Boyd Holbrook's character literally walks in front of it in several shots. That was a really weak and lazy exposition approach.

            Or that even though it was clearly filmed far before finding Logan, she knew he would be the one to find her phone.

    vThat being said while Logan does nail the ‘gritty reboot’, the worldbuilding was a little unclear to me. It seemed like it wanted to evoke the lawlessness of a post-apocalyptic society, or the Wild West. But then Logan was driving a limo, chauffeuring around carefree women in wedding dresses and boys in ugly formal suits.

    I'm thinking it was meant to be like the first Mad Max, with society teetering on the edge while people are trying to stick to normality. But yeah, they didn't do a great job exploring it.

      Or you know he was in Mexico.

        Back and forward - the scene where he got mugged and shot was in the States.

        This is pretty much what I got from the worldbuilding, honestly.

    Maybe it's just me, but I didn't have any issue with the world building. Society still exists which is evident by the towns, the casino and the farmhouse; it's just that the mutant population has all but died out and Logan and Caliban are hiding out to protect and care for Xavier.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the movie! Great way for Hugh Jackman to go out of the X seires.

    I understand that he is just a homo sapien so has other things to do in his life and can't play Wolverine for ever, but I am in favour of Chris Claremont's ending for Wolverine.

    http://www.newsarama.com/17184-claremont-reveals-his-final-vision-for-phoenix-wolverine.html
    It's a fairly long article, the wolverine ending is about halfway through.
    I was lucky enough to hear Chris Claremont describe it at a panel at a convention in Sydney and he did it so beautifully the imagery he could form in your mind with some spoken words was amazing.

    In my mind, that is how Wolverine's story will end. Even at the end of Logan, I could imagine after the credits finish rolling, a further scene where Claremont's vision plays out.

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