Review: Logan – redeeming the superhero genre

The superhero movie genre is arguably becoming saturated, but this latest Marvel offering offers something new…

In 2016 alone, Marvel and DC released a total of six superhero films, adding to Marvel’s already massive cinematic universe and DC’s considerably smaller, but growing, one. Though it seems as though we’ve reached peak superhero film saturation, Logan provides a strong argument for superhero movies to continue, offering a refreshing, mature look at one of comic books’ most beloved characters.

From the get-go, it’s clear that Logan understands the genre’s strength: strong, well-defined characters. Set in 2029, where no new mutants are being born, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), finds himself hiding out in Mexico with Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a hesitant-to-help Caliban (Stephen Merchant).

‘From the get-go, it’s clear that Logan understands the genre’s strength: strong, well-defined character’

Jackman and Stewart reprise their roles with aplomb, with Jackman bringing to life Logan’s deep pain and turmoil and Stewart playing Professor X like we’ve never seen before: unhinged and unstable, though we don’t find out why until midway through the film. The two draw on years of experience acting together, spanning 17 years from 2000’s X-Men until today, and bring to the screen an effortless, natural chemistry. Their acting is supported by a strong script by James Mangold and Scott Frank, which is subtle and moving in its treatment of the characters.

Their pseudo father-son chemistry is almost matched by the family-like dynamic of Logan, Xavier and Laura (Dafne Keen), a mutant child on the run from dark forces Logan is forced to help survive. Keen gives an admirable performance, though the writing doesn’t give her much to do; for most of the film, she’s relegated to being the silent feral child. Still, she conveys her sense of character well.

Though its focus on the characters is one of the film’s biggest strengths, Logan could have benefitted from better-developed side characters. The villain, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), is a cookie-cutter mercenary type with paper-thin motives. The film’s mysteries and subplots, like the disappearance of the mutant gene and the shadowy multinational which seems to produce nearly everything in this bleak future, seem almost like background texture, each one resolved quietly and without spectacle, taking a backseat to the interactions between and the development of the main characters. It’s a bold choice in a genre where world-building and larger than life stories reign supreme, but perhaps it was the right one.  After all, as the title makes clear, the film is about one character: Logan.

Mikhail Hanafi

(Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

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