Marvel movies all feel the same. The heroes, uninspired. The cinematography, bland. And the scripts, predictable.
Studios have become so enraptured with creating a spectacle that they have replaced the humans under the masks and cowls with action figures. What, exactly, is different about Dr. Stephen Strange and Tony Stark? Even their eccentric goatees match. Simply put, I am worn out over superhero movies.
That paragraph may rankle the Marvel faithful, tempting them to heave the labyrinthine lore and vast history of the characters at me. You can probably hear my eyes glazing over.
Certainly, Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool made their own inspired marks in the Marvel realm. They made “It didn’t feel like a comic book movie” sound like a compliment. But it wasn’t until Marvel revisited the first superhero film franchise, X-Men, that they found something to explore beyond the spectacle.
Logan is the story of an aging, weary, substance-abusing Wolverine, now simply known as Logan (Hugh Jackman), who scratches out a living as a limousine driver along the US–Mexico border in order to buy medication for his ailing friend Professor Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart). He dreams of buying a boat and sailing away from his dusty life until a young mutant on the run shows up on his doorstep begging to be smuggled to Canada by the once legendary hero.
There is more drama in the first scene of Logan than the entire X-Men series. Jackman, who has played Logan for seventeen years, is outstanding. And Stewart, who plays a man not much older than himself, perfectly encapsulates the struggle and pain of an elderly man who is losing control of his mind and body to a degenerative disease.
Director James Mangold, who also co-wrote the film, doesn’t let Logan devolve into patent CGI chaos. Rest assured, there is plenty of action for the fans, and the berserker violence of Logan easily warrants the R-rating.
But Mangold doesn’t center his story on action. Instead, he tightens the focus on Logan, examining the greatest challenge for this violent, near-immortal man: intimacy.
In Logan, Mangold has made a near-future Western—Shane remade in Looper’s likeness—about a lone gunman brought to the end of himself, a haunted man, forced to protect others against his own self-interest. In so doing, Mangold examines masculinity alongside the great Westerns of film history.
Men connect with the cowboy, which then allows them to see themselves in the characters. Think of John Wayne, the stoic man of the Greatest Generation—brave, tough as nails, and doing “what has to be done.”
But, like many men of that generation, Wayne’s cowboys weren’t men of vulnerability. Logan is a broken stoic—Johnny Cash with claws. He carries himself with determination and grit, but we can see his wounds. He feels deeply but struggles to connect due to his brash persona and fear of being hurt yet again. In Logan, we see that true grit can’t heal a man.
Logan is by no means family-friendly, but this is a movie about family. It’s the story of a broken man hiding with a bottle of whiskey learning how to be a son and a father. I won’t spoil anything, but a lot of men were wiping their eyes as the credits rolled.
Cover image by Pro Image.