In the year 2000, Bryan Singer made XMen. It still holds up well after all these years, specially the set-piece at Grand Central though perhaps not Storm vs Toad, but the significance of the original XMen goes well beyond as a well-done off. It launched the age of the modern superhero franchise, multiple interconnected movies, A-list actors, A-list directors, revenues in the billions, and guaranteed summer blockbusterdom. And the worldwide phenomenon of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Over the years, the XMen franchise has spawned multiple movies, some good, most bad, and Hugh Jackman has been through most of it all, and before you know it a whole seventeen years have passed, and a generation has grown up, watching this one actor play this one character. And so when Hugh Jackman announced his decision to hang up his claws, it was like a favorite player announcing his retirement, you wanted him to have a great send-off, a film worthy of a career.
Logan is that. And more. It ties with The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie ever. There are no God-like beings having universes for lunch, gigantic drills changing the earth’s polarity, hundred story buildings being split apart by a laser beam, no endless armies of superheros, each having two minutes of dialogues and three scenes, no greenscreen assault of CGI jiggerypokery, and most importantly, no feeling of having paid good money to watch a trailer for forthcoming attractions, all of which would then, in turn, be trailers for the next set. In Logan, the violence is scaled down, the action set pieces scaled back, and the focus is on the effects of the violence, the wounds and the hurt, and this makes it all so much more real and effective. In that it is a cowboy movie with mutants, using the trope of the washed out gunslinger and the brash evil sheriff and the final redemption of the flawed hero, and with locales in cowboy country and sun-washed frames, so reminiscent of the world of Eastwood, Fonda and Leone.
But it is also a movie about people, an old man taking care of an even older man, betrayed by his own body, alone and bitter, trying to find some meaning behind whatever is left of his life. Wolverine and Dr. Xavier are fighting time, like all of us, and the fight becomes the fight of our lives, the closer we get to death. Wolverine’s wounds don’t heal as quick as they used to, his body is no longer as he remembers it to be, he moves slower, he struggles for breath, and punks that he could have ripped through in a moment now can cause him serious hurt. Francis Xavier is older still, struggling to control his ability to manipulate minds in the way that old men struggle to control their bowels. It is the small things about old age that James Mangold gets right in Logan, the scenes of Xavier arguing about medicines and the lucidity of his mind and then lashing out at his caregivers, or when he is frustrated of having to be lowered on the toilet seat, or when Wolverine gets angry at the failings of his once perfect, self-healing body, leaving far more emotional punch-in-the-gut impact than the combined ten films of the X Men franchise.
Be warned about taking children to Logan though.
The violence is raw , the language intense, the wounds dig deep, and the blood runs dark.
This is not your father’s men-in-tights. This is bare-knuckles visceral cinema, of broken men trying to piece together their minds and bodies and find relevance in a world that has no more use of them.
An adamantine claw straight through the heart. This one will stay with me for a long, long time.