Review: Logan (2017)

The following review contains no spoilers.

With that out of the way, on we go into a gripping recount of my experience with this magnificent Science Fiction/ Western, a masterpiece of a film starring everyone’s favorite huge jacked man, Hugh Jackman, and the ever-lauded Patrick Stewart, reprising their roles one last time for the big screens.

Logan brings more mature themes into the X-movie franchise, allowing us a glimpse into the depths of Wolverine’s struggles with regret, guilt and his refusal to believe he can and should die happily. In this review, I want to cover three aspects of Logan that made it such an enriching experience for me. The film is delivered to us in frame by frame paintings of gripping realism (apart from the sci-fi elements of course), from its fight scenes to its transitional scenes. It also highlights the frailty of mutants, which is striking as the audience tends to see them as superheroes rather than victims.

The beauty of Logan is its ability to stand alone among its predecessors, being a film not just for the X-men comic reader. This distinction lies in the film’s genre shifting from superhero trope to classic Western. The Western is a genre of film that represents the gritty but sublime atmosphere of the Old West, when America was still a new frontier for European immigrants and where our idea of the stereotypical cowboy emerged. This re-envisioned aesthetic allows the film to convey a sense of realism, with the scorching light of the sun illuminating every gritty detail of the characters and their settings. The intensity of the visuals draws the viewer in, conveying even the sensation of desert heat almost as tangibly as the characters’ portrayals include us in the pain, rage and fatigue they go through on their journey. This perspective is unlike other superhero films where there is a certain distance between the viewer in the real world, and the hero in the fictional one. Logan breaks this separation, successfully integrating the viewer into its world.

The choreography of the film’s fight scenes are a marvel. The film pulls no punches, upping the ante with each successive blow, stab and slash, so that by the end your heart feels jack-hammered to smithereens. You never know when a fight has fully ended — tension is always in the air, even during the moments of hard-won peace, knowing that violence could erupt again at any time. The moments of respite in the film are thus even more heartfelt — they are the calm before yet another gut-punch to the heart. 

However it’s not all doom and gloom. Interspersed between high octane fight sequences is humor, artfully placed when the audience needs it most. Patrick Stewart’s uncharacteristically cranky, drug-addled, foul-mouthed Professor X carries much of the humour in his dialogue. But Prof X has also got beautifully lucid moments in which he seems to be the only one working to create, mend and heal relationships when everyone else is pulling apart or are tearing into each other. The careful balance of tension and humour prevents the film from being too overwhelming in its violence and emotional intensity.

Finally, what underscores this entire film and which ultimately sells it for me is the recognition of X-men as merely enhanced humans, and not the mutant superheroes perpetuated in mainstream comic book movie culture. The film sheds the idealistic mold society tends to place on superheroes, and redefines them as just as flawed or even more flawed than regular people. The mutants in the films are ailing, and their illnesses are as familiar to us as Alzheimer’s and blood poisoning. These weaknesses are amplified by their enhanced states, making their frailty all the more apparent. Furthermore, mutants are outcasts, hounded to extinction or are exploited in the process. This look at the darker side of being considered genetically dis/advantaged raises questions about the future of humanity outside of this fictional world of 2029. One such question is: to what extent does our awareness of our differences keep us apart? And in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, will we ever as a society draw the line and say, “Hey, we’re not so different after all”?

Overall, I rate Logan an 9/10, with the minus one coming from a particularly cheesy resolution at the end of the film, which I shall not spoil, as promised. 😀


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