By Tapasya Singh (17S03C)
The film starts with a scene we’ve seen countless times in every superhero movie – the protagonist, surrounded by half a dozen armed men. He warns them not to start anything, they don’t take heed, and a fight ensues.
This scene may well be scripted the same across all movies of the genre – the hero defeats them with ease, and leaves the fight virtually unharmed.
This time, however, the narrative changes. Wolverine, our hero, gets beaten badly before managing to take on his attackers, and the wounds that would once heal near-instantly are now left gaping. The difference, is that this is not a superhero movie. Logan isn’t – or rather, doesn’t want to be – the hero, and there is no supervillain for him to destroy. His greatest opponent is, and has always been, himself. Playing out like a cross between a Western and a survival road-trip, Logan exchanges spandex and fancy new tech for a raw exploration of who Wolverine really is.
Set in 2029, we see Logan with a reduced healing factor having mostly shunned his mutant abilities, choosing instead to drive a limo and self-medicate with liquor. He works alongside mutant Caliban to care for Charles Xavier, who has a neurodegenerative disease and needs to be drugged to keep his apocalyptic seizures at bay. It is clear from the onset that something is terribly wrong – death has become possible for our previously indestructible heroes.
Furthermore, mutants are on the brink of extinction, with the last one having been born twenty-five years ago. The lack of mutant births is easily explained away using a classic sci-fi plot – an evil scientist attempts to control all mutants by genetically engineering corn into containing a mutant-gene suppressor. The shocker is how the movie handles the death of most other mutants.
Taking a surprisingly dark turn, it is revealed that most of the X-men were killed by Charles Xavier, or rather, by one of his deadly seizures that paralyze everyone in the vicinity with crippling psychic pain. Xavier’s brain has been classified by the government as a weapon of mass destruction, and yet he is unaware of its destructive ability – Logan has been keeping the truth from Charles, who only learns of the aforementioned event through a radio broadcast halfway through the movie. Whether driven by external forces or simply his own crippling mind, the truth is undeniable – Charles Xavier murdered his students and friends. In a movie so character-driven, this event is the catalyst that leads to the Charles and Logan we get to see – anguished and in hiding, trying to scrape together enough money to make a run for it.
Logan’s plan to buy a boat and live on the ocean with Xavier goes right out the window when a little girl sporting her very own set of adamantium claws shows up needing his help. For a man who has long since given up hope for himself, it is her arrival that gives Logan a new purpose – loath as he may be to admit it. And so begins a journey of them staying just one step ahead of the villains, trying to escape to a safe haven for mutants.
The overarching thread in this movie is Logan’s redemption – he starts off being reluctant to even consider helping Laura, but by the end of the trip is willing to give up his life for her. This protectiveness might, of course, have been helped along by the fact that she is his biological daughter, bred in a lab using Logan’s DNA. The steady pace of the film allows it to explore the idea of what a family looks like – for that is what Logan, Charles and Laura end up becoming.
For the most part, it is Charles encouraging Logan to help Laura and look after her. However, as we get closer to the ending, it becomes clear that Logan sees, in Laura, not only a reflection of himself, but also a chance for her to do better – to be better. The Logan we see is haunted by the ghosts of events past, and this journey allows him to work through them – and allows us to see the man behind the myth.
The character of Logan is reminiscent of a broken-down antihero – tired of the fight, nursing decades of regret, and holding on for just one last mission. Here, we see the nitty-gritty essence of Logan – the desperate, no-holds-barred fighting, the agony of being a mutant, the need to fight for something bigger than himself – which was brought out brilliantly thanks to director James Mangold’s decision to go with an R (M18 in Singapore) rating for Logan. The movie is grotesquely violent, and is the first X-men film to truly depict the horror that mutants have to live through. The excess CGI and overhead shots are scrapped for cleaner filming closer to the action, resulting in a film that is grimly violent with an overarching sense of fatalism.
This is the last time that Hugh Jackman will take on the role of Wolverine, and after seventeen years of the classic superhero trope, we have finally gotten to see the kind of performance that won him multiple accolades. A truly gifted actor, Jackman’s portrayal of a deteriorating Logan is raw and deeply compelling, and it is him and Patrick Stewart (playing Charles Xavier) who strip away the quips and one-liners to deliver an emotional, heart-wrenching performance about family and the need to belong. The movie’s introspective theme and poignant dialogue constantly remind the audience of the cost of the endless fight, and make no mistake, Logan definitely earns it tears.