Sunday 5 March 2017

Logan Review: So this is how it ends (SPOILERS)

This is how superheroes die.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.

They peter out, wither away, vanish one by one, until only a few are left, and then these too are snuffed out.

This has to be one of the most depressing mainstream superhero film ever made, as well as the most unrepentantly violent. People aren't just punched: they are gutted, eviscerated, decapitated, crushed, shot, incinerated and more. Children commit horrific acts of violence, Hit Girl style. Beloved characters are maimed and mutilated and blown to bits.

They die in each others blood soaked arms.

Because that's life: it often sucks, and no one gets out alive.

The only comparable film I can think of is Super, which is funnier, but in some ways even more cynical.

Director James Mangold (Copland, Girl, Interrupted) does a superb job with the material.

The 'superheroes' of Logan (Xavier, Wolverine, and Caliban) bicker and fight, and while they have a bond, they often don't show each other much consideration. Professor Xavier is a sad, rambling old man with a degenerative brain disease, and he slings barbs at the ornery and put-upon Wolverine, who's unaccustomed to a caregiving role. Nursing is not his calling.

It's like peaking into a really dysfunctional, low budget old age home. Who knew superheroes went there to die, too, like the rest of us? Rotting away inside our meat packages, our minds and faculties and judgement withering like our failing flesh.

I always imagined Xavier would die in that big old mansion, Castle Loma, surrounded by friends, students, and family. There would be high priced doctors nearby, managing his palliative care.

Well, not so much, as it turns out.

It puts X-Men: First Class in a different light, knowing the awful end all these characters will come to. That everything they struggled for, mutant rights, will end in genocide. The virtual extermination of their kind. Professor X has not only seen his life's work annihilated, but he's killed by one of the only friends he has left. Or so he initially believes, in his senility and delirium. What agony that would be.

It's rare to see such an uncompromising superhero film.

Hugh Jackman is great in his final appearance as Wolverine, of course. He's always been a great Wolverine, just as Patrick Stewart continues to sell Dr. X. And the material lives up to their acting caliber.

In their last gore filled road trip, they recklessly endanger a family of farmers and succeed in getting the lot massacred. You just know these hapless good folks are going to die horribly the minute Dr. X accepts their generous invitation to dinner. Dinner and death for dessert. No good deed goes unpunished. But this is the low level to which Professor X's judgement has sunk.

He got them killed so he could have one last night with a family. That's how strong and desperate his desire for a slice of normalcy was. To eat a nice meal, enjoy apple pie, and get tucked into a warm bed.

For that he risked it all. A man who once saved the world on a regular basis risks his life, and the lives of others, for, essentially, a slice of pie.

Logan, too, has lost everything as the film begins. All his friends are dead. His protege is gone. His purpose in life almost forgotten. He's a shell of a man, one bullet and moment of weakness away from blowing his own brains out. The suffering here, the emotional agony of what are usually two dimensional cardboard superhero characters, is palpable. These are people on the edge of despair, staring into the abyss, and they aren't blinking.

Because they no longer care.

Caring hurts too much.

Then Logan gets a daughter, who's almost as reactively violent and filled with rage as he is. Faced with a cruel, callous, heartless world in which she has been endlessly abused by a monstrous and utterly evil corporation, it's easy to understand her anger. She's been betrayed since birth. Only a good hearted nurse, a shining light of decency, helped her escape from an early death.

So Logan and his daughter bond emotionally while slaughtering sadistic mercenaries known as Reavers, who are led by a Southern Gentleman and a Brit scientist who's the very definition of loathsome. None of these people have any conscience. It's almost comical how many heartless human monsters they are able to assemble and throw at ol' knife knuckles. And they're so despicable and contemptible in their lack of humanity you can't help but feel some small satisfaction in their horrible deaths. For they are evil men. Cardboard evil, but evil nonetheless.

The heart of the film is Logan, and more specifically, Logan getting in touch with his. He must learn to be vulnerable, to expose his heart and bond with his daughter. To find another human being worth sacrificing for. Worth loving, amidst all the hate and indifference and disregard and gruesome murder.

It's actually got some touching moments amidst the decapitations.

The Black Knight would love it.

If only we all could bond so, even if only at the end of this life.

Lights in the dark.

A decent send off for a great character and Jackman's inspired portrayal.

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