Monday, March 13, 2017

Logan is the best superhero film ever made

Wolverine and X-23

When I reviewed Logan last week for FanSided I tried to reign in my fanboy gushing and keep it spoiler free. But there was a lot more I wanted to say about the film. This being my blog, where I'm free to let the fanboy freak fly and get spoilery, I'm about to do just that. I'm a huge X-Men fan. Like many of us, I've been waiting years for a truly great film in the franchise (besides X2, which is a very good movie). Logan is the film we've all been waiting for. So you've been warned: excessive geeking out and spoilers lie ahead. 

With Logan, director James Mangold has given us one of the most visually stunning films the superhero genre has ever seen. The cinematography beautifully reflects the film's themes and tone. More than a week after seeing it, I still can't get certain scenes and images out of my head. These are just a few:

The first of several brutally graphic fight scenes that made it clear this would be the most R-rated and unleashed cinematic Wolverine yet.

Logan, battered and bruised, carrying the sick and weakened Charles to his bed.

Caliban's death scene, when everything goes quiet for a brief moment before he sacrifices himself and blows the truck sky high.

Every single time Laura leaps and slashes and screams into action, matching Logan's own ferocity in battle.

The quiet normality of the family dinner scene, with laughter, even. The calm before the horrendous violence to come.

Charles' moving, elegiac speech about the perfect day he's just experienced, followed immediately by his death.

Logan, after so much trauma has transpired, choking back tears and breaking up in front of Laura.

Logan, asleep on Laura's lap in the truck. a rare moment of respite.

Near the end, when Logan tells Laura, "Don't be what they made you."

And finally, when Laura rotates the cross on Logan's grave so it resembles an "X."

Wolverine and X-23

Logan absolutely wrecked me, for several reasons. First, I'm invested in Hugh Jackman's portrayal of the character at this point, after seventeen years and nine previous films. Like many, I wasn't sure about his casting back in 2000 (he was an unknown in America), but over the years he consistently proved to be one of the best aspects of every X-Men film he appeared in. Knowing this was Jackman's last time wearing the claws, I was prepared to be emotional.

The story, focusing on family—both the kind you're born into and the kind you create—also completely destroyed me. It was impossible not to see similarities to my own experiences, both in Logan's relationship to an aging father figure losing his mental acuity (Charles) and to his young daughter (Laura). I've felt as tired and resigned as Logan feels while caring for the aging Charles; I've felt, deep inside, the overwhelming fatherly instinct to protect my daughter and son, at any cost. At the heart of film, Logan is really about the love we have for family, and how we'll do anything to keep them safe. Even when we feel hopeless, as Logan does, we'll still muster the strength because we have to. We can't let them down.

Wolverine, X-23, and Professor X

So many aspects of Logan are unlike anything I've experienced in previous superhero films. The fight scenes, the cinematography, the direction, the pacing, and the acting are all first rate. Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Daphne Keen in particularly give performances that are so real that it's uncanny. After all these years, Jackman and Stewart are so in sync with their characters now that it's hard to see them acting at all. Keen is the real revelation though; it's remarkable to realize she was only eleven or twelve years old while filming. Together with Jackman, Keen completely commits to the fight scenes, which are all breathtakingly executed. The chemistry between the three leads is off the charts. Stephen Merchant as Caliban, the mutant helping Charles and Logan, and Boyd Holbrook as the relentless pursuer Donald Pierce are also standouts.

It's also worth mentioning just how well the studio advertised this film. The first trailer, last fall, was nearly universally praised. It was a work of its art for the form, frankly. Now having seen Logan, I can see how the trailer perfectly captured the essence of the film. From the music—Johnny Cash's cover of "Hurt"—to the scene selection and editing, it conveys everything you need to know about the film in under two minutes. It carries similar a emotional weight as the film. That's incredibly rare. I've watched it again since seeing Logan (several times, in fact), and it only further reinforces my love of the movie.

I realize it's still fresh and this opinion could change, but as of this writing it's the best superhero/comic book film I've ever seen. There are so many reasons why: it's heartbreaking, brutal, thoughtful, exhilarating, touching, violent, funny, powerful. It seamlessly blends all of those elements into one truly memorable cinematic experience. This is what a superhero film can be when the filmmakers place the emphasis on characters instead of things blowing up. Certainly, Logan is filled with its fair share of pulse-pounding action scenes (some of the best I've ever seen, in fact). However, it's the journey that Logan, Charles, and Laura are taking together—and how it solidifies their bond and our investment in them—that leaves the biggest impression.

I've rambled, ranted, and raved here. Even with all of that, I still can't express enough just how much I loved Logan. Go, see it right now. Call out of work if you have to, get a babysitter if necessary, just do it. And be prepared to cry, both during the film and after the end credits roll.

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