When I started writing this blog, I decided I would write on the broad topic of entertainment every Friday. Today is Saturday, because I don’t have my life together, but anyway, here’s my first impressions of the second most popular R-rated dark gritty Q1 Marvel superhero movie to date.
SPOILERS for Logan. The whole thing. All of it.
Right out the gate, my experience watching Logan was probably different than almost every other viewer’s. Being a gringo watching the movie in a theater in Mexico while sitting beside my Mexican girlfriend somewhat colored my reaction to the very first scene, which featured a gringo heroically tearing a bunch of Mexicans to shreds because – and I’m not making this up – the Mexicans tried to steal his tires. Admittedly, my reaction was still at least 50% “Woah sweet claws”, but the rest of me was thinking what my girlfriend was saying out loud: “Well, this is unfortunate.” Venezia and I are going to do a more comprehensive video review of Logan at some point and the film’s handling of Mexico will doubtless be a major talking point, so I won’t get into it too much here. Suffice it to say that the Mexicans I’ve spoken to would probably have a higher opinion of Logan if it hadn’t involved Mexico at all.
With that out of the way, there was a lot I loved about the movie. The R-rating wasn’t just marketing hype. The film was dark, and gritty, and brutal in just the right way. It wasn’t that the violence was excessive or gratuitous. It was that you really felt the impact every time Wolverine drove his claws through someone’s head. Action in superhero movies, even Deadpool, always feels so soft to me, so this alone was enough to make Logan my favorite superhero movie of all time. This isn’t saying a whole lot since I don’t love superhero movies in general, but Logan showed me what a superhero movie could be, and I loved it. The whole antihero trope is hugely popular these days, but even movies that star antiheroes are afraid to actually have the hero do anything questionable and risk alienating the audience. As a result, these characters tend to be snarky and loudly protest doing anything heroic while still actively being heroic and going above and beyond the call of duty at every turn. Early on in Logan, on the other hand, Wolverine tries to abandon a little girl to her death to save himself and his friends. Not as in he thinks really hard about abandoning her but comes back at the last second because he secretly has a heart of gold. He literally makes every effort to leave her behind, and only doesn’t because he proves physically incapable of escaping himself. His alcohol problem is not just a character trait, but an actual problem. Xavier is motivated by equal parts altruism and a selfish desire to still matter. His deteriorating mental state has not only robbed him of his powers, but also caused him to inadvertently murder, like, a lot of innocent people. Main characters die, and they don’t come back. These are all things I haven’t seen in a comic book movie before, and I look forward to seeing more of going forward.
That said, my feelings are decidedly mixed. All these new, daring, gritty decisions are exciting, but they’re pretty much sprayed on top of the most basic Marvel formula. Take way that gritty coat of paint, and this is how the plot shakes out:
- Hero is lying low and just wants to be left alone
- Damsel in distress asks hero to do hero stuff, but hero is reluctant
- Person hero cares about is threatened, forcing hero to do hero stuff
- Faceless corporate villain pursues hero
- Pursuit is headed by smarmy faux-affable henchman and misguided affable scientist
- Each time hero thinks he’s safe, faceless corporate villain appears out of nowhere
- Hero fights evil version of himself and seemingly wins but doesn’t bother to make sure
- Hero decides he has done a sufficient level of hero stuff and tries to leave before the plot is resolved
- The plot gets catty and threatens someone he cares about again
- In a throwaway line that seems totally out of place, smarmy faux-affable henchman mentions that GMOs are the root of all evil
- Everyone immediately forgets he said this and it is never brought up again
- Hero defeats evil version of himself with the help of new allies, but doesn’t bother to make sure he’s really dead
- Hero fights evil version of himself again, sacrificing everything to save someone he cares about
- Evil version of hero is ultimately killed by MacGuffin which could have been used at any time, rendering most of the plot, as well as the death of the hero and countless innocents, pretty much pointless
- The plot resolves in a fashion that sets up not only a sequal, but potentially an entire franchise
Okay, so my plot breakdown was a little snarkier than it needed to be, but at the end of the day the structure of Logan is pretty identical to the first Captain America or Ant Man or even Deadpool for that matter.
Again, we have a more extensive video review in the works so if this seems a little offhand or flippant, stay tuned. Unlike me, Venezia has been watching Hugh Jackman star in Wolverine movies pretty much since she was born, so her take on Logan is probably a bit more fair. In any case, this is my first impression: Logan breaks a lot of new ground and does a lot of stuff that is just plain awesome, but at its heart it is a formulaic story that Marvel has told a thousand times.
If you have your own take on the movie, we’d love to hear from you! Even if you just want to tell me how wrong I am. Especially if you just want to tell me how wrong I am. Hit me with your best adamantium-clad shot.