Logan misses the mark

Ellen Inggrid Dengah

Logan, released on March 3rd, is the third installment of X-Men’s Wolverine series. This film is directed by Oscar-nominated director James Mangold, who also helped write the script.

The Wolverine’s real, non-superhero name is Logan (hence the title) and this character is played by Hugh Jackman, who took on this character in nine other X-Men movies. In this movie, though, Jackman does not have to wear the classic yellow X-Men suit, or the modernized suit, nor does he have to wear his birthday suit as he did in previous movies. Instead, Logan is dressed in a worn-out T-shirt, coupled with a worn-out personality and physicality that Jackman embodies impeccably well.

Logan is not a superhero. He is an old man who is trying to live inconspicuously but cannot keep from drawing attention to himself when pressured. This reality is in an opening scene that leads him to take on a quest that he does not want to take. Logan is ready to die but keeps on living both because he can’t help it and because he is taking care of his sick father-figure, Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart). This mundane mutant survival mode is then interrupted by an engineered “Wolverine-like” child mutant whom Logan has to deliver to safety. He went on this quest with Xavier both as a burden and his sole motivation.

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Logan (Hugh Jackman) & Charles Xavier (Sir Patric Stewart)

Xavier’s character is the one I grieved for the most in this movie, not because of the plot or the emotional journey, but because of the way this movie somehow managed to dissolve his character into a generic grandpa. I understand that Xavier should not be as sharp as he was because of his age and his brain-degenerative disease. What irritates me is how the story devised these unfortunate traits to move the plot forward, but leaves out Xavier’s inherent grit and dignity. Xavier has nothing to fight for and is instead portrayed as a hopeless dreamer living in denial. He denies his illness and helplessly dreams that the future of mutants is not over yet.

While this movie is not about Xavier, the whole movie suffers because of the shallow approach toward its supporting characters. Some high drama scenes between Xavier and Logan could have more emotional impact if the audience did not have to extract the emotional weight from previous X-Men narratives. Also, Logan’s interaction with Laura (Dafne Keen), the little wolverine, seems distant and forceful because Laura’s character is never delved into deeply–and because there is never a moment when Logan and Laura establish their relationship in the first place.

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Laura (Dafne Keen)

I am aware that Laura does not speak much – and when she does, she speaks Spanish. But this should not be an excuse for the lack of characterization. Plenty of other supporting characters from fairly recent movies and TV shows do not speak for a significant amount of time and still deliver strong supporting characterization, such as Eleven from Stranger Things (2016) and Dwayne from Little Miss Sunshine (2006). The unfortunate thing about Logan is that the many opportunities that could have been used to reveal Laura’s nuanced characters are instead filled with her staring out the window screen or ruthlessly killing people. What’s even more unfortunate is that the particularly golden moment to characterize Laura and establish her relationship with Logan is taken away by a cereal product placement.

And don’t let me get started on the violence. As much as I want to say that I do not appreciate movie violence, when done right, violence can actually speak volumes about the narrative a movie is trying to reveal. This is not the case in Logan. I cannot defend this movie violence against my personal preference. I can think of only one sequence of reasonably well-placed violence and it happened when Logan was at his breaking point at a farm house. Most of the other gory, throat-slashing violence made me feel like I was watching an ancient Roman gladiator who kills for audience entertainment.

There is more than violence and poor supporting character development in Logan, but it’s hard for me to see past those. I remember being struck by X-Men’s main narrative: getting along and protecting even the people who are potentially hostile towards you. In Logan, this narrative only exists in the Mexican nurse, Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who helped Laura meet Logan. And she has only less than a third of the screen time. Even Wolverine’s narrative, the cold-blooded rugged thug who is actually a good guy with a kind heart, is delivered with half of the power it deserves because of—again—cheap characters and the trivialization of violence.

Logan is indeed original and fresh, especially when put side by side with the other X-men movies. This movie is already above most of the franchise in quality, solely by trying to sell a superhero movie without its flashy costumes and explosions. But while rightfully steering away from offering spectacle as the main attraction, Logan misses the mark, landing inches away from hitting the sweet spot of an impactful action-drama.

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