Having watched only a scarce amount of comic book films in my 19 years of existing, I don’t think I possess the knowledge adequate to make a valid declaration about them in general. But writing this not as an appreciative movie-goer but as a film reviewer, I refuse to reserve my own judgement towards any category of movies, and thus I’m going to announce this bluntly: I personally resent superhero films. I really do.
But don’t get me wrong. I don’t carry any antagonistic feelings whatsoever towards the genre itself. It’s just that these films tend to have considerable creativity issues. Sure, films like The Avengers boast recognisable casts playing epic characters equipped with extremely stylish costumes and sets, Guardians of the Galaxy was led by a witty performance from a witty actor, and Doctor Strange displayed highly inventive CGI techniques. But really, behind all those technical accomplishments is a musty, overused superhero plot structure. And the producers of these films are continuously attempting to cover up the fact that their films are suffering from an identity crisis by constantly introducing new characters and actors. It seems that the only film of this genre exempt from my hostile reaction is Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. If you haven’t watched it, watch it now, and you’ll understand why.
Another issue that really upsets me is how a lot of film critics’ standards of a good film and a good superhero film bear little resemblance. When you think about it, without its superhero elements The Avengers is merely a mediocre action film, Guardians of the Galaxy a somewhat cringy comedy, and Doctor Strange an average sci-fi flick. Yet they were all regarded so highly.
Which is why, despite the film’s soaring ratings, I went into Logan without high expectation. And which is why I left the theatre quite startled.
Watching Logan feels like watching Mad Max for two reasons. First is the fact that the film’s settings, atmosphere, design, and colour parallels that of George Miller’s well-known franchise. Second is the fact that they are both so god-damn breathtaking and exciting to watch. The film takes place in the future, where much of the mutant population have perished. Logan (Hugh Jackman), or more famously known as Wolverine, lives with mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The military has joined forces with a powerful corporation to perform experiments on Mexican children. One of those children, Laura (Dafne Keen), managed to escape from the sinister hands of the corporation, determined to seek sanctuary in Canada. Pursued by both the military and the corporation responsible for the inhumane experiments, she seeks the guidance of Logan and his companions to assist her in crossing the Canadian border. What results is a well-acted epic tale of survival, complete with breathtaking action scenes and a thrilling plot.
I can’t remember vividly the last X-Men film I watched where Wolverine is present, but I do recall watching him slaughter an entire squad of soldiers with his claws, enduring rains of bullets in the process. And he did all this alone. Shirtless. In theory, this should be much more entertaining to watch as an action film than Logan, where the characters expected to deliver the action scenes are all weary and painfully aged. But this is exactly where the strength of Logan lies; it gives the film a more realistic touch. And most importantly, it cautiously integrates action and drama in a certain way that makes the film sufficiently profound yet un-tedious.
But make no mistake. Logan is as savage and ferocious as any other recent superhero films. Director James Mangold, mercilessly explores the violent sides of the superhero genre; the action scenes are as nasty and red as an action scene can get. Characters die in intensely barbaric ways. Heads and their insides are gouged. Limbs are butchered off. Men are heartlessly sliced like cows in this extremely violent film. Unsurprisingly, I have seen several articles that criticises Mangold’s excessive use of violence in the film. While it is true that a redundant use of brutality and bloodshed can be quite annoying, is it that fatal for a film to a point where it can be regarded as a failure? I think not.
In a way, Logan is like the lesser version Shane; a film Mangold himself mentioned to be one his main influences. They have similar character development, relationship, settings, and to an extent, plot. Both features a child accompanying a lonely hero, for example. While Logan, unlike Shane, would probably be forgotten once other better films are made and released, it’s still worth the watch. After all, a lesser version of a great movie would still be decent.
There is a different type of amusement watching a lengthy, nerve-wracking boxing match between two fighters with similar expertise than watching a boxer effortlessly beat the shit out of the other with his right hand behind his back. If you prefer the former, then Logan is the perfect superhero film for you.
Logan is out now in cinemas.