glenn criddle | cynical celluloid | april 2017
The idea that a superhero movie could be aimed at adults is something that the studios have been very reluctant to embrace. Despite some history of well-received adult orientated comic book films and some fairly successful TV format shows it seems that when it comes to the big screen the risk of a restricted initial audience and return is something that has made the studios reluctant to commit their “big name" properties to. Just look at the DC properties to see how even a license like Suicide Squad had to be PG-13 in the cinemas for proof. The Crow, Watchmen and Kick Ass are just some of the more recognizable exceptions to the studio mindset that show that the status quo of PG-13 is the only road to success and especially since the very much adult orientated “Deadpool" became a smash hit (and on a relatively small budget) there has been some serious consideration of making these films for the adult comic book fans.
A natural source of material for this is, of course, The Wolverine, the bladed fisted berserker of the X-Men. Logan is by his nature a dark and violent character given his history and physical attributes and finally, Fox has used the character in a film that allows this all to come to the fore.
“Logan" is certainly not for the kids. It's gory and it's violent but don't let that be the only thing that you take this movie to be. Set in the future of the universe we've seen him in, the story finds a very different take on what a superhero is. With most of the mutants dead, we're left in the company of Logan, Professor X and Caliban. All is not well, though. Logan is reduced to being a limo driver who's trying to make enough money to look after the Professor whose health is deteriorating due to a degenerative brain disorder. This disorder is a bit of a problem considering the professor's dangerous abilities and getting him the medicine he needs is a grind that Logan can't simply walk away from. With his old life of the superhero coming back in the form of a desperate woman and a child needing his help, there is baggage that comes with it in the form of some “black ops" that want to harness the power of the mutants and the ghosts of Logan's long history come flooding back through the young girl and his connection to her.
“Logan" is an adult-oriented film. The gore aside, the central concerns are very political and the story is one that focuses primarily on the fears of frailty, abandonment, loneliness and old age with the vulnerability that brings. Professor X is basically suffering from dementia and anyone who has had to care for a loved one with that condition will know how life changing and difficult that can be. Logan cares for the professor, giving up his life and dignity to take care of him, taking whatever work he can get just to afford the medicine he needs. Like I say, this is political and effectively so. Not only does it cover the concerns of aging it delves into social engineering, though to the assumption from some, that it's a direct reflection of the current administration, it should be pointed out that this movie was wrapped in August of 2016. The more political aspects of the film are not focused on a specific party or politician, rather a few more long-running concerns, and it should be noted that the mutants are trying to get out of America and not in, so make of that what you will. Though the story may very easily be read as being in part about immigrants, and it sort of is, it seems more to be about being marginalized. After all, the X-men were very much outcasts from society, Logan and Professor X are forced into isolation on the Mexican border and the kids fleeing the corporate/government black ops bad guys are not primarily English speaking which immediately puts them outside of the main demographic group of the main audience who's going to watch this film (at least in its native language). Suffice to say, the film is complicated politically speaking, I can't possibly do it full justice in a short article because it requires more than a simple assessment. That's something that will both benefit it and cause it problems with the various audiences.
“Logan" is a fantastic film. It's a very brave take on the superhero film, one that dispenses with the more frivolous aesthetic of some comic book films and presents a very interesting story that is aimed at an adult audience in tone and in content. Where the Superman and Batman films of late have tried to do the dark and gritty thing, and in my opinion, failed to grasp what that actually should be in any meaningful way, “Logan," for the most part, knows why it's doing the darker things and why it's going to those violent, painful places and it's not just to set a tone. The story is genuinely interesting and nuanced; the politics, agree or disagree, are something tangible and worthwhile and Hugh Jackman finally is able to give the Wolverine a more affecting turn in a film that was more emotionally charged than most I've seen in a long time. There are fantastic performances across the board here including an astounding show by Dafne Keen as Laura and an emotionally draining turn by Patrick Stewert as the devastated shadow of what Professor X used to be.
If you haven't had chance to check it out at the cinema then it won't be long before it hits the home formats and I can't recommend it enough for grown-up fans of comics. As a representation of the more adult side of comic book stories, this stands pretty much at the top of the film versions along with the likes of “Watchmen" and the Christopher Nolan Batman series because it does that thing of being mature and nuanced without misunderstanding that as meaning you have to make the characters do bad things just because they're “flawed."
DC, this is how it's done.
He's British so forgive the extra U's and the use of the letter S instead of Z. If there's one thing that typifies Glenn's writing it's the 'Video Nasties,' a long list of movies that offended all and sunder during the 1980s in the UK. It's those seemingly offensive fringes of cinema that informed his writing on cinema and the more political area of censorship with a more sympathetic approach to those films that push the limits of taste. But don't worry, he does talk about normal stuff too and isn't likely to go off on a horror movie fuelled rampage.
For more of Glenn's work, visit cynicalcelluloid.com.