Logan: Why Our Superheroes Are At Their Best When They Aren’t So Super (Spoiler Free)

Wow. What a weekend, what a movie. After all of the hype, pomp, and circumstance, I finally descended upon the theater to see Logan, the long awaited last installment of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. After worrying whether or not it would live up to the hype, I left the theater exhausted emotionally, having experienced the full weight and gravitas of what I had just seen (shout out to my friend Brett Adams for going along for the thrill ride with me). Logan was a master class with many touching moments, but ultimately it leaves us with one burning idea: our superheroes films are at their best when the powers are turned down, creating a new kind of hero flick for the ages.

As always, before launching into the film you must first try and understand the source material from which it finds its inspiration. In June 2008, Marvel Comics began publication on a limited series, Old Man Logan. The comic came from the brilliant mind on Mark Millar, who came to fame with his Ultimate Xmen and Fantastic Four and is currently penning the riveting Reborn with artist Greg Capullo (of Batman fame). The book was illustrated by the incredibly talented Steve McNiven of New Avengers and Civil War. It is important to note that the story from Old Man Logan and the film Logan are completely different but the inspiration for the older, more grizzled Logan come from this point. The old man Logan character has become a staple of the new Marvel Universe, a universe in which the original wolverine is dead.

On to the film, Logan is the third in a series of films (preceded by X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine in 2009 and 2013 respectively). In a brief synopsis, we find Logan in the year 2029 in Texas, near the border. His body is breaking down with age and his healing factor is not as it once was. One day, he approached by a mysterious woman and a little girl, thus beginning a new mission, one that will take him and his companions across the Country on one more death defying mission, all the while running from an evil corporation that wants to take the girl into their hands. The film is full of rare violence and dark turns, very unusual for a superhero film. However, Logan is about as far from a superhero film as one can get, with the rules thrown out the window and the actions of the main character leaning more towards the side of destruction. There are two motives to examine when you look into where this film veers off course when compared to other superhero films and why this is not necessarily a bad thing. The first thing is the high level of violence. Unlike the graphic novel Old Man Logan, this is not an alternate universe but the actual real future of the X-men and all of mutant kind. It’s a bleak, desolate outlook from a world that was at one point so promising. Logan, Charles (Professor X), and the others have had a rough go of it in the past few years.

Logan, who has always been one of the more violent characters in comic book lore, is given free rein in this Rrated film to gut, decapitate, and in general brutalize those that are trying to harm him and his friends. In this way, it is more gritty and real to life. If someone in this world, the real world, were threatening your family, most of us would stop at nothing to end those that were looking to harm us. In many comic book stories, the “bad guys” are simply caught, put in prison, and escape to cause more death and destruction over and over again. This is simply not a realistic portrayal of the justice system or of the fighting spirit of human nature. This new trend in superhero movies of giving the characters more realistic (albeit not morally acceptable) freedom to permanently, violently end evil doers is a fresh take on films that are usually very black and white on the scale of moral ambiguity. This is seen in Logan, Deadpool, and many other superhero films that are released with darker content and an R-rating.

While these new, unrestricted heroes are proving to be a hit with movie goers, this is not what makes Logan a masterpiece of cinema. That distinction lays with the relationship between Logan and his new companion, the young girl, Laura. Without giving away too much about the pair, it is their relationship that they form with one another that truly steals the show.

After Jackman’s 17 year run as the charter Wolverine, this is simply his best performance in that role to date. His unfolding relationship with Laura is simply riveting and at times, gut wrenching. Wolverine, an anti-hero at best, is show here as simply Logan and as a man that is trying to do right by this child, even though every fiber of his rugged exterior tells him that he is no good at being in this paternal type role. The films closing scene will bring tears to the eyes of even the toughest of men and will take your breath away as you leave the theater.

In the end, we seem to like our heroes better when their problems lean more towards the side of actual humans as opposed to intergalactic threats. In these films, we can relate to their struggles and have an easier time placing ourselves in their shoes. That is what makes Logan such an incredible film. Take away the adamantium skeleton and the healing factor and you are left with a film focusing on the connection between two people, a connection the blooms throughout the course of the film into a beautifully terrorizing last scene. No other hero film with the exception of The Dark Knight has been able to grip a superhero audience with a film that is great, superpowers or not. Logan will take its place amongst the incredible films of our generation and it will do so with no superpowers necessary.

Jeremy Andrews Staff Writer