3. Logan – Dan
Comic geeks have spent decades insisting that comic books were a serious mode of storytelling, a form of expression on par with any published novel or big screen movie. In the 80’s, when books like The Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen were published, the perception of comics changed. The term ‘graphic novel’ came into being and with it, a new and more “adult” approach to comics. While they always held the attention of children, suddenly the medium could be taken seriously by people who didn’t wear Spider-Man pajamas.
However, as they’ve hit the mainstream again and the MCU and DCEU dual for supremacy at the multiplex, the genre has begun to fall prey to the criticisms of the past. Superhero films have begun valuing spectacle over story, moment over momentum. The goal has become shoving as many marketable characters on screen as possible, with the rest of the story built only to serve that end. James Mangold’s Logan, released at the beginning of this year to near-universal acclaim, is a sea-change in comic book movies just as Watchmen was for the stories that inspired those movies.
Unlike other films, even those in its own X-Men franchise, Logan limits itself to three superheroes. And they aren’t even that super anymore. Professor X is now a dementia-ridden old man with unlimited telepathic power, Wolverine is an aging warrior being killed by his own powers, and Laura is his clone—an 11-year-old girl still savage and inexperienced.
The film doesn’t even feel like a superhero story. Instead, its paeans to the old days and cynicism about the role of the hero recall the spaghetti westerns of the 1960’s. The tone the film takes is quiet, introspective, and tragic. The X-Men are dead, everything they stood for is gone. There are no more mutants, and they won’t come back. No Cyclops for Wolverine to make a crack at, no Kitty Pryde for him to mentor, and no Magneto for him to fight. Just an old man trying to get by as the world goes past. Even the full berserker rages which we love are portrayed more as horrific outbursts of violence rather than fist-pumping moments of victory. The final note it strikes, in contrast to its superhero brethren, is not a note of hope or even some dark and foreboding sequel hook to make you buy your next ticket. It is somber. A grave all alone in the western expanse, a simple marker showing who he was in his final moments.
Logan redefined the superhero on film. Not even a year old, it has already rocketed to the top of “best superhero film” lists. To describe the effectiveness of its writing, filmmaking, lighting, and acting would take a book. But all those accomplishments pale to what it did for superheroes: in a genre dominated by gods, monsters, and aliens— Logan made the superhero human again.