Last year, 2017, was the year for superhero films. A total of six live-action blockbuster superhero films was released, all of which proving to be some sort of success, outside of Justice League. Coming into the year, Logan was never treated like a true superhero blockbuster. While it may have opened to an astounding 88 million opening weekend, the film ultimately didn’t attract audiences in the same way that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Wonder Woman did. However, despite not performing the financial heights that its companions reached, Logan is ultimately the best superhero film of 2017. It is an evoking work that challenges common clichés of its genre and is riveting with emotion, gruesome action sequences, and a tender beauty that carries the film as one of the best superhero films ever made.
Many audience members would leap to proclaim that the film’s success rests entirely on its stunning performances by Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and even Dafne Keen. However, the pure art of the film comes from its screenplay, rightly nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay this past awards season. Mangold delivers something that few screenwriters are able to achieve-art with realistic dialogue. Often times throughout films, screenwriters attempt to showcase themes and imagery often costing the realism of the dialogue. The dialogue quickly becomes telling the audience what they should feel rather than allowing their interpretation do it. Logan fortunately does not fall into this trap. The story is bleak and fascinatingly dark. It feels like a superhero film unmatched in its adult themes and mature content. Themes such as brokenness and even suicide are explored vividly throughout its 141 run time. It entirely shatters the impression that superhero films can only succeed as light and hopeful, adjectives that don’t represent the masterpiece Mangold has created. With such messages, the emotion of the film becomes all the more tangible, heightened by the almost beautiful story. It is a story that isn’t particularly original or fresh, but still feels exciting and deeply emotional due to the seventeen years audiences have spent with Hugh Jackman’s interpretation of the Wolverine. At the end of the film, it becomes clear that the film is about its lead protagonist. Often times with superhero films and stories of this nature, the focus of the film shifts to setting up further sequels or developing side characters. While the latter is done in droves in Logan, Mangold never forgets the character arc of its lead protagonist, making a somber and poignant finale all the more possible. The film never is considered with additional films or even its predecessors. It stands firmly on its own and is ultimately at its best when the character’s previous tales are not considered. Even with these heavy themes, the dialogue never takes a toll. In fact, it propels from it. The dialogue on display is crisp and smartly written. There are few jokes or attempts at humor within the film, but the dialogue still feels fresh and richly natural. In a genre full of dialogue and plot clichés, it is immensely refreshing to see a large-scale blockbuster take on uniqueness and originality with ease.
While the screenplay of the film is breathtakingly refreshing, it is ultimately the performances of the film that create an impression just as large. Hugh Jackman delivers a finite and tense performance. Even after seventeen years as the popular clawed superhero, Jackman still finds ways to innovate on his performance. He makes the most of the screenplay and delivers a somber performance that is instantly iconic. Stewart also delivers an astounding performance. He balances the screenplay’s dry humor and emotion with ease. Newcomer Dafne Keen is charming even though she rarely speaks throughout the film. Ultimately, it becomes clear that Logan has one of the best cast performances of any superhero film in the past decade.
What would appeal to most casual audiences wouldn’t be the tenderly emotional story. It wouldn’t be the compelling performances made by Jackman, Stewart, and newcomer Dafne Keen. It would be the gruesome action sequences that are conservatively littered throughout the film. Fortunately, though, these sequences are enjoyable but also don’t take the focus off the story. Action is meant to cause emotion, to propel the story to new heights that dialogue-based conversation can’t achieve. Logan is a prime example of this philosophy. Each action sequence caused emotion to rivet out of audiences. Each punch Logan felt was felt by audiences in 2017. This is how action is supposed to be implemented. In addition, the film never pressures the action sequences throughout the film. Between a stellar action sequence and an emotionally pure character moment, Mangold smartly chooses the latter without a moment’s pause. Even though the film is flawed, due to a slightly drab second act, Logan retains its vision the whole way through.
Logan is a unique work of art in a genre that has increasingly become more cliché-focused. It becomes a revolutionary work that challenges and even breaks common ideas of the blockbuster film. It blends a powerfully written screenplay with finite performances to create a work that is a masterpiece-not a masterpiece of the superhero genre-but a masterpiece of film. Despite minor flaws, every moment, every heart-pounding action sequence, and every line of dialogue makes a resounding impact on the audience, proving that Logan is one of the best films of 2017 and is easily one of the best superhero films ever made.
Score: 9.0 out of 10
It's 2029. Mutants are gone--or very nearly so. An isolated, despondent Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire. His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban and an ailing Professor X, whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request--that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his own past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.