Comics had an image problem. They were considered childish and for children, however as they developed and writers who grew up with comics, the funny pages and the superheroes contained within them grew more serious, darker and grittier. We can see this development in the way that comic book movies are changing, from the 12A adventures of the Avengers to the 15 rated romps of Deadpool and the newest addition to 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise, Logan.
Set in the year 2029, mutants have become extinct, again. Apart from an older and weaker Logan, better known as The Wolverine, and Charles Xavier, who are hiding out in an abandoned Mexican smelting plant. However when Laura, a young girl with similar powers to Logan, appears the two must fight to protect her from forces that want her destroyed.
Wolverine films have not gone particularly well. X-Men Origins Wolverine was a trash fire, and The Wolverine film released in 2013 has largely been forgotten. Similarly, his over saturation in the First Class series has meant that some have grown tired of Logan appearing in every single goddamn movie. However, what director and writer James Mangold, who made The Wolverine and Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line, does well is blend Western film tropes and comic books to create an interesting and engaging film. Not only does it allude to classic Westerns like Shane, but it also deals with Western themes of revenge, consequence and myth, which are heavy subjects to be covered by a comic book movie.
It is also refreshing to see a new Wolverine. While he is gritty and gruff as ever, he is more like an ageing Clint Eastwood from Gran Torino and Unforgiven. I thought that Wolverine was over done, but thanks to Logan, it breathes new life into the ageing character.
Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for the better part of 20 years now, and at this point, he has the performance to a tee, and Patrick Stewart can act in his sleep. But a mention of the new talent must be made; Dafne Keen is a wonderful child actor and is surprisingly intense as Laura, while the villains played by Richard E Grant and Boyd Holdbrook from Narcos, are delightfully devilish.
Logan does have its problems, especially the editing which is a little weak, particularly in the action sequences. After Captain America raised the bar as to what comic book fights could be, it is a little disappointing to see hard to follow, quick cut, shaky cam fights again. Also, the violence does feel a little gratuitous at times, especially when committed by or on an 11-year-old girl. Though, it is refreshing to have another superhero movie that is not afraid to push the certification up, like Deadpool which proved you could have a 15 rated comic book film.
Despite its problems, I enjoyed Logan. It is one of the stronger comic book movies thanks to its gritty tone and great invocation of western themes it is nice to visit old friends for a Western-style story of redemption.