It all started with Batman Begins.
Christopher Nolan’s retelling of the rise of one of the most iconic heroes of comic book universe had won critics and viewers alike. It will be followed by the superb The Dark Knight and inspire producers to take the superhero genre seriously, something that had all but died after the atrocious barrage of Batman and Superman movies.
Sam Raimi in his infinite wisdom had created a launching pad for Spider-Man, yet after the second installment the party was over. Spider-Man 3 was a quagmire of missed opportunities and bad character choices, and sort of bucked to the trend.
A trend where the superheroes were normalized, the stories changed, their actions either over the top or simply too humane, the villains relegated to flesh and blood animations without any sort of mysterious hyperbole. The movies often felt like slick thrillers. Some hardcore comic book nerds were left displeased as a result. Essential violence was stripped off; characters mellowed down – no ferocious animosity, no vicious path for absolute justice, no ravenous appetite for destroying the world or saving it, movie after movie succumbed to a global rise of PG era nonsense that was often too comical for its own good. Even Guardians of the Galaxy, a sleeper hit couldn’t prevent it. Last year, I saw two massive chances for comic book adaptations’ return to form squandered (counting Suicide Squad makes it three). While Batman vs Superman was certainly ambitious in its premise, the rush to meet Marvel at its path ruined the sustained story development. Hollow characters, deep holes in the plot and mindless battles only fastened its sad demise. Captain America : Civil War on the other hand ended up becoming too civil, too contained – almost too safe. It was a painful reminder of how a strong platform can still be ruined if no risks are taken. For reasons purely based on business, the story was criminally changed and forced on us.
It was only natural that the ghost of all these movies were still lurking around me when I finally decided to give Logan a shot. Two hours later the things that were in my mind were a mixture of the movie’s strong points and the fact that I was about an hour and a half late for home, the latter not sitting well with my parents. But off I went, promising myself to write a review because this movie deserved one.
In many ways, Old Man Logan is Marvel’s deviation from the norm, much like how The Dark Knight Returns was for DC. Alternate universe – check. Old, aging, dying superhero – check. One last mission – check. Morality strains – check. Wolverine, often used to the point of irritation as this hot with rage killing machine cum southern biker – a shallow existence who serves as a thug with pea brain and yellow costumes is shredded to bits here. Replacing him is a degenerating hero, not wolverine but Logan, Logan of yore who has forgotten his ways of being part of X-Men. Saddled with the responsibilities of a mortal man and the depressive disorders of a schizophreniac, he lunges onto one straw from another, trying to find a safe place to die. This Logan is cornered, vulnerable, and dangerous.
A deranged Professor Xavier is his sanity clause for the moment. The movie focuses on their love hate relationship. Some scenes are truly beautiful and worth pausing and rewatching (something I wish I could do in a movie theater). The small holes in the water tank and the rays of the sun poking through them creates the illusion of a starlit sky; the flood of light on the other hand concentrates on a small batch of greenery, giving the place a stark contrast and a touch of the mundane. Xavier’s demons were to be exercised there, away from humanity, in the middle of nowhere. But fate and Wolverine had other plans.
What happens after that is a two hour long escalation of situations and emotions. Kaliban, the mutant with a Brit accent and a pale skin is interestingly put inside this story and he surprises with his quips. He seems to be the only one with a sure footing in this world that has lost its own. Xavier and Logan on the other hand are too volatile, too vibrant and too crass.
The story changes gears and gives us flashbacks of the old Logan, both as a protagonist and an antagonist- Wolverine if you’d like to call him that. The bleeding and carrying the adamantium bullet to relieve himself of his life Logan is arguably far more interesting though, as is wave-splattering, hallucinating Charles Xavier. The old reminiscing is what is utterly fascinating, to hear and see them go about discussing events that took place a long time ago. Mutants were gone, so were their well wishers. The remaining museum samples were being hunted down like dogs.
Twenty-three, or girl with the wolverine claws shows up under a familiar trope of a circumstance, and immediately triggers a whole barrage of crap onto the hapless trio. The redneck villain is surprisingly menacing here, mixing usual goof with unusual ferocity. The girl doesn’t steal the show, and neither does the villain, because this is not about them. It was never meant to be about them.
What about that ending though? I honestly feel that there couldn’t be a better ending than what Logan gives us. A conclusion that is devoid of the There was a huge bomb blast with the hero in tow but he still survives and many years later is seen in Italy enjoying a drink bullshittery, Logan’s finale is much more grounded in reality, something that immediately connects with the audience, the ‘No more guns in the valley’ notwithstanding.
Two hours later, I have nothing but praise for Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart and James Mangold who gave us a fitting reply. This is the sort of comic book adaptation people want. A no fluff story, fewer, stronger characters and loyality to the original storyline and essence. Not the moviemaking kryptonite that kills superheroes and creates Barney the dinosaur in their places.
Now where’s that R rated Batman movie, DC?