It has been seventeen years since the original “X-Men” movie, which can largely be attributed with starting the fire of the comic book craze in cinema. With each new adventure, it seems that the action becomes larger and screens become crowded. Now that we have arrived at Hugh Jackman’s final performance as Wolverine, we are reminded how simplicity in filmmaking and storytelling is a gift to the viewing public.
With James Mangold’s “Logan,” we do not have an overload of comic book characters that we need to know a plethora of backstories for. We do not have trouble deciding who we must invest our energy and emotion into. It is a hundred percent clear what the purpose of the film is, the wants and needs are always established, and the transitions between scenes are consistently smooth. There is never a moment where we need to take a breather and slow the story down for a moment. We know where we are going, the thrill of the film is getting to that point. This is a mark of precise filmmaking.
Mangold’s pursuit of an R-rating ended up being incredibly vital to the success of this picture. While “Logan” may still have been an enjoyable adventure if the violence and language had been toned down, the received emotions would not have been the same. Every single thought and feeling an audience member goes through is created by the dark and urgent atmosphere that we are thrown into.
The fact that the film takes place in 2029, when mutants are thought to be a thing of the past, only aids with this atmosphere. We don’t experience these grand-scale fight sequences–they are minimalistic and intimate. This does not feel like a comic book movie. It feels like a blend between an intense science-fiction western and a blood-scattered war picture.
While the story structure and action are incredibly simplistic, this does not hurt the dialogue from being some of the more genuine of any comic book film. With these endeavors, we often have dialogue that is filled with references or fun little moments that reach for laughs (success or not). With “Logan,” all of the laughs are derived from character interactions. They come from truth, not punchlines.
Patrick Stewart could recite Ikea instructions and it would be considered literature, but this particular performance as Professor Charles Xavier is his best. The R-rating certainly helps with this. He goes beyond being a wise professor and transitions into an elderly companion character. It holds all of the intriguing qualities of past performances, while still bringing new elements to the character as well. It’s more Charles, less Professor.
Audiences will be flocking to this picture solely on the its namesake, but what they will receive in return is much more than what they paid for. Just as with Netflix’s “Stranger Things,” this film shows us that it’s not computer graphics that build an atmosphere, but beautiful characters that do.
The comic book genre does not seem to be dying out any time soon, but “Logan” presents a formula that shows that the genre can become fresh and engaging without piling on any additional expenses. It proves that storytelling can often leap forward by just taking a step back.