To be a superhero fan in your 30s is mostly a frustrating affair. You crave for a perfect mix which seems to be impossible to deliver. You want style, dreamlike imagery, lots of action, good humour and of course a great display of superhuman abilities. Most superhero films offer all these things so it’s generally a satisfactory time. But when you grew up with some amazing films you don’t see why you can’t also have great acting, characters you care about, an original plot and stunning cinematography. You want a “good film” but also want all that comic book silliness thrown in there too . Because we’re the first millennials and entitled as hell! Seems like an impossible feat, one that so far has not been met by any Marvel movie be it from the Cinematic Universe or otherwise.
An obvious choice to tick all the boxes above would be The Dark Knight (2008) with Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) as close runners up. I would also give a notable mention to Watchmen (2009) as the source material was so incredibly written and the movie stays very close to it. The Dark Knight and Watchmen work because they are critical, serious and brutal. Batman has gone through so many transformations now on all levels of the versatility spectrum that you can be as serious or silly as you like with him. Watchmen had a strong message and featured fascinating characters in a gripping situation. Both movies allowed the audience to accept whatever was going on and still take it seriously. Marvel knows they can’t do this with their characters and so for the MCU they’ve kept it as pure entertainment, and it’s great entertainment too. DC seem to think they can replicate the effect of Watchmen and The Dark Knight without looking at the core values of why those films worked. Superman doesn’t work in a film we are suppose to accept as reality and definitely neither do Wonder Woman or Aquaman.
One character that would work, and now does work, is Wolverine. Hugh Jackman’s familiar portrayal of the title character in Logan has always been angry, troubled, dismissive and superior to all the nonsense going on around him. In his supposedly last endeavour in the role we are given a film that is also angry and troubled. Logan, brilliantly written and directed by James Mangold, gets to the centre of what makes Wolverine such a good character offering something violent, tense, unpredictable and filled with foul language. Taking a heavy page out of last year’s Deadpool movie, Logan doesn’t mollycoddle it’s audience or try to self censor. And it is a phenomenal display of suspense presented with loving care, clever wit and believable relationships.
Jackman is the same Wolverine we’ve always known but has that aged “I’m too old for this shit” attitude about him. He does it with a lot more grace and believability than Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises or Daniel Craig in Skyfall (2012) though who both didn’t really seem that old. Wolverine seems broken and faithless and you wonder if he’s ever actually going to show he cares. Struggling with diminished abilities his action scenes aren’t just brutal and effective because he’s the best, as with previous instalments of the X-Men franchise, but because his energy comes from pure anger and adrenaline. You leave the cinema with your heart thumping.
Through amazing desert and rural landscapes you can’t help but be reminded of Terminator 2 (1991) as Logan embarks on a gritty road trip with an ageing Professor X to protect a small girl. Xavier at this point a batty old man, played in a very different way by Patrick Stewart than he has previously, always giving Logan a hard time the two have a Steptoe and Son like relationship. There’s a genuine dysfunctional feeling of family as with T2, a family you truly wish stays together. The little girl plays the role of ‘annoying kid’ without being annoying in the slightest. They even reference the movie Shane (1953) throughout and gives us the feeling they’re showing you an annoying kid in another film to point out that it doesn’t have to be that way. The young girl Laura, played excellently by Dafne Keen, is bizarre, strong and intense yet still vulnerable. A special mention should also be reserved for Stephen Merchant as a UV sensitive mutant finder who manages to be brilliantly funny without going over the top in the way I was fearing he would. He’s subtle, freaky and uses his comic timing expertly.
Also like T2, and The Dark Knight, the world we’re watching feels real. Films so often these days put you in a CGI world that you can almost see the green screen behind them. This works fine in an MCU film because you accept it’s all just a good time like a computer game is. But like a Nolan or Tarantino film which has a bit more depth, the scenery needs to reflect that. You want your characters in the desert? Go and film in the desert, in the woods, in the mountains and so on. There are interesting locations and impressively performed stunts on offer. Logan does practical so well to the point you try and think which scenes used CGI at all.
After The Dark Knight and Watchmen I hoped so much we would see a slew of amazing superhero films and it has taken 8 years for another film of that calibre to come along. Now that it has, I’m praying again we can have more films that fulfil the criteria set by a fussy kid in his thirties. It’s not immediately apparent where that’s going to come from but before Logan I didn’t think we were ever going to see it again. Now I can’t wait for when it comes back around. Go and watch this “good film” while it’s still at the cinema.