Thursday, March 2, 2017

I saw Logan...

In the X-Men movie universe, there's no longer a linear track. “Days of Future Past” changed all that. Varying offshoots like “Deadpool” and “Apocalypse” now characterize the franchise. “Logan” is the latest in this offbeat, parallel-chapter trend.

Directed by James Mangold from a script he coauthored with Scott Frank, “Logan” is, in a sense, “Wolverine 3”, but only in that it’s another solo-leading film for the franchise’s most popular mutant. This movie, however, is more or less its own thing: not succinctly connected to any of the cinematic chapters that came before it, nor linked directly to the X-Men comic-book series or its Marvel spin-offs. It is, on the other hand, loosely based on Mark Millar and Steven McNivan's "Old Man Logan": a post-apocalyptic mini-series, where our hero has (of all unexpected things) aged and mutant supremacy is waning. 

In the film adaptation, we're given a somber, ominous vision of Hugh Jackman's iconic portrayal, with Logan now on the run from his once noble past, with a seizure-prone Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) at his side in the possible year of 2029, where they encounter another of their kind: a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). Like Wolverine, she possesses an Adamantium constitution and the lethal claws that accompany it. Sinister men converge to capture the remarkable, little girl, but she doesn't intend to be caught, her sights steadfastly set on a mutant playground called Eden (how Mad Maxian, or perhaps even Trekian). With Wolverine and Professor X along for the trip (even if they're not at their energetic best), one could presume Laura has a damn good chance of achieving her dream. 

The bad guys in this instance are representative of any entitled, bullying group that sees society's slippage as its means for control. Led by scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), his security henchman Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and the rapacious Reavers, the villains won't rest until the doctor's little, super soldier is seized. Nonetheless, these baddies appear to chase her more for sport than any viable cause: not that hunting a little girl, regardless of how captivating her abilities, should be perceived as honorable.

Hope at least prevails in Logan's staunch, though downcast presence, which comes with an implied blessing of fate. Professor X and the once mutant-seeker Caliban (Stephen Merchant) aid him in her welfare, with the latter's "home" giving the fugitives temporary refuge. Logan, in the meantime, must consider how he might fix Laura's dilemma, finally invoking the basic mettle to fight the antagonists head-on and maybe, just maybe, deliver the lass to her fabled haven. Alas, he hasn't been in good-deed practice for a spell, but through Laura's inspiring innocence, he manages to break that slump, thus culminating the film's burgeoning bond.

There’s a rich, slow sadness in the story's arc, which allows us to reacquaint ourselves with old friends and when need be, embrace new ones, even if they're disagreeable. Above all, we care about the protagonists and feel bad that they've entered such harshness: symbolic, in a way, of those tough times we all face in life. These mutants, however, must regain their dignity against staggering odds. Seeing how such may be accomplished makes the story, beyond its extrapolated circumstances, as engrossing as any standard melodrama kissed by Oscar's pretentious grace. "Logan", though, deserves its accolades and then some. 

Though the film holds Mangold's intended "Watchmen" flair, I liken “Logan” more to the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, “Maggie”: another character study that presents an adult's perspective toward a child's predicament. Additionally, "Logan'"s tone is similar to Mickey Rourke's in "The Wrestler": another tale of a tired man seeking a second chance, or at least some sign that life can be as rewarding as it once was. Whether Logan and his friends attain their goal is left for the audience to discover, but the path that leads there is fascinating and when it touches its tenderest parts, uplifting, particularly for anyone who might feel downtrodden, uninspired or overwhelmed. 

"Logan", contrary to what publicity implies, could act as an initial chapter in a new, progressing series, no matter what the ending seems to finalize. Because of the film's unique temperament, Wolverine, Professor X, Caliban and little Laura, have a decent chance to return, though it's probable they'd be reinvented on yet another parallel plane. Regardless, it matters little how they resurface (either on the printed page or the big screen), as long as they teach us how to cope, whether in the future, the past or as will likely be the case, in whatever fictional present we find ourselves at such moment.

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