Logan: The Meshing Of Superheroes And Minimalism

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Many superhero films intersperse protracted action sequences with smaller moments that act in service of the explosive ones. Even the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) outings, the gold standard for superhero movie-making, follows this formula by throwing in “the pre-brawl pep talks.” It’s now an unfortunate result of filmmakers realizing that they need more character moments and squeezing them in just minutes before the climax begins. Logan tweaks that formula and creates an intimacy that furthers the film’s minimalistic aims by serving other small moments instead of the action itself. During an interview conducted by Fandango prior to release, Mangold himself commented on his bare-bones approach.

“I do not want to go into every movie and wonder whether my world is going to exist. It’s just about the characters.”

That being said, Logan isn’t without its larger ramifications. The threats Jackman’s muscle-bound mutant must face don’t intend on stopping when he’s turned in for his dirt nap. These ramifications aren’t made clear until the film’s gut-wrenching climax, but they’re still deeply felt and fervently opposed by the protagonists. A master of emotion in action, Mangold imbues his fight sequences with an urgency that quickens pulses and heightens the fear we feel for these characters and their fates. Despite these ramifications, however, Mangold still manages to tie it all back to Logan’s growth as a character. Speaking with Angie Han from /Film, Mangold explained the villainous X-24’s relationship with Logan.

“So I ultimately landed on this idea that the best person to kill him would be Weapon X. Effectively, his darkest self. That a vision of his own self from the moment he spent his life regretting, the period of his life that he spent the rest of his life regretting, and remorseful for. What would be more dramatic than seeing that brought to life again and confronting him?

And interestingly, you know, it is an unintentional, but in a way, Logan’s last epiphany in the film occurs when X-24 is dead. Almost as if, in some psychological sense, the darkness in him has been killed. Like almost by killing this alter ego, he has been freed from something that he’s been haunted by all his life.”

As Mangold’s comments prove, even a special effects-generated clone of Logan can’t exist without meaning something to our hero and his journey. Something as simple as a duplicated Hugh Jackman speaks volumes on the Wolverine’s journey to forgiveness.

From a technical perspective, Logan looks and feels like a film made with limited resources. Its major “set pieces” include a run-down smelting plant in Mexico, a lavish casino in Oklahoma City, a mountain forest in North Dakota, a cliff-top haven called Eden, and a country home owned by a family of kind farmers. The film works with what’s already there instead of digitally tossing colors on a green screen and hoping that audiences walk out with melted faces and starry-eyed stares.

What’s more, a $97 million budget doesn’t even touch the $150-300 million many superhero films blow on thirty-minute action sequences and gratuitous eye-popping visuals. Fortunately, the film doesn’t need hundreds of millions of dollars because its focus lies elsewhere. Hell, Mangold could just hire Jackman, Stewart, and Dafne Keen (Laura) to stand and act in front of a camera and the result would be more powerful and more memorable than a majority of the films being touted as among the best the genre offers.

In many ways, Logan marks the first time we truly meet the Wolverine. Jackman’s swan song provides Mangold with the opportunity to peel back the character’s many layers and examine the poorly-hidden kindness and caring that make him such an interesting figure in the X-Men mythos. It took adamantium poisoning and an ungodly amount of booze for him to finally reveal himself, but meeting him now, at the end of the line, tells us more about him than anything else could.

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