"How can we construct a story that's built more on character and character issues, in a way as if it almost wasn't a superhero movie, yet it features their powers and struggles and themes?"
Director James Mangold on the development of The Wolverine
An Aging superhero’s menace
What happens when you turn an exotic Frank Gehry designed hacienda into an apocalyptic ruin. Logan has been made for the discerning superhero viewer. To many lovers of X Men, Logan which is a polar opposite of sorts for the X Men franchise can be a sort of a “mukti” or “nirvana” to see a world devoid of mutants largely. Just look at all the films, X Men, First Class, The Wolverine etc, they are all special effects loaded filmed and set in a gorgeous and sometimes “hard to believe” world. Eg. The Xavier School, The lavish space ships, vehicles used by Magneto. In all X-MEN movies,there is a sleek world with gorgeous costumes, mind bending superpowers and more importantly a battle of equals. Logan is a departure from this!
Logan and its helmer James Mangold very skilfully keeps the central conflict between Mutants and Humans intact but changes the world in which it takes place. This step itself turns the whole superhero narrative upside down. For the first time this big ensemble of mutants has been reduced to a handful of people and public outrage against them.
The Evolving character arc of Logan/ Wolverine
LOGAN is a homage to Wolverine and his legacy. This movie has almost nothing superhero ish about it. To make a clockwork, larger than life character into an aging drifter with survival issues is a departure from traditional story telling. We are pushed into a non-sexy world of near Mutant extinction in 2029.Those leaps, those jumps …that never say die attitude which we all want in our selves was the cornerstone of Wolverine.But what about Logan, his non mutant/human alter ego. His own ghosts, his trials and tribulations, his relationship.LOGAN the film deconstructs the human in Wolverine in a matchless narrative. His own child, who is no less nasty than himself, his Godfather Professor Xavier and his memories from the past continue to haunt him. His own ability of healing is actually a bane for him, its not what he really wants. His loves and romances including Jean Grey and others who have left him abandoned. The movie explores his fears and angst like no other superhero film. His steel claws which pain every time they come out of his hand are something he detests in every scene. The age old story telling method of an “unknown evil threatening his way of life and continuously chasing the protagonist “ is all over this story.In a way Logan is a buoyant hymn to the superhero pantheons of X Men, the perfect people with imperfections.
THE FATHER FIGURE
Despite being featured in a dozen plus films, Logan/Wolverine could never make a family. Its one of his defining features as himself. His allegiance to Professor X is unique and is possibly the "couple" of the film. They way Logan takes care of the Professor is unique and poignant. The way he nurses him and ferries him around is fascinating. In the earlier films of X MEN, Its Logan who comes to The Professor for help, for money and for guidance but here its the exact opposite. In some ways, they both are "the couple"
LOGAN'S ALTERNATE UNIVERSE
The world of "Logan" is a dystopian world which is not exactly the glaring image of a time which it claims to be in. The film heavily borrows its chases and look from the Mad Max movies.The year 2029 in other films is very advanced and very futuristic. However, in this film its a dystopian world riddled with crime, chaos and a defining hatred for Mutants. Logan also moves the story of X Men from big towns like NY,LA to small town America. The gory end to The Professor and Wolverine also happens to be on a ranch owned by a local farmer. It also sparingly gives just a handful of moments to humanity. When Laura, The Professor and Wolverine have supper at the farmer's home and praising it as a rare event in their lives, it is communicated as the bleakness of this time for the mutant population. One of the coolest parts of the film is when Laura picks up a comic book of X Men at the Hotel where she is staying. Here Mangold very skilfully creates a grave for the X MEN ensemble as if they exist in comic books only. There is a defined focus on open barren stretches of land where Logan and Laura are navigating. This can be a metaphor of the blankness for the story and Mutants themselves.
BOLD TOOLS USED BY MANGOLD
James Mangold in one stroke kills the entire X Men universe because of a biological event in 2023. This just leaves Logan and Professor Xavier alive. I think this strategy augurs well for the movie as it brings down the expectation level of the viewers drastically. The biggest challenge he faced was to make Wolverine refreshingly different and these strategies worked well in his favour.
INFLUENCES ON THE FILM
Logan is heavily influenced by the Mad Max film in its look and feel. Its actually a Mad Max movie in its form and narrative. The mention of old westerns like "Shane" are shown in the film. The fatigue of Logan is quite reminiscent of characters portrayed in the films of Sergio Leone. And yes, it doesn't look like a Marvel movie. Even the music features Johnny Cash's " Hurt" fits perfectly to the film's perspective. The landscapes and the chase sequences reminds the viewer of "No Country For Old Men".
Logan is and always be an outcaste in the superhero movie genre and can be considered as a spiritual film!