Starring: Hugh Jackson,Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Directed by: James Mangold
A quality of bleak brilliance cuts through the narrative of this riveting road epic. Set in the barren aftermath of a nuclear and other damnation and ruination America stares, in the year 2029, at a time of abject self-doubt and adversative compromises.
Logan gives us a new vulnerable ill and dying super-hero.HughJackman plays the fading savior of civiliisation(who will save the savior???) with a haunting wariness. He personifies T S Eliot’s image of things falling apart and the centre unable to hold.
When we first meet Logan(who moonlights with tireless steadfastness as Wolverine) his car is smashed by hoodlums while he sleeps smashed and ruined inside. This is no super-hero spectacle. It is a metaphor on the closure of amplified heroism also “celebrated”vis avis Batman in the recent Lego Movie where we saw the super-hero as a weak lonely vulnerable and redeemed by the sudden appearance of an unlikely offspring.
This is exactly what happens in Logan too, when 9-year old Laura(Dafne Keen) shows up claiming mutative kinship with Logan. The two unlikely co-travellers, joined by the wizened Charles Xavier(veteran Patrick Stewart) make an unlikely trio of mutants on the run from the government baddies cheer-leadered by Donald Pierce(Boyd Holbrook) .
The combat between the two sides—we really can’t call them the Good and Evil as the two components that make the world go around are so mixed up they are country cousins—is swift and brutal. Somewhere , as Logan drives through a shattered wasteland of burnt-out despair and disembodied disrepair,his savage twin comes out of the genetical disorder .
The two Hugh Jackmans are not used to create a visual splendor of heightened mayhem. The brutality is never used to augment the bestial energy which resides at the core of all action-driven super-hero films.
Dammit, Logan is not an action film at all. Outwardly it exudes a sense of exaggerated bravado.
But look closer. You will see the heart of darkness as Hugh Jackman’s Logan suffers for his lost agility and weeps for his daughter’s future.
Logan is like a serenely played symphony broken by strings of uncharted shrillness that are not brought in to distract but complete the portrait of despair. I was specially stunned by the savagery that destroys the Black American family that invites Logan , his mentor and daughter for a meal and night of rest, and by how Logan and his companions walk away from the mess unharmed unaffected. Laura even uses the I Phone that the slain family’s dead son had lent her. Memory is not a distraction here.It is a reminder of how close we all are to dying.
It is here that the old Charles Xavier admits,this is how life was meant to be…a family life, a warm bed to sleep on, a support system to fall back on. Minutes later it’s all wiped out with a rude dismissive abruptness.
I don’t know whether it is deliberate. But there is an unevenness and inconsistency in storytelling. One minute it is harsh and unforgiving, but in no time the mood changes to one of tenderness and tranquility. Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine rides the tides of fluctuating moods with an ease that indicates his character’s and perhaps his own, acceptance of mortality as the only certainty and reality.
Logan is an excursion that embraces the eclectic and elegiac aspects of existence. It makes room for a great deal of discourse and doubt on what constitutes a desirable life. It is also plagued by a lot of predictable emotions. The last act is specially clichéd replete with manipulative images of innocent children being helped to cross into safety by the dying Logan who is none the worse for the wear and tear.
Logan humanizes the super-hero to a level of supreme surrender . We have never seen a comicbook hero who is so vulnerable and so challenged by a 9-year old girl who is played by a child who has the ability to project herself as much older than she actually is, without seeming precocious.
We’ve never seen a hero so ready for the fall.We probably never will.