Reviewing Logan; yo when did X-men stop being a catalyst for change? And why do I have so many questions?
So being the comic book/superhero trash that I am, I am, of course, writing a Logan review.
I just want to disclaim a couple of things right now however: I’m not an expert on the X-men universe (unless you count Deadpool comics but I Do Not), I WILL be touching on issues of representation in this film as well as attempting (key word) to analyse some of the socio-political issues it touches on, and also, for the record, this is NOT SPOILER FREE.
First and foremost, I’d just like to say that I really, really enjoyed this film. More so than most X-men films, and in fact, a lot of the MCU films in general. I feel like I need to point this out immediately, because when I tend to analyse things either from a point of representation, or in fact any other perspective, it can sound a little like I don’t like it.
The film degree in me is making me critique too much. Or maybe if every movie wasn’t so shit at representation we wouldn’t have this problem. You decide.
So what did I like about it? Well, when considering the X-men cinematic universe (Deadpool aside), in comparison Logan is a gritty, no holds barred, big finale, which isn’t packing its punches when it comes to talking about the inevitability of mortality (even for the immortal), as well as showing the violent, harrowing, and often swearing kind of person Wolverine often is in the comics, but can’t be in the films on account of ratings.
We see the full power of his claws as he slashes through body after body, and even though Old Man Logan may no longer be in his prime, his power is still a sight to behold.
But what I really enjoyed about this film is that it successfully adds dimension, humanity, and conversations of loneliness in a way the previous X-men films never managed to do. Wolverine is a character with a lot of depth, but I have cared for none of his relationships until this movie, when I saw him with both Laura and Xavier. To see him struggle with the opportunity for family (albeit a mish mash of one) was hard to watch, if only because I think we are all aware it just simply wasn’t going to work out. This being Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s last hurrah pretty much means that death is on the horizon, and an extended, slightly less sad family road trip is not on the cards for our dear Wolverine.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Laura’s character in general. Mind you, she didn’t say much, and when she did I had no idea what she was saying, but boy that girl is a fucking badass. People keep telling her what to do and her face just settles into this fucking incredible look of “I think the fuck not”, and then she goes all kid Wolverine on them just fucking cage fighting without the cage. And the foot claws? That fucked me up. This kid is too damn cool, and she did it without a single line of dialogue in the first three quarters of the movie.
So yeah, I enjoyed the film. But, I still walked out with a million more questions than I walked in.
The obvious ones being, so the mutants have been dying off? But the reason behind this is only mentioned in passing, as a sort of throwaway line! No! This should’ve been a bigger plot point! I get they wanted the film to focus on the trio, but having the utterly unmemorable villain (whose name I’ve already forgotten even though I saw the film yesterday) simply say “I killed them off by putting a cure in the food, and now mutants have gone the way of polio” is just not good enough! And how did Xavier, Wolverine, and Caliban survive? How do we know no others have survived? I want to know what’s happened to the rest of them! I need flashbacks!!!
And what on EARTH is the socio-political structure during this time period? It occasionally comes across as post-apocalyptic, but perhaps that’s just the warped perspective of what I expect out of these films at this point. But with so much conversation around border crossing (both Southern and Northern), as well as body-autonomy and reproductive issues, why in the hell is this film seemingly taking no stand what so ever on these issues? In this political climate it’s almost laughable that this film has made these points both extremely vital to the storyline, and also somehow completely irrelevant.
And water? Water seemed to be such an incredibly important motif, or at least like it was initially going to be. If taken at face value, water could simply be seen as the final opportunity of rest for Xavier and Wolverine, who were hoping to die peacefully at sea without hurting anyone. Instead were buried next to small lakes after taking on that one final task where they both hurt many people, as well as saved a few as well. It’s sad, but it’s also a fairly common motif for redemption. Water washes away your sins etc.
It could easily be just that, but I can’t shake the scene where Logan/James helps Will Munson turn his water back on after it was sabotaged by a group of white, domestic terrorist hill billies. Just as with the previous issues, it almost seemed like the film was going to say something. And it easily could have. Water is such a point of contention in the US right now, with the Flint water crisis, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and big businesses taking water from the perpetually in-draught California, it wouldn’t have been hard to make a point here, any point, but again, it fell short.
Maybe I’m just reaching here, maybe water isn’t a motif, but boy it could’ve been.
And then of course, there is the issue of representation.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that this is a film that is supposed to be completely centred around the main trio. And yet, I can’t get over the fact that in the ENTIRE film, including exceptionally minor characters, there were only NINETEEN women. And only a handful of those had any dialogue at all. That’s 19 women out of 97 complete cast members, and I would say in all honesty only 4 or 5 of them had any dialogue included in the film, and only 2 of them played any real part in the film at all, that being Laura, and her initial (but eventually dead) caregiver Gabriella.
That’s pretty fucked up.
I would also say, in terms of cultural or ethnic representation, that was pretty fucked up too. While the amount of white men was overwhelming, it still did better in terms of showing diversity. But diversity isn’t enough. There was so much stereotyping it was ridiculous.
Considering that the majority of this film is set in Mexico, and the outskirts of Mexico, beyond Laura and Gabriella, the inclusion of Mexicans was painfully small, and extremely lazy. The only memorable scene that included Mexican men was a gang of “cholos” trying to steal Logan/James’ hubcaps. Of course, they eventually met their maker after acting as violent, ethnic gang members are supposed to when starring in a white man’s narrative.
I mean, in all honesty, how the FUCK are you going to set your film in and around Mexico and do this? It’s insane.
And I get it, I get it. Although it may not sound it, I get that this film isn’t out there to be making huge sweeping social commentary, and challenge the lack of diversity in Hollywood, but why shouldn’t it?
X-men was created to give a voice to the minorities. It was created as an analogy for a number of those often perceived as social pariah’s. The original comics were a catalyst for discourse and change – so why is the cinematic universe so goddamn hesitant to continue in the comics’ footsteps? And with the utter shit going on in the X-men comic universe, I think it’s about bloody time film makers step up and say “well we’re going to do better”. Someone needs to.
It’s a crying shame, and while this was a highly enjoyable film – even during the (many) parts in which I cried – I can’t help feeling like it stopped giving a shit about plot, dialogue, and casting realistic characters beyond the main trio.
* #KnifeDad pictures in feature image sourced from davebaldwin3d