Beware all ye who enter here: This post CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS for Logan. Don't read on if you don't want to know.
The #DC Extended Universe movies are walking a lonely road right now, the only one that they have ever known. They don't know where it goes... but so far it's not going too well. They're making money hand over fist, but not as much as they expected and still miles behind the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And the critics aren't too pleased about what we've seen so far either.
But a favorite rallying cry of fans in defense of the DCEU tends to be, "at least DC is making dark, gritty, realistic movies, unlike the silly slapstick that #Marvel and Fox are putting out. Sorry if you scrubs can't handle that." But grit alone does not a good movie make. Bottom line is, all grit and no substance makes for a bleak as hell world, and often it just doesn't work (looking at you, Zack Snyder).
So, if the #DCEU is making you sad, get yourself a movie that is both gritty and great. Thankfully Logan has come along to fill that empty hole in your heart. Here's why the newest X-Men movie succeeds where others have failed.
1. The Characters Have Heart
Logan is effective because it has heart. The characters are well fleshed out, clearly motivated, and — most importantly — they all have distinct personalities. We identify with and care about them: We want them to succeed, and when they hurt we feel it. This is a vast improvement over the likes of Superman, who has the characterization of a dull spoon.
#Logan is lucky here in a way that Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad aren't though, in the sense that it has 17 years of history and character development to draw from. Especially in the case of Logan/Wolverine/James Howlett (Hugh Jackman), one of the most loved comic book characters ever to make the jump to the big screen.
But the new characters fare pretty well too. Though we've seen bits of him before in last year's X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan's iteration of Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is a new version in a different timeline. But it's the inclusion of Laura/X-23 (Dafne Keen) that really hits the characterization nail on the head.
Kids are often hard to get right, but Laura strikes a great balance between feral mutant, a child who just wants to be a child, and a girl trying to connect with her father. It's not a new trope, but it's played out very well by the young Dafne Keen (one to watch, we'd bet).
This so easily could've gone wrong, as it has in the past with the likes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but thankfully the character development is carried along by the narrative, because...
2. The Story Has Substance
On the surface, the story of Logan is just as silly as every other #comicbook movie. A shady government agency has secretly been targeting and sterilizing a mutant population that has superpowers in an attempt to wipe them out, while genetically engineering their own "mutants" who they can control. The story focuses on the last surviving mutants; one an albino who can sense other mutants, one who can kill people with his mind and two who can pop unbreakable claws out of their hands (and feet).
On the surface it doesn't sound all that serious, but while the story is about what we just covered, it's not really about that. Logan is about what all good #XMen movies are about — how our differences define us, and family. Not the family we are genetically related to, but the family we make for ourselves.
The development of the relationship between Logan and Laura from a bond created by genetic experiments to a bond of family forms the backbone of the narrative, and makes the ending even more impactful (seriously if you didn't get all teary when Laura says "Daddy" then sorry about your heart removal surgery).
- 'Logan' — Every Marvel Easter Egg, Comic Book Reference & X-Men Movie Link
- Hugh Jackman Tweets An Emotional Farewell Video To Fans For Their Support Over 17 Years of Wolverine
- 'Logan': Did Any Of The X-Men Survive The 'Westchester Incident' And Will We See Them In Future Movies?
3. It Uses The R-Rating
The R-rating affords Logan a luxury few movies of its type have: the luxury to be super goddamn violent. Movies like Batman v Superman promise the two juggernauts of DC duking it out, which you would expect would result in a lot of blood, pain and — god forbid — maybe even some swearing.
But because of the profitability of superhero movies, even your gritty "adult" ones still need to target a younger demographic, and so everything is watered down. This is restrictive both to the narrative and the form, and says something about the fact that both #Deadpool and Logan were so successful after being allowed free of shooting for the famed PG-13 rating.
Violence, swearing, and the occasional flash of breasts does not a good movie make, but the way Logan utilizes it does. Which leads us to...
4. It Takes Responsibility
#ManOfSteel was heavily criticized for the colossal loss of human life that must've occurred during Superman and Zod's battle in Metropolis, but the problem was not so much that this happened, but how it was followed up.
The neck-snapping of Zod aside, Clark Kent shows little to no remorse for the damage he caused to the city and the carelessness with which he handled the situation. And this is a character who is supposed to be DC's human-loving Boy Scout. This was touched on in Batman v Superman and forms part of why #Batman doesn't trust Supes, but is quickly thrown aside in favor of piss jokes and Bruce Wayne making weird Dick Cheney plagiarisms (if you don't get that joke, look up The One Percent Doctrine and see how Brucey borrows from that speech).
Wolverine doesn't take a huge amount of responsibility for the bodies he leaves in his wake in Logan, but he does so much more than #Superman. Here Logan is an alcoholic on a deathwish bender, which is fueled at least in part by the ghosts of what he has done in the past.
This is referenced a few times throughout, most notably when he and Laura have a conversation about how she will live with killing the "bad" men. Indeed in many ways Logan is about responsibility, and the question of whether or not Logan will take responsibility for this child who is technically, genetically, his daughter.
Logan's ghosts drive him toward redemption and — inevitably — into his grave, Superman's ghosts don't really touch him. Like the other points we've touched on, the way responsibility is used in Logan grounds and humanizes the violence of the piece, and ties tightly into character development.
5. There's Dead, And There's Dead
And then of course, there's the fact that two characters who have been a huge part of the backbone of the X-Men team — Wolverine and Professor X — were killed off in Logan. Superheroes die all the time, but this time they stayed dead. A ballsy move on the part of Fox, but a highly effective one.
Contrast this with Batman v Superman and Superman's "death" — we all knew he was coming back, which made the grave scene at the very end flat and unaffecting. The MCU is also guilty of this (Quicksilver in Avengers: Age of Ultron aside), but as discussed earlier, the MCU aims for a slightly less bleak tone than the likes of the DCEU, so it's less of a kick in the teeth there.
If you want us to take the subject matter seriously in this gritty world, you have to commit to the rules of the world. Thus far, Logan is one of the few that has managed to do so effectively, which is why it's so sad to see Hugh Jackman come to the end of his run as Wolverine. Rest in Peace Logan, your time has finally come.
What was your favorite part of Logan? Tell us in the comments, and check out our massive Easter Egg breakdown below!