By Travis Trombley
It’s gritty and R-rated-violent, sure, but also intimate. Its scope shies from the superhero epic, preferring instead a limited road film structure with family foundations. It shirks the grand character roster and need to preview future installments and focuses instead on its characters, defined here more by the intersection of their flaws, their hopes, and their ideologies. It’s violence serves a greater narrative purpose rather than stemming from a narrative excuse for a genre requirement. And yet it is a superhero film at heart, telling a very human tale with bouts of flourish.
In other words, James Mangold’s Logan is mature film. And it’s a great one. It proves that superheroes can provide more to the cinematic market than origin story tropes and team-up tales. It proves that these characters can grow up with their audiences in a manner more nuanced than the presence of curse words, bloody beheadings, and self-aware cynicism. And it proves that a superhero film can in fact stand on its own two legs without relying on intertextuality - cameos, guest stars, and references - to carry any narrative weight. It’s human drama, through and through.
The danger of Logan is that critics will be all too quick to define the superhero genre as a whole by the tropes this film avoids. We see this already in the calls for Warner Brothers to release some R-rated DC comics films. But rest assured, no amount of F-bombs or decapitations would have fixed Suicide Squad’s broken narrative or given Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman characters more depth. Logan works not because of it’s rating; rather, Logan works because it’s provides viewers with a viewing experience that takes seriously human pain, and it just so happens to take full advantage of an R rating to do so.