Makes Some Sharp Points
2 & ½ popcorns
By Michael S. Goldberger
Judged solely on its surface value, director James Mangold’s “Logan,” the third and reputedly final escapade of the Wolverine/Marvel Comics/superhero/X-Men series, rates a six on my excitement scale. However, bear in mind that loyal adherents of this franchise evaluate their cherished, alternate world of right, wrong and not so sure by their very own, entirely proprietary measure. They couldn’t care less about what this fuddy-duddy thinks.
Well, good. There is much philosophical baloney and wisdom to be gleaned from the generation gap. Hence, knowing my place as the Brave New World thunders outside my slightly blemished ivory tower of pontification, kindly acknowledge that my purpose in the next eight paragraphs is to be a cultural emissary to my fellow Great Unwashed. Bringing news of a largely younger group’s treats, intrigues and mores, I feature myself a Marco Polo of film criticism. Hmm, I could go for a bowl of spaghetti.
I admit that while I experienced no such disconnect from the provocatively entertaining “Doctor Strange” (2016), a movie bred in the same stable as “Logan,” it nonetheless took about 15 minutes into this latter film for me to figure out what was happening. I wished I had boned up on my Marvel lore. However, I remembered the dictum by dear old Dr. Halberstadter at Olde Ivy Film Criticism College: “Make believe you are interpreting what you see for someone from Mars, totally unaware of our culture.”
Admittedly, I never quite understood the rule, and more than once wondered if Hansel Halberstadter’s call for such extreme objectivity was an oblique way to foster sensitivity to Martians, just in case they ever visited. But the professor was such a kind man, and he often invited favorites to his comfy cottage off campus, built to look as if it were made of gingerbread and candy. There, along with sherry and scones, his wife Gretel, who had a Viennese accent despite being a fifth generation Texan, served great spaetzle. They won me over.
In any case, despite there being no spaghetti or spaetzle being imbibed in the dystopian future where Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine/Logan is being pursued by some very immoral characters, once I knew who was who my bewilderment turned into enlightened confusion. It is heartening to know that, through allegory and metaphor, the brains behind “Logan” and those young minds receiving their message, are fully aware of the racist inclinations that plague our society.
In “Logan’s” scenario of a depraved autocracy trying to hang on to the assumed privilege established by their bigoted ancestors, the huddled masses are mutants… misunderstood, put upon beings of multifarious color, stripe and often wondrous talent. For the most part they simply wish to live in peace and prosper. But be aware that implicit in this Millennial-charged attempt to understand the disingenuous aims of the powers that be, our smarter children have established a sarcastic shield. You see, the kids know. They just want adults to show gumption.
No longer is there is simply black, white and gray, but rather, an acknowledgement of something more complicated. For example, Logan is good not just by what humanitarian instincts he might exhibit, but by his angst over the killing he’s done to preserve life and knife-sprouting upper limbs. When he reluctantly becomes guardian, tutor and fellow traveler to pre-teen Laura (Dafne Keen), a waif mutant with striking genetic similarities to himself, an empathic soap opera mechanism adds to the ambiguity. The bad guys, on the other hand, are just bad.
Led by Stormtrooper-type Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), point man for Transigen, a dark, quasi-government force full up with supremacist, human-engineering lunacy reminiscent of Mengele, the authoritarians are rounding up mutants. Of course, whether in film or real life, this is nothing new. It’s just class warfare dressed in sci-fi clothes as the futuristic, financially elite, acutely aware of their minority, employ technology to maintain their dominance.
On the run, but paying only minor lip service to Laura’s dreamy contention that a sanctuary for mutant children exists just across the Canadian border, Logan attempts to lead her and Patrick Stewart’s ailing, Charles Frances Xavier (Professor X) to safety. Action-packed skirmishes contrast with getting-to-know-you sentimentality. While neither Wolverine nor Laura read it on the cover of a supermarket mag, both have a strong inkling regarding their bio-connection.
Although ultimately engaged while watching this postmodern muckrake, its amusement value soon evaporated and was replaced by its decidedly conditional optimism. Wending my way to where spaghetti might heighten my analytical abilities, I considered a telling irony. Our first comic superhero was created to emotionally combat The Great Depression, emerging dictators and the rumblings of approaching war. And now, again calling upon artistic endeavor to ameliorate injudicious forces we’ve mistakenly unleashed, “Logan” offers its cutting perception.
“Logan,” rated R, is a Twentieth Century Fox release directed by James Mangold and stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen. Running time: 137 minutes