Elegant Violence?

I love movies. And I revel in the opportunity to see many different styles and genres of film: from the dramatic to the comedic to the absurd – to the violent. I tend to find something interesting in most of them, even if there are some I don’t really like. But there is a downside to seeing so many films: they can begin to become very derivative. The sameness of the plot, the characters and the action can put a damper on what might be a better film than I am perceiving in the moment.

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So it is with ‘Logan’, the latest X-Men film from Marvel studios (and NOT distributed by Disney). This film has been promoted as the last hurrah of the beloved X-Men character Wolverine, played over the past 16 years with great gusto and relative sensitivity by Hugh Jackman. Jackman/Wolverine/Logan: they all deserve better. From my point of view, this is a rather sad reboot of the even sadder ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, sending Logan on a redemptive road trip across the decaying western US to deliver his surrogate father, Francis Xavier (the ‘X’ in X-Men) and surrogate daughter Laura to Eden – a sanctuary for mutants. If you are a regular reader of this column, you will remember that I found ‘Mad Max’ to be a tedious, two-hour long car chase of exceptionally violent proportions. ‘Logan’ is a two-PLUS hour chase film as a group of sadistically nasty eugenicists try to keep Logan from protecting the girl who possesses many of his special traits.

Perhaps this is a commentary on society – or perhaps just the movies – but I struggle to understand why this potentially interesting story of aging, mortality, hope and multi-generational caring has to be cloaked in such extreme violence. This is the first of the X-Men movies to achieve an ‘R’ rating, in this case for the extent of the violence. I am sure that someone will point out that the entire nature of Wolverine’s character is a struggle to contain the violence inside him, and that this is simply the end-result of that nature: the violence cannot be contained. But what about the humanity that the character shows at this point in his life? Is there any value in that? And furthermore, it has been suggested in other commentary about this film that the violence is ‘elegant’ – in its presentation and its intent. Sorry, but I do find much elegance in a non-stop parade of razor sharp claws being thrust through skulls – and every other conceivable body part – even if they are the body parts of the bad guys. There is not much humanity in that. And as such, the storyline fails. This is too bad.

As noted, there is great potential in this story. Logan – when not on another killing spree – is like so many of us: an aging character who is recognizing his own mortality as he faces a sandwich generation existence, caring for his ‘father’ Xavier and his 'daughter' Laura. He really did not ask for either of these responsibilities – none of us do. But he bears them with grace, dignity and forbearance – for a few wonderful minutes. It would be so nice to see Jackman allowed to really develop this character. But, alas, this is a cartoon character; and he must act as one.

Much the same can be said of Patrick Stewart as Francis Xavier, the man who protected, taught and nurtured the many mutants who make up the X-Men. By now his massively capable brain is starting to unravel and he cannot control the forces that emanate from it. Face it: we have all seen this in family, friends or acquaintances who are reaching the end of their lives. We have so much respect and empathy for them – and for their caretakers – as we remember the great things they accomplished with their great brains. But Stewart is not allowed a graceful exit from this earth. Guess what intrudes? I don’t need to repeat myself.

Just as with ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, the goal is an illusion and its achievement is a letdown. Yes, it may be wrapped in (false) hope, but it is still a letdown. If you suffer through so much, the goal should be worth more – as a character and as a moviegoer.

Once again, I seem to be in the minority among reviewers, since this film has received generally quite positive comments. And so, as I often say, perhaps you need to go see the film and make up your own mind. But I must admit, those positive comments make me sad.

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