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LOGAN: The Duality of Brutality

Emanuel discusses how 2017's Logan utilizes brutality to establish atmosphere.

With a perturbed groan, James wakes up to the clangs and exclamations of an uninvited clamor. He stumbles out of the car, swearing under his breath as he does, to unwelcome guests – someone’s trying to steal his rims again. He tries diplomacy; perhaps these men, crude as they appear, can be reasoned with, firmly yet politely deterred from his path. They laugh, and proceed to pump a few ounces of lead in his chest. With an exasperated sigh – born of general weariness, and the repetitious nature of what he’s about to do – James rises.

Normally, the wounds would’ve healed by now, and he’d have sliced their throats and severed their limbs far sooner. But he’s older now, and nothing works as fast as it used to; a half-hearted stumble will have to suffice. He tries diplomacy once more – no dice. These men don’t know who they’ve chosen to trifle with tonight; had they educated themselves on the weapons that reside between his knuckles, perhaps they would’ve chosen another car. He doesn’t want to bring out the claws again, but they’ve left him no choice.

Logan (2017) – source: IMDb

With 2017’s Logan, a masterful deconstruction of the hero and the mythological foundations on which they’re built, James Mangold and co. delivered unto the world one of cinema’s finest offerings to date in the CBM sub-genre. Hot on the heels of Deadpool‘s record-breaking exercise in R-rated trailblazing, The Wolverine was finally awarded the platform to slice and dice as his creators would have intended. However, there was a catch – Hugh Jackman’s latest foray into the personality of James Howlett would double as his farewell, a reveal that broke hearts and invoked tears around the world. Over the seventeen years and nine feature-length films Jackman had assumed the mantle of Wolverine, the line separating the personalities grew more foggy with each new expedition, until the two men eventually morphed into a shared identity; in other words, Hugh Jackman and The Wolverine are inseparable.

Logan‘s arrival to the silver screen was a touchdown of kaleidoscopic implications; not only would audiences be treated to one hell of a victory lap in Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the snarling meta-human, but they would finally receive a grisly limb-slasher that comic enthusiasts had both come to adore, and primarily associate with the character. However, that doesn’t mean James Mangold’s exercises in jaw-clenching gore are purely theater. While his opus can assuredly be satisfactorily consumed at face value, one simple choice, paramount in thematic relevance, elevates this redemptive odyssey from an eternally re-watchable action romp, to that of a deeply evocative character study, rivalling that of PTA’s There Will Be Blood and Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler.

Logan (2017) – source: IMDb

In a thematic checkmate of subtle brilliance, Mangold does away with the X-Men‘s tendency to glorify Wolverine’s iconic snikt!, and instead opts for demonizing the auditory cue for destruction altogether. Whereas the appearance of Adamantium is generally posed as an avenue for eventual victory, Logan instead posits that its cameos merely delay the inevitable, often inviting further physical decay and misfortune on the characters’ travels to Eden. Such is the tragic poetry of the narrative — while its eventualities are all achieved organically, they all feel predetermined.

For the sake of dispelling analogous opacity, I harken back to Revenge of the Sith, particularly the saga-defining duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan. By that point in the film, the viewer knows what must happen in order for A New Hope to be canonically plausible: the infant Sith must fall to his former mentor, giving way to his transition into the masked menace we all know and loathe. Likewise, every grunt, swear and perforation uttered and executed by Logan inches him even closer to demise. The film opens on a disgruntled has-been living on borrowed time, and its conclusion sees The Reaper cashing in on his negative balance – if you ask me, cinema doesn’t get more Shakespearean than that.

In the wake of Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox – a finalization of which sent the film world spinning and set my Twitter timeline ablaze – it’s tough to know whether or not we may ever see a film quite like Logan again. After all, the almighty Mouse has a proclivity for softening up his properties to maximize potential turnouts; here’s to hoping the future proves me wrong.

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