My dad raised me well; comics are my lifeblood. Memories flash back to anticipated weekends of going to local comic shops in search of a new action figure or the latest issue. But what really fueled my love for these characters were those epic Saturday morning cartoons. Each week, the likes of Batman: The Animated Series, X-Men, and Spider-Man competed for my affections. And despite my passions for both the Batman and Spider-Man mythos, X-Men holds a special place in my heart.
Back in the ‘90’s, the only superheroes that graced the cinema were Batman and Superman, and even as a kid those attempts weren’t satisfying. But in July 2000, I witnessed something special, a spectacle I never thought I would see: the X-Men on the big screen.
My hopes were set high with hype as I eagerly counted down the days. When the moment arrived, nothing could rob me of the joys of seeing the X-Men take down Magneto and the Brotherhood in live-action. And even though its flaws were apparent at the time, it didn’t matter, because I was witnessing something I loved in comics getting taken seriously, treated with care; I felt like an adult.
X-Men was very special to me; it was the first time I saw a film twice in theatres. Along with Shrek (which also came out that year), it became the rerun film that replaced my childhood Disney movies. I couldn’t get enough of it. And it was a very satisfying, self-contained experience; I didn’t need a sequel or anything else, because this film was more than I ever hoped for.
And then Spider-Man came out in 2002, and it ruined me.
Seeing Spider-Man in theatres as a kid made me want more. And so my anticipations for comic book movies increased with each passing film, hoping for another ‘definitive’ X-Men experience that left me satisfied.
Throughout my adolescent years, my love affair with superheroes came and went. It wasn’t until 2008’s The Dark Knight where I really developed my passion for comics and other related media. Like X-Men, the source material was taken seriously; TDK took well-known characters and set them in our world, our time, and that sense of reality made it a truly surreal experience.
TDK taught me a very valuable lesson: expect more from my comic book movies.
When it came to X-Men, I longed for a similar experience. The first X-Men film had become dated; though still enjoyable, it didn’t hold up according to the new standard of greatness set by TDK. But I was hopeful.
X-Men First Class and Days of Future Past were steps in the right direction, and are some of my favorite films in the genre, but both missed the mark of what makes the X-Men so great: family.
The previous X-Men films were very faithful to the comics’ themes of prejudice and being an outsider. But those films never delved into its characters to their fullest potential, failing to portray the dysfunctional family dynamic that made this team far more interesting than their Avengers counterparts. To be honest, I never thought I would get a character-rich X-Men film, grounded in reality and artistically poignant like TDK, until Logan.
Logan is the film I deep down always wanted, but never thought I would get. It didn’t use the characters I would’ve imagined, or told a story I expected to see. But more accurately than its predecessors, Logan depicts the struggles of the X-Men as a family living in a society that rejects them.
By narrowing the cast down to the bare bones, James Mangold richly explores the highs and lows of these characters in a grounded world much like our own. He brings a sense of realism to the mythos that I have never seen done so well since The Dark Knight. But whereas that film set me on a quest for the best, Logan ended that journey.
Logan is the best superhero film I’ve ever seen. It turns the superhero genre on its head by giving us the aesthetics of a truly great work of art, riddled with emotionally fueled moments that defy all the clichés that one has come to expect.
Scattered throughout the premise of Logan runs a subtle commentary of the superhero genre today: escapism. When Logan finds X-Men comics in Laura’s room, he comments to Xavier about how, “Maybe a quarter of it happened, but not like this, in the real world, people die.”
Laura used these fantasy stories to give her hope, to escape from reality. In the same way, we often use the latest Marvel and DC outing to escape from our world. And while they more than often parallel some aspect of present day, in the end they are movies with feel-good endings and stock characters (at least most of them are). But Logan is a film that doesn’t let you escape to Asguard or Metropolis, Logan makes you confront what’s really going on around us, using mutants as an allegory for the marginalized in our world today.
Logan gave me an experience; it forced me to turn inward and reflect on themes of human connection and inevitable suffering, along with the consequences of hatred and the hope for something better.
Rewatching other comic book movies now is eye opening. Everything changes. I see the flaws: the plot holes, the lack of depth, the simplistic narratives, the inconsistent tones, all these things become apparent after seeing Logan.
Logan gave me the sophistication that I always knew comics were capable of delivering in film form. X-Men gave me that definitive experience as a kid in a way I could understand then. Now Logan gives me that same experience but in a way I can connect with as an adult. With the over-saturation of comic book movies that masquerade as trailers for the next installment of the franchise, we are almost trained to never be satisfied. On the other hand, Logan grants me closure, not just for this storyline I’ve been following but in this quest I’ve been pursuing: this longing for a self-contained, satisfying experience that takes into account all the major themes of its source material while handling its characters respectfully and passionately with real-life emotion. Because for the first time in 17 years, after searching far and wide across the cinema landscape, awaiting that masterpiece, I can now sit back, relax, breathe, and rest again, content at last.