Superheroes die and come back to life on a fairly regular basis, but what they don’t do is age.
They don't stoop, wrinkle, lose their mental faculties, their eyesight, their hair – the thousand petty indignities flesh is heir to, especially when it sags.
In the new X-Men entry Logan, the title character (Hugh Jackman) is over the hill. He has a salt-and-pepper beard, a craggy face, walks with a limp, hits the bottle pretty hard, and pops pills to deal with the aches and pains that come with age – his vaunted immune system is shot, and he’s losing his Wolverine ability to heal himself.
At the film’s outset (set a couple of decades in the future) he’s old and hard up and on the bottom rung of the gig economy -- working as an Uber-type driver in El Paso, ferrying drunk Americans for cash, then crossing the border into Mexico, where he looks after Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who’s battling dementia.
What happens when a man with powers of telekinesis starts to lose control of his brain? Nothing good – Logan buys black-market drugs to control Xavier’s destructive tremors, and tries to scrape up enough money to take his old friend somewhere safe.
In Logan, writer-director James Mangold takes the superhero genre in a new and challenging direction, which is welcome so long as he doesn’t weigh the movie down with the kind of self-importance that robs the characters of their mythic power.
Logan, at the outset, generally hits the right note. The movie also shows a bit of backbone taking on the hot-button subject of immigration. Logan and Xavier end up helping Mexican children make their way to Canada – they are not welcome in the States, where black-ops military forces (led by Boyd Holbrook) are tracking them for capture, and possibly worse.
Some of these kids have X-men-type gifts, and so Logan uses the mutants as shorthand for illegals. Another decent idea, but at some point, the movie stops being provocative and starts being exploitative.
Logan is insistently, relentlessly, and grotesquely violent (a very hard R rating), and the children are in the thick of it. Their special abilities mean they are weaponized, and as such subject to retaliation. If you want to see an elementary-age child gored with a steel rail, this is your movie.
Which I’m sure raises a question:
Why so squeamish, snowflake movie dweeb? After all, the movie is about immigration, immigrant children die horribly, on the border or in Europe, where they’re washing up dead on the beaches.
Because Logan is not really asking us to consider the plight of vulnerable children, it’s encouraging us to get off on it.
This is a Hollywood trend I wish would stop -- making children violent actors mainly so that violence can be visited upon them. I didn’t like it in Kick Ass, when it was supposed to be funny, and I like it even less in the gory, graphic Logan.