Logan, which opened on Wednesday in the UK, is a movie with a lot of surprises up its sleeves. Or perhaps, sheathed inside its forearms. The movie is red in tooth and claw in every way and a lot of filmgoers, especially those who aren’t regular movie blog readers, have expressed some surprise at the fact that in this country, the movie is a 15. Now, when we were lads and all this were nowt but fields, what constitutes a 15 today would actually be an 18 certificate. Lots of swearing, lots of blood, lots of no holds barred violence and some nudity. Logan has none of the latter and pretty much all of the former. Hence the 15 rating over here, and an R rating in the States where several chains have specifically warned parents not to bring their kids to see it.
So, why the higher certificate? Well there’s a straightforward answer to that and a more complicated one as well.
On the straightforward front we have violence and we have naughty words. Lots of both.
Anyone expecting the carefully measured and cut-away violence of the previous X movies is going to be very, very disappointed. The first thing that happens is a bloody, untidy fight that leaves Logan badly injured and several of his opponents in pieces. That’s just the start too as the rest of the movie includes:
- Multiple instances of Logan driving his claws through people’s skulls and faces at various angles..
- Some of those in slow motion with his victim very much seeing it coming but unable to do anything.
- Multiple limb removals.
- Several moments when Logan traps an opponent against a wall and punch-stabs them repeatedly in the chest.
- At least three instances of people getting shot. None of them tidy, all of them messy and traumatic and none of them instant kills.
- Multiple scenes in which X-23 goes feral, slashing and stabbing at opponents with her hand and foot claws. Given that X-23 is a little girl who weighs maybe 90 lbs this is especially disturbing.
- Lots of people getting run over.
- Impalings galore. Including the most creative use of a fence and chicken wire we’ve even seen.
There is a lot of swearing in this movie. A LOT. It’s all really well used too, nothing cheap or exploitative and all designed too push character.
- The first word we hear is the F-bomb.
- The first line Charles Xavier says while fully conscious involves telling Logan to “f**k off!”
- Xavier in particular revels in being a disreputable old man and swears up a storm throughout the movie.
Surprisingly there’s functionally no nudity in the movie. We see Logan take his shirt off a few times but as that gives us a close up look at the highway map of scars on his chest, it’s not exactly done to titillate. Unless you find scars in close-up sexy in which case BUCKLE UP!
Of course there’s more to it than that. The obvious answer, and one other blogs will no doubt pepper you with, is that Logan is a superhero movie for grown-ups. That both is and isn’t true. It’s true in the sense that this is a definitively mature movie in two different ways. The first is the age of the characters and the way in which that age affects them. Both Logan and Xavier are old men, tired, ill and unwilling to engage with the world in the way they used to. The movie has been heavily influenced by the latter albums of the late, great Johnny Cash and it shows. This is a story about one man, at the end of his life, discovering what that life was for. Not many action figures are going to be sold over this and that’s very much a good thing.
The second way it’s true is that superhero movies are evolving, rather than maturing. It’s been 16 years since X-Men and the genre has expanded and changed to the point where that film is almost unrecognisable as anything other than a technology demonstrator for everything that came after it. It’s still huge fun, certainly, but it’s a point on a track now rather than a destination. Ironically, many of last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse’s problems stemmed from staying too close to that model. Looked at that way, Logan is very much the end of the chapter that first X-Men film started and a perfect sign off at that.
But it’s also not true. At least, not yet. Superhero movies have continued to evolve but they’ve done so far slower than their source material. The fact it’s taken Marvel until 2019 to get their first female-fronted movie out has not gone unnoticed, especially given the veritable flotilla of female-led hit books they have now. The whitewashing controversy over Iron Fist and Doctor Strange’s the Ancient One also speak to an entrenched reluctance to embrace the diverse audience that wants these stories. It’s changing, painfully slowly, but it is changing. The incredible Ms Marvel, a Muslim teenage girl, is very much the Spider-Man of the 21st Century while over at the DC movies they have, it seems, finally realised they’re allowed to fun. Better still, advanced word on Wonder Woman is very good. Sat next to Logan, that opens the field up and that’s definitely a good thing. It’s not fast, and it’s not wide ranging but it is happening, just slowly. So, growing up? Not yet. Evolving? Absolutely.
So, if you get the chance, go see Logan, it’s great. But be aware not just of how full-blooded it is, but why.
Article by Alasdair Stuart