{Empire of Dirt} “Logan” by James Mangold (2017)

Dear God! I want to vigorously shake hands with whoever green-lit Logan‘s arid, sun-scorched script for production, a story where Professor X kills the entirety of the core X-Men, save for Wolverine, and then spends the remainder of his time drugged out of his mind in order to keep his formidable telepathic powers at bay: senile, babbling, cursing at every turn, needing help to climb in and out of bed, assistance to use the bathroom, before finally being put out his misery by a murderous younger clone of Wolverine himself?

“This is what life looks like,” says the long-suffering Xavier, isolated within a toppled water tower, living out his days in a demented haze in a near future-world where the meek have inherited a world with dwindling access to fertile land and fresh water, an empire of dirt.

Logan, with its hard-earned realism, makes the The Dark Night feel like Mary Poppins by comparison, and it is a better film to boot: a better comic-book film, a more dramatic-film, a better film-film overall. A lean, mean, comic-book adaptation that has very little in common with the Mark Miller’s original source material, and more in common with genre revisionist fare like Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Bresson’s Leon the Professional.

Where has director James Mangold been storing this gem of a film? His previous credits, which include the atrocious The Wolverine and the middling Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, do nothing to harbinger the quality of his work on Logan. From the hard-boiled script, to the cinematography that deliberately eschews the language of contemporary comic book cinema, to the solemn acting that gives the film such poignant moments of gravitas.

When Hollywood botched several of comicdom’s prestige titles such as Watchmen and V for Vendetta, the elegiac Logan, with its subtle environmental nods to climate change and Big Agriculture, boasting an overarching theme that concerns itself with the deep seated effects of violence, gives hardcore comic acolytes the adaptation they have long deserved.

Logan proves that comic book films, when handled by the right hands, can be viable artistic vehicles and not merely the entertainment industry’s newest cash cow. Me, I’m still holding out for Wes Anderson adapting Maus, or David Fincher doing Black Hole. It wouldn’t be the worst thing. Until then we got James Mangold.