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When Logan was announced as a nominee for the Best Adapted Screenplay at this year's Academy Awards, I experienced a moment of jaw-dropping awe. Sure, the impressive work done by Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green on their collaborative script was a victory in and of itself, with the standard talk of the film becoming an outside contender for the Oscars following close to the film's release in theaters. However, to actually see a nomination come through for this amazing work of art was the cherry on top, and as far as I'm concerned, it should be the #1 pick out of the Best Adapted Screenplay field.
Logan's script is hugely successful, as noted by its Oscar nod, and its success starts with the fact that it gets its characters. The movie knows what type of film it wants to be, and is able to tie the overall universe of the X-Men films and their Wolverine spin-offs into a genre-bending flick that makes the story its own, as well. Logan doesn't need to distance itself from its comic book roots; rather it throws itself willingly into the arms of the comics. Not to mention, the brilliant mechanic of integrating the real life X-Men comic as a factor of the film's universe lends to a slightly meta examination of comic book stories in general. The comics, much like typical comic book movies, symbolize the over-the-top stories that we're used to in movies these days. While Logan's initial rejection of those stories as cotton candy fluff used to condition Laura into believing a kinder lie, the film ultimately vindicates those sort of films and stories as inspiration for us to be better people. The beaten, downtrodden Logan gets to be the Wolverine in the pages of those books by time the film ends, and he goes out in a fashion appropriate to his character.
As we touched on prior, with some clever tweaks, Logan could be a western noir in the vein of Taylor Sheridan. If you changed all of the characters into normal people, and reworked the mechanics just a smidge, this film would still work as a straight drama. Most comic book movies depend on the comic book universe to survive, but the really good ones could be reworked into more traditional narratives with the quickest of ease. We'd seen this before with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and now we see it again with Logan, as the story of a man who's trying to protect everything he stands for in a cruel, hard-scrabble world is only further enhanced when that man is Hugh Jackman's Wolverine.
Perhaps the greatest victory for Logan's impressive adapted screenplay, and the one I feel should clinch this film's win in my eyes, is the fact that it's a gorgeous melding of those two previous factors. Either of those factors alone is a win for a film, but the fact is we're dealing with a film that not only dabbles in comic book and western noir storytelling, but does so without sacrificing its integrity. The redemption arc of Jackman's Logan, the tender decline of Stewart's Professor X, and Dafne Keen's stellar debut as Laura / X-23 all rock out as both comic book archetypes and noir protagonists.
In an ideal world, Logan could have run the table with more big ticket nominations. The fact that it's up for Best Adapted Screenplay in the same breath as Call Me By Your Name and The Disaster Artist is still a beautiful thing in and of itself. As far as I'm concerned, Logan should win the Adapted Screenplay category because it expanded the notion of what a comic book movie could be. The film also manages to work as a functional western noir picture, something we also saw to great effect with this year's Wind River, etc. It is a story that taps into some of the most emotional storytelling captured on film in 2017, and that is where the greatest victory for Logan lies.
Logan is a film that, in an established comic universe mold, would have been a nonstop spectacle with minimal heart. But the work of Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green turned into a big, beating four-chambered hit. I personally was left crying my eyes out, with my heart in my hands, as I said goodbye to The Wolverine, James Logan Howlett. To award this film the honor of Best Adapted Screenplay is to give the comic genre the message that it should expand its borders into more experimental storytelling. And, above all else, such a win would be the epitome of the category's intent, as this is truly the best, most intently detailed adaptation of the year when considering the source material.