I was thinking more about Logan over the weekend and chatting with my teenage daughter about it after she saw it, and something occurred to me that I hadn’t thought of before. I posted here about how much I liked the film, and my overall opinion of it hasn’t changed, but I did come to realize that they missed an opportunity to plus the drama in a way that would have made it a more complete film.
Briefly, it felt like they could have done more to develop the relationship between Logan and Laura in a way that made us see what each had to gain if they were able to get away and get to Canada. It was only at the end of the film when we finally see Laura refer to Logan as Papa. I believe the film makers did us a disservice by not doing more to show us what might have been had Logan and Laura escaped and been able to live a life as father and daughter.
Personally, I feel that the most dramatic films are those that show us characters that have fatal flaws, but give us an indication of how good their lives will be if they can somehow overcome those flaws. Think about Romeo and Juliet and how even though you know they’re both going to die, we get just enough of seeing how much they love each other and how happy they would be if it only ended with a “happily ever after” instead of the tragic ending we got. I’m in no way saying that Shakespeare should have changed the ending because it ended exactly the way it was supposed to end. In fact, it was so effective precisely because Shakespeare gave us a taste of what Romeo and Juliet’s lives would have bee together.
A more contemporary example can be found in the Harry Potter series after Harry meets Sirius Black and discovers that he’s his godfather. Sirius starts to represent the closest thing to a family that Harry would ever have, and in the books JK Rowling did an outstanding job of allowing us to hope that Sirius could be a surrogate father to Harry. And then Sirius is killed, and that idea is ripped away from not only Harry, but from us as well. It’s a terribly upsetting moment, but it’s also very dramatic because Rowling gave us something to hope for and then took it away.
That is how drama is created, and the ending of Logan is less dramatic because Director James Mangold and screenwriters Scott Frank and Michael Green didn’t do enough to soften Logan to the idea of being more of a father figure to Laura. What’s more, they didn’t give Laura any emotional complexity or desire for a father figure until the movie was almost over, and by then it was too late. If, however, at some point in by the second half of Act II they had started to show more of an emotional connection between the two of them, as well as a desire between the two of them to have that connection and to have a more familial outcome to their adventure, then that would have allowed the audience to be more emotionally connected and allowed us to have a much more visceral and satisfying emotional response to the end of the film.