“I always know who you are. It’s just sometimes I don’t recognize you.”
Charles Xavier, Logan
Logan marked Patrick Stewart’s seventh film in the X-Men series as the mutant leader Professor X. But Logan was different and Stewart was different. He was real, vulnerable and magnificent.
2017 was certainly a memorable year for film, but it marked the change in direction for comic book adaptations, reflecting on the changing perspectives in society. With the public now seeking more realism and greater variety with their heroes. With Logan, we saw the decline of the hard bodied male fantasy, with the masculinity identity being presented as a complex structure which is flawed and damaged. Hugh Jackman’s character reflects this decline in hyper masculinity in the Generation X. And Stewart’s Charles Xavier reflects the decline of the optimistic and narcissistic mind set of the baby boomer generation. They are two men who have lost their way, and have become disconnected from the world that surrounds them.
Logan is barely holding on, and Xavier has given up all hope of ever being relevant again. Both these characters represent the loss of identity that men belonging to these generations are encountering on a daily basis. There is still time for the generation X’s like Logan to redeem themselves, but the baby boomer represented by Charles Xavier is too far gone. Logan is more than just a comic book film, and Stewart’s performance deserves far more credit than critics are giving it. The film may be called Logan, but this film is very much about Xavier too.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of comic book movies, you can still admire Stewart’s performance in this film. He presents us with a fallen hero, a man who has lost it all and is losing his most valuable asset, his mind. The presentation of this version of Charles Xavier is a tragic one who is muddled, confused and frustrated by the limits of his human body.
It’s a performance which is brave an unglamourous, this is a role which is a tough physical and emotional ordeal. You can see the time and effort that has gone into Patrick Stewart’s performance of this complex character. It isn’t hard to buy into the concept that this is a broken man who has lost everything. If you took the character of Charles Xavier out of the film and place him in a more standard drama piece it would still work without changing any aspect of the character, or Stewart’s performance.
The Academy seems reluctant to give any comic book adaptations any credit despite these films being a major part of popular culture and dominating the box office. Of course there has been the rare exception, what with Heath Ledger receiving his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. But there have been many notable performances in comic book films especially in the supporting roles which are often the film’s moral compass. There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of well-established and talented actors who are happy to accept parts in comic book films which a couple of decades ago would have been below them.
Hopefully film-makers will take note from Patrick Stewart’s performance in Logan and continue to create well developed characters with complex backstories and flaws to their personalities. If the Academy got over their prejudice towards comic book films and awarded an Oscar nomination to Stewart it could lead the way to comic book films dealing with more mature content and allow the genre to flourish rather than keep recycling the same concept and storyline. It will be a shame not to see Stewart revise the character in other X-Men films but he has well and truly deserved the praise for this performance and it is one he should feel proud of.