Logan and Crafting Meaningful Slow Scenes
Typically, when you think of your favorite movie/book/show/video game...story moments, you think of the adrenaline pumping sequences.
It's Theoden's charge towards the gates of Minas Tirith.
It's the X-Wings diving down into the Death Star trench.
It's Rorschach throwing soup in some dude's face. (And if you think that's out of place in this list, have you burned your mouth on soup before? Come on.)
Usually, we don't think of the slow moments in a story as the stand out scenes. Without them though, those big action sequences would feel emotionless. We want to feel for the characters in the scenes. We remember these epic moments because we connect to the stakes in them.
This really dawned on me in a new way re-watching Logan. Why was I randomly going through it again? I don't know, maybe I just wanted to see adamantium tear some bad guys up and cry more devastatingly than I like to admit, all in one night.
Logan starts off by having a bunch of guys torn apart by Logan's built-in anti-theft claws, and it's brutal. This isn't your typical superhero movie, and the tone is immediately set for that.
The protagonists are constantly hunted, there are so many blades through heads and decapitations that it's hard to keep count, and there are steroids that are specifically designed to juice Wolverine.
Who needs a slow moment in this? Just keep the action coming.
It would be pretty meaningless if it was constant blood and Logan's feral yells. I mean it sounds really good on paper, but there's more depth to a good story than that.
About mid-ish way through the movie, we get something deeper that brings the stakes to an emotional seriousness that is usually lacking in the superhero action genre.
And spoilersif you still haven't seen Logan.
There are consequences to the choices our protagonists make, and they are irreversible.
Logan (Hugh Jackman), Charles (Patrick Stewart) and Laura (Dafne Keen) find themselves helping a family of farmers in their journey to escape the Reavers that are hunting them down.
We see Logan and Charles handle this two very different ways. Logan is out to survive. Charles always is thinking of something more human. It's one of the themes right there in front of our faces. Becoming more human is what the soul of the story relies upon.
This is a world where truckers are out of a job replaced by machines. Most farmers too, bought out by huge corporations. The rich rent limos and go to casinos to forget the real problems in this world. There's something soulless about humanity. It's not the mutants, but rather a decision to allow corporations to use fear to take over. Simple as that.
So will Logan continue to be nothing more than an animal looking to survive or will he become something more human, like Charles?
The family they end up helping on the road invite them to a real home-cooked dinner.
There's more symbolism there too. A lost ritual of sitting at the dinner table in a world that has obviously let any family values fade away long ago.
Logan and Charles are relics of an older age. Two former heroes that entire the movie series have been made about. These are the mythological demigods of this era. Fueled with compassion to save others with the powers that have been gifted to them.
And they failed.
All their efforts have seen no fruit.
This haunting thought is what drives Charles, especially. Laura represents the mutants that might still have a future in this world. Maybe all of that won't be in vain if she can be protected.
Now they sit together around a table and laugh about life. They aren't just surviving. There's rest for the heroes in a world that they deserve it, but have never gotten it.
Its something so simple. Dinner. A family.
The slow down of the pace makes all the difference in this moment. We get a chance to take a breath as the audience while we get to connect to something deeper with these characters.
There's trouble still for the regular people in the world, and the X-Men can still help. It's all Charles ever wanted. Mutants using their gifts to help the commoner.
And there's something to be said about this family being farmers. It's rooted in our soul as a country that still identifies as the hard-working farming class. Every western ever told features the family living on the fringe of the wild.
Here, the wild is society itself.
What plagues these people has nothing to do with mutants. If we didn't slow down, we would never see that. We couldn't connect to the heart of what the X-Men have always stood to protect. It's not just about mutant freedom, but all freedom.
And they pay the price.
The protagonists aren't allowed to have this slow moment without consequences. There is no rest for them. Ordinary life is always out of their reach.
The agencies that are after them catch up.
Charles is killed, the entire family is murdered brutally, and we have to watch it. It's all stripped away. And Logan is left again to be an animal put into a corner.
It would all seem a little gratuitous and downright sickening if we didn't have the slow moment of all that togetherness. We enjoy it as the audience, and that's the key. We want to pretend they can live in this space forever.
They can't, and we know it deep down. Having to see it play out so vividly in front of us makes us hate the antagonists all the more and almost hope that Logan does just stay a feral animal, willing to do the worst of the worst to keep himself alive and Laura safe.
We feel something visceral because we saw something peaceful.
Take the time in your story to slow down.
Do we know the characters?
Can we feel the emotions they have?
If everything feels surface level in your story then maybe you are missing the family dinner. Obviously, it will be something specific to your story, but perhaps a good way to remember it. Where's the meal where the characters get to be normal?
In Logan, that's right here. Right before the point of no return for our title character. He can't ever go back to the way things were. Now he must choose between being a wild hunted thing or being human to give Laura something more than a life of killing.
It takes real sacrifice. Can he really do that?
The title gives it away. Logan. Not Wolverine. Logan.
Do your characters have their human moment in your story?
Don't give your audience hallow excitement.
Never think you don't have time for slow emotion. Even a story based on a comic book where a short hairy guy in yellow spandex can somehow get emotional with the proper tools.
The tools of excellent writing.
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