by Stephen Pitt
There’s a scene in the latest Wolverine film Logan (a stormer of a film in itself) in which Charles Xavier and young Laura are hiding out in a hotel. The classic 1953 western Shane plays on the television, as Xavier cites how he first watched the film as a young boy, and Laura takes note of what happens in the film. This includes the title character’s parting words; which Laura utters herself at the end of Logan:
“Joey, there’s living with…with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her…tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t anymore guns in the valley.”
After that, to say that Shane had an influence on Logan would be an understatement to say the least. Other than the on the nose reference, there are also thematic, story, and character elements within Logan that are influenced by Shane. It may seem questionable why a blockbuster comic book movie decided to take inspiration from a 1950s western. Yet, there’s a lot going for Shane that make it influential to number of movies; such as Clint Eastwood’s Pale Rider (1985) and Drive (2011).
Shane sees the character of the same name trying to leave behind his gun slinging past, but becomes drawn into a conflict between ruthless cattle barons and the Starrett family over their farmland; with Shane (Alan Ladd) taking a liking to the Starrett’s young son Joey. Shane tries not to go back to his violent ways, but becomes compelled to stand up for the Starrett’s against the barons and their mercenary (Jack Palance).
From the synopsis, the parallels between Shane and the aforementioned films become apparent. The characters of Shane and Wolverine are both men with violent pasts who are reluctant to utilise their nefarious skills, but ultimately do so to protect a child that they have formed a bond with. The archetype of the anti-hero who sticks up for a family is one seen with Ryan Gosling’s The Driver in Drive (it has another parallel with Shane in the subdued attraction between the protagonist and the mother character). But Shane’s thematic element of the anti-hero having to be coaxed into action for a noble cause is one that ‘Logan’ was right to emulate. It’s a clever way of creating dramatic tension; as the audience knows that the protagonist is the best person for the task, and desperately want him to rise to the challenge. But the protagonist initially refuses due to compelling, character-driven reasons (“Bad shit happens to people I care about” to quote ‘Logan’). This builds the audience’s’ suspense, resulting in a greater catharsis when Shane and Logan ultimately act.
Shane is a film of masterful audience engagement through character-driven plot. It rightly deserves to be looked at as a great of the classical era, having transcended the western genre to somehow have more of an apparent influence on a comic book movie than any actual comic book (Even the comic ‘Old Man Logan’ (2008), which ‘Logan’ was a loose adaptation of, has narrative parallels with Shane).