2017, R, 137 mins.
Hugh Jackman as Logan / Wolverine / Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier / Professor X / Dafne Keen as Laura Kinney / X-23 / Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce / Stephen Merchant as Caliban / Richard E. Grant as Dr. Zander Rice
Directed by James Mangold / Written by Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green
LOGAN is apparently the last film outing for the adamantium clawed Canadian anti-hero...at least the version played by Hugh Jackman, who has inhabited the iconic Marvel Comics character on the silver screen for nearly 20 years.
If this third
WOLVERINE film is indeed the swan song for the Australian actor, then we
perhaps could not have asked for a better one.
LOGAN is the best possible X-MEN centric film we'll likely ever
get. LOGAN strips away all of
the super hero genre fat and bloat that has permeated far too many recent examplesy. Like
Christopher Nolan's THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy, LOGAN is deconstructing comic
book movies by grounding them in an emotionally heavy narrative with
feel real...at least as much as a film with mutants allows
LOGAN is more a
western than it is a super hero film, and it borrows heavily from
classical westerns like SHANE (more on that it a bit) as well as
UNFORGIVEN. Similar to Clint
Eastwood's Oscar winning 1992 western, LOGAN deals with a world void of
hope in which once violent and powerful men - now cruising beyond middle
age and retired from a life of bloodshed - are forced to return to the oppressive environment that
they have been trying to avoid for years.
At a relative scant $97 million (peanuts for most lavish budgeted
super hero efforts), LOGAN feels refreshingly lean and spare.
It doesn't exist for ostentatious visual effects eye candy and
action set pieces (although, it does contain both), nor does it feature
some seemingly unstoppable megalomaniacal super villain out to destroy the
world. The conflicts in LOGAN
seem smaller, but more relatable and the film contains characters that
command our attention and allow for us to identify with them.
It's the insular approach that this film takes in all facets that
makes this third entry in the WOLVERINE trilogy feel so invigoratingly
segregated - yet still a part of - the films that preceded it.
That, and we've
never seen Logan so pathetically downtrodden and weak in an X-MEN film as
we do here. Set in a
dystopian 2029 America when most mutants on the planet have mysteriously
disappeared and are all but extinct, Logan is a sad sack shell of the
mutant that he used to be. Alcoholic,
suicidal, largely disheveled, and seeing his healing abilities slowly
dissipating, he has long since put his super hero exploits aside and
now works an extremely low level and demeaning job as a limo driver for
small scale clients (like, for example, drunken bachelorette parties).
When he's not working he's buying cheap black market medication to
care for his old friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who's now a
decrepit and severely senile 90-year-old man that suffers from
extreme seizures if not treated (the film rather pointedly shows us what
happens when a psychic as all-powerful as Xavier has an episode).
Aided by their
albino mutant colleague and friend Caliban (an unrecognizable and very
Merchant), Logan and Charles seclude themselves in hiding in Mexico,
hoping to keep their guarded existence a well kept secret.
Fate, as it always does, steps in to confront them in the form of a
young Latino girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who has escaped medical
captivity and appears to have been ruthlessly subjected to the same
ungodly experiments that Logan went through decades ago (she's essentially
a pint sized version of him in every way, with all of his peak powers and
adamantium infused body). Realizing
that this girl is special, Charles pleads with Logan to do the right thing
and escort her to a secret safe haven in Canada that apparently harbors
young mutants like her. In
pure western anti-hero fashion, Logan wishes to have nothing to do with
Laura, but when a deranged scientist (Richard E. Grant) and his muscle
(Boyd Holbrook) show up and will stop at nothing to re-kidnap her, Logan
begrudgingly agrees to take the young girl in and journey her off north of the border.
Mangold once again returns to helm this newest Wolverine outing (he
previously directed 2013's very underrated THE
WOLVERINE), and right from the very get-go LOGAN sets itself
exceedingly far apart from the other X-MEN films as a very hard R rated
super hero outing. This is a
savagely barbaric movie at times, which includes Logan (and frequently the
pre-pubescent Laura) inflicting pain on their adversaries by hacking,
stabbing, and dismembering every possible part of the human anatomy.
LOGAN more than earns its rating within its first few moments,
but the raw carnage on display (which sometimes can become a bit
obtrusively numbing) does serve a purpose here.
Firstly. LOGAN is trying to go against the grain of previous
sanitized super hero films that have been chiefly neutered by the PG-13
rating. Secondly, the rampant
bloodshed in LOGAN is not sensationalistic...it's used for the purposes of
reiterating the nihilistic times that Logan resides in.
This is not a bright and cheery super hero film; it's one that's
depressingly bleak and filled with moral uncertainty and despair.
LOGAN, as a result, is appropriately extreme with its graphic
The more adult
rating also allows for our once fairly squeaky clean heroes to talk rough,
rugged, and altogether dirty. Logan
spews out multiple iterations of the f-word with reckless aplomb at times,
and, hell, even Charles lashes a few out when he feels at his most
desperate (granted, hearing the typically urbane former professor tell
Logan to "go fuck himself" is difficult to process and
acclimatize oneself to early on). Again,
Mangold and company are not using violence and language here for the
purposes of cheap titillation. LOGAN
has a lot more up its sleeves, especially for how it thoughtfully explores
the contemplative themes of what happens to super heroes when they age and
when they're, well, simply not super anymore.
The bickering odd couple chemistry between Jackman and Stewart
here is at an all time series high, which becomes unexpectedly more poignant as the
film progresses. It's also
based on mutual reciprocal need - Logan needs Charles to be his constant
moral barometer and Charles needs him to physically tend to his ailing
health. Yes, the pair do talk like drunken sailors to each other at
times that's initially shocking, but it serves the cause of reducing super
hero archetypes down to their most pure and relatable forms.
Logan and Charles are unfathomably powerful mutants, but they've
never come across as more authentically rendered human beings with massive
faults as they do here.
Hugh Jackman has
played Wolverine so many times over the course of the last seventeen years
that it's easy to forget just how damn good he is in the role.
He arguably gives his finest outing as the character in LOGAN, and this time has the challenge of not playing up to the character's limitless
physical invulnerability, but rather his emotional vulnerability.
Much like how Eastwood played gunslingers in the latter part of his
western career, Jackman infuses a grizzled and beleaguered humanity into
Logan that we've not seen before, and it's a searing performance laced
with deep rooted anxieties, fears, and regrets.
He's magnificently flanked by Stewart, who really is allowed to
make grand usage of his thespian chops this go around to evoke a frail
Charles that has beaten down by life.
And then there's Dafne Keen, who has the most thankless task in
credibly making Laura a ferociously strong figure of interest in the film
in a mostly non-verbal performance early on.
She has a captivatingly stern faced and caged intensity that displays a
vast maturity beyond her years.
somewhat disappointing that the main villains here are somewhat one-note,
like Boyd Holbrook's despicably determined bounty hunter with a mechanical hand
that has a great look, but not much else going on beyond that.
That, and LOGAN is perhaps a bit too long for its own good at
nearly two and a half hours, and despite a sensationally impactful climax
that will surely leave audiences both awestruck and a bit teary eyed by
the time the end credits roll by, I nevertheless felt a bit exhausted by
the whole affair. I guess
those are just minor nitpicks that don't really distract from the whole,
because LOGAN is a real complete package as far as super hero films go,
seeing as it gives us all of the visceral action that we've come to
expect from this series while simultaneously crafting a surprisingly
sentimental and moving story that brings Logan's cinematic storyline to a
deeply satisfying sense of closure. It's
also an exceedingly rare comic book blockbuster that grippingly transcends
its over-saturated genre by being the trendsetting hypodermic needle to the heart that it
proves that you can joyously celebrate the comic book movie genre while
not being a slave to its overused and repetitive conventions.
There's a great and quietly strong moment in LOGAN that speaks volumes to the film's approach. Charles and Laura are watching the western SHANE, which pitch perfectly echoes the type of film that LOGAN is trying to be. As the aging gunslinger tells the tearful lad in SHANE's climax, "There's no living with a killing. There's no going back from it. Right or wrong...it's a brand...a brand that sticks." Like the aging hero in George Stevens 1953 classic, Logan can't escape his violent past, as it has a way of creeping up on in when he least wants it to.
That's precisely why LOGAN is probably one of the finest westerns featuring mutants ever conceived and executed.
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