Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Daniel Bernhardt and Elise Neal.
In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
“Jesus, it breaks my heart seeing you like this.”
That’s probably not the quote word for word, but as Donald Pierce (head of security for a research facility up to no good and a southern drawl speaking cyborg leader played by Boyd Holbrook of Narcos rising fame) and his army of mercenaries physically have their way with Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman reprising the role possibly for one last rodeo) beating the crap out of him, robot arm included, the feeling is mutual. Although obviously, the villain is being sarcastic. Here we have one of the most dominant, violent, and untouchable superheroes in the history of comic book lore (the amount of times he has escaped death throughout the X-Men movies alone is nothing short of extraordinary), subverted into an aged legend with severely weakened regenerative healing powers.
Enter Laura/X-23, a mutant in a near future world where their kind are mostly extinct, and more specifically, one with the same lethal retractable claws and healing powers as our grumpy, old, boozing hero. Together, they dish out blood-drenched death like a well-oiled machine, hopping through the air and lunging across wide open rural environments to brutally stick their mightily dangerous trademark adamantium knives into whichever body part is closest; head, shoulders, knees and toes, everything is sliced off. Well, Wolverine is obviously less agile , and more sluggish than anything, but definitely still capable of the bad-assery fans have come to salivate over.
Logan (directed by a returning James Mangold, who is operating on a story of his creation) is extreme R-rated mayhem that makes the unrated Blu-ray cut of The Wolverine come across as child’s play. From an action and character standpoint, this is the kind of Wolverine blockbuster audiences have pleaded to receive for over a decade, but never received due to studio fears of box office failure. Yes, blood spurts out like a fountain and onto nearby walls, heads are sliced in half, limbs cleanly sever, blades visibly pierce flesh, and F-bombs are dropped on the regular, but that’s not the only reason this is the most pure Wolverine film to date. No, Logan is also an astonishing achievement due to the emotional punch its narrative packs, founded on the bond between three incredibly defined characters. This is a movie where Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart once again returning as the creator and head of the X-Men) is a senile elderly man requiring medication for his overactive mind that has become a danger to humankind, and also a film that gives Logan a hugely personal reason to dig down deep in search of the moral good that resides within him. In other words, as Xavier puts it, it’s time to stop being a fucking disappointment.
The third wheel along for the ride on this mutant sanctuary seeking road trip from hell is Laura (child actress Dafne Keen delivering a knockout debut performance) whose presence is viewed as a nuisance by Logan, whereas Xavier quickly takes to her as if he were the girl’s grandfather. There are beautiful scenes early on in the movie however, such as Logan briefly dropping his guard to put another quarter into the worn out animal riding mechanism just outside a gas station, that reveal humanity within him still somewhere exists. Their platonic relationship draws comparisons to the central bonding found between Joel and Ellie in Naughty Dog’s massively popular apocalyptic video game The Last of Us. It’s one man broken, occasionally contemplating suicide over a lifetime of sadness and bad luck coming to those he loves, ever so slightly easing up and coming around to not only letting people back in, but also the concept of family.
Furthermore, Dafne Keen’s portrayal as the X-23 weapon deserves elaboration; she’s utterly fantastic. As a mute character for the majority of the film, her awkward facial expressions and little introverted personality quips are a language of its own. Her backstory is tragic (and thankfully given out in a way that perfectly flows within the story). Without that sympathy generated, what’s left with is another “who gives a s***” scenario that plagues too many modern films. Even when the story finally allows her to speak, she delivers lines with the emotion, rage, and intensity you would expect from both a moody teenager and someone that’s like Wolverine… all in two languages. For a movie that could have ended up a little bit far too dark and depressing (although keep in mind Logan does not pull punches at all), watching her slamming multiple elevator buttons to aggravate the hell out of a curmudgeon like Wolverine is hilarious, giving the seriousness of the tone some natural comedic relief. Also, the ending simply does not work without her superb performance. In general, her chemistry with Hugh Jackman (who is again flawless in the role) is absolute dynamite, and pulls audiences into the story on an emotionally engaging level.
Even the supporting characters leave quite an impression, such as Stephen Merchant as Caliban, an Albino mutant that can track the locations of other mutants. He never takes the easy way out of difficult situations, earning one of the film’s coolest action moments. There is also a villain (it should not be spoiled who or what) that has not appeared in advertising footage yet that gives Logan and Laura a run for their money. The amount of blood and gore that Wolverine inflicts on his opponents is nothing compared to this. With that said, although the antagonists are definitely given much more understandable motivation and reasoning for their actions (unlike most superhero films), Boyd Holbrook as Pierce is not exactly a multidimensional character, but he definitely slides by on acting chops.
Beyond actual breathing people, the world depicted in Logan also feels like a character, filled with fascinating details such as X-Men comics actually becoming reality. The illustrations also serve as thought-provoking minor plot points, regarding escapism and how the truth behind heroes is often embellished simply to make for greater fiction. It’s evident that Logan is bothered by his representation in the stories, as they probably do depict a false heroic image of him that he feels he does not deserve. Also, the concept of X-Men comics existing in X-Men movies is simply awesome.
Logan is also a very self-contained X-Men film. I’m sure it does connect to all of the previous films, but time spent explaining how so is almost nonexistent, which hugely works in its favor. As Marvel continue building to having 50 something beloved superheroes at once fighting the most unstoppable being imaginable, and DC sits somewhere hoping that Justice League isn’t another disaster for their imploding cinematic universe, it’s actually pleasant going back to basics and bluntly getting a personal story regarding Wolverine. Fox is doing everything right at the moment; they’re boldly giving the go-ahead to R-rated superhero films, which is paying off in spades along with granting audiences something refreshing. Moviegoers and comic book aficionados love to speculate about the moment the comic book film bubble will burst, but well… If we keep getting movies like Logan, that will never happen. It isn’t just a good superhero film or a fantastic blockbuster, it’s an exceptional movie period. End of discussion. It’s a mystery what the landscape of 2017 film will look like this time next year, but as of right now Logan would absolutely deserve a Best Picture Oscar nomination, even more than Christopher Nolan’s hailed yet arguably snubbed Batman masterpiece The Dark Knight.
There is a long year of cinema to go, but it’s hard not imagining Logan sticking around somewhere at the top of the pack. It’s a grounded, appropriately violent, substantial, and emotional work of art containing highly impressive acting across the board. Logan is the kind of movie that shuts up elitists who can’t fathom a comic book movie transcending popcorn entertainment, or offering up personal connections to superbly crafted characters. If it somehow doesn’t, fuck what they think, as Logan is exceptional filmmaking and the perfect sendoff for Hugh Jackman’s 17-year tenure as Wolverine.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★