Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It’s 2029 and no more mutants have been born. The only mutants left after the mysterious “Winchester Incident,” are Charles Xavier, Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine, and Caliban. Together, Logan and Caliban work to keep Charles in a pseudo-vegetative state to prevent seizures which cause his powers to wreak havoc on those around him. With all the mutants left, the only option is survival and staying low. All of this changes when Logan is confronted by a woman, Gabriela, who not only knows who Logan is, but about his past as well. With Gabriela is a young girl, Laura, who Gabriela urges Logan to take to a safe haven in North Dakota. Laura is a mutant. One of a small batch of mutants created in a laboratory by Dr. Xander Rice. When Gabriela dies, Logan must race from the Mexican border, all the way north in order to save this young girl.
I knew Logan was going to be different after the first trailer debuted with Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” playing with it. My expectations grew more when the film received it’s R-rating from the MPAA. Apart from the film featuring a more true-to-character version of Wolverine, it meant that this film had the potential to be a comic book film for adults. Ultimately, for me, it meant there would probably be an actual story full of emotional highs and lows and a deeper examination of what it means to be a “good guy” in a world of “superheroes.”
It’s been known for a while that Logan would be Hugh Jackman’s swan song from the role of Wolverine. As a result, I think he gives the character his all. It was fitting to see a version of Logan on screen that was an accurate representation of his comic book counterpart. He’s a violent, tortured individual. The X-Men franchise has somewhat shown the emotional journey Logan has taken as he learns to work with a team and ultimately discover a family. A reoccurring theme with Logan is the loss he experiences because he ages slower than those around him. He can’t make emotional connections because he knows that eventually, he will outlive those around him. This is touched upon in James Mangolds first Wolverine film, The Wolverine. In the film, Logan makes a deal to give up his “immortality” because he no longer wishes to outlive those around him. In Logan, we find Logan back to being a loner because he’s prematurely lost his newfound X-Men family. By bringing Logan back to the same emotional state we find him in the first X-Men film, it gives room for his character grow emotionally, and organically, over the course of the film as Charles reminds Logan of everything he has worked to teach Logan over the course of their relationship. Even in his old age Charles doesn’t stop being the teacher.
Logan also marked the final performance of Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. As much as I enjoyed the direction Stewart was able to explore with this film, I felt like his final X-Men outing could have been better. Patrick Stewart is a fantastic actor. He has an incredible ability to be serious, frail, and funny all at the same time, and yet this film failed to give Stewart a proper send off the same way it did with Hugh Jackman. The rest of the cast played their roles well, but there was nothing truly notable about them. Dr. Rice (played by Richard E. Grant) and Pierce (Boyd Holbrock) were good villains. There was somewhat more depth to them than an Avengers villain, but ultimately not much. This film was ultimately about Logan’s conflict with his own personal demons than it was about the conflict with Dr. Rice and Pierce.
The film’s breakout star was Dafne Keen. I cannot remember the last time I was so impressed with a child actor. Somehow this small child managed to bring a level of pain, ruthlessness, curiosity, and vulnerability that is sometimes unseen in some adult actors. It was fun to watch her jump around and kill the soldiers who were after her, and then a scene later change to wide-eyed curiosity. Her performance is made more impressive by the fact she doesn’t speak a single line of dialogue until there is about 40 minutes left in the film.
The cinematography in this film was beautiful. The previous Wolverine film directed by Mangold took place in Japan, and Mangold took the time to explore the different environments Japan has to offer like the traditional, reverent side, and the modern, technological side. It was a beautiful contrast that gave the film an interesting location that played well with the story. In the same way, Mangold uses the south and rural United States as a beautiful location for Logan. Instead of big cities, there are long stretches of nothing but sand and mountains. The closest the film gets to showing civilization is one portion of the film that takes place in a casino. The setting in which this film takes place reflects the old west style that Mangold tries to achieve for the film, even with everything taking place in the future. Which, it was nice to see a grounded, subtle version of the future that felt real, rather than something akin to Back to the Future.
With Logan 20th Century Fox is in a unique position. Last years hit, Deadpool, proved that comic book films can be geared for adults only and still turn a profit. Even though Deadpool is a crude, and vulgar, character I think the film managed to point out the silliness of current super hero films and draw attention to the corner than both Marvel and DC have managed to back themselves into with their formulaic cinematic universes. Marvel is a slave to their own world building, where the story and villains sometimes suffer as long as it establishes the next time in the series. DC is so focused on playing catch up with Marvel that they ignore character building altogether. X-Men: Apocalypse was a terrible film (read my review here), and at this point it might be time for Fox to explore other characters in the X-Men universe. Logan has proven that comic book films can have an actual story and not worry about setting up a sequel. Even though the film deserved its R-rating for the amount of violence and swearing and a surprising scene of nudity, I like to think the film was marketed toward adults because it opted to focus on the characters more than the fighting or the good guy vs. bad guy dynamic of other comic book films. The villain of Logan isn’t some mutant with a god complex out to enslave humanity, he’s a scientist. He doesn’t look or sound menacing in any sort of way. But his actions are evil. The only colorfully costumed mutants in this film are the ones found in Laura’s comic book. If I was a kid watching this film, I would probably be bored out of my mind.
The more I think about this film, the more I have grown to enjoy it. Its a film that shows what can be achieved if a film isn’t a slave to a cinematic universe, and allows itself to focus more on a character driven story instead of the story itself. Its everything one could want in a comic book film. Let’s hope that more studios realize what made this film successful and they focus more on giving audiences substance over flash and fluff.