Hugh Jackman returns for what many are expecting to be his final run as Logan/Wolverine. The film is set in the distant 2029, where the X-men are no more and the mutant population has dwindled. Logan is dealing with his past and own inner turmoil while at the same time caring for a mentally ailing Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart, and trying desperately to get him and the Professor far from the rest of society. His plans are suddenly shaken up when a young girl with all too familiar traits comes into their lives and is being hunted by a group with connections to Logan’s past. He attempts in vain to avoid interfering but eventually finds it difficult to turn away.
Expectations were high for James Mangold’s Logan. Leading up to its release I heard nothing but anticipation and excitement from both fans and critics, this being mainly due to the spectacular trailer which seemed to present a new take on the characters story, one with more depth and emotion. Honestly Initially hearing about the film I was a bit uninterested, the previous films left me disappointed in the franchise. But after viewing the trailer and the release date got closer I found myself looking forward to it. Let’s see if it met the expectations all of us were hoping for.
WARNING: THE REMAINDER OF THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
Logan is a story of loss and redemption. It strays very far from the more comical tone we are used to getting from the X-men franchise. Although there are a few laughs Logan remains quite serious throughout. It has an interesting feel and I found it hard to place my finger on what it can be compared to. There were moments of the post-apocalyptic like Mad Max: Fury Road or The Postman, numerous traits as well as references to westerns and plenty of drama. Honestly the trailer did a good job of preparing viewers for what to expect. The film pulls from different genres not just in mood and framework but also in character arcs. Logan reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s William Munny from Unforgiven. A man wrought with conflict and trying to come to terms with his past. Much like the films it borrows from the leading hero must face tragic loss, enormous odds and at the same time learn to live with who he was and accept the person he wants to be.
Along with the return of Professor-X, we are also introduced to a new character; Laura or X-23 as she is also known. She is played phenomenally by Dafne Keen, a new face to me. I looked up her profile on IMDB and found she had only one other role in her filmography. This was definitely surprising because she acted her heart out as troubled and mysterious Laura. She managed to convey strength and empathy at the same while matching and complementing the ferocity of Jackman’s Logan. She truly gave it everything in this film and I look forward to seeing her future work. The remaining cast was well-rounded such as Stephen Merchant playing the mutant Caliban, a friend to Logan and the Professor who gets dragged into the fray. Boyd Holbrook as Pierce, leader of the mysterious group pursuing Laura. There is even a cameo from Eriq La Salle, a face i hadn’t seen in some time, as a farmer Logan meets along his journey. The performances were great but most especially Jackman and Stewart’s. These two were phenomenal. The films R rating allowed the actors to truly dive in and let loose with their characters. The relationship between Logan and the Professor is deep, almost like father and son and it is very convincing. Even when few words are being said you can feel that there is something more being conveyed and it isn’t difficult for the audience to pick up on this. Seeing them together previous films definitely helped here as well. These two men have a past and even though we don’t have all of it revealed to us out right we know it is full of pain and tragedy. The film feeds us small pieces of this but enough that we can put a story together ourselves.
Where Logan truly takes it up a notch is in the action sequences. There isn’t anything new necessarily, it’s things we have seen done before even in some of the previous Wolverine films but this time they give us blood and fury. Let’s face it, Logan has razor-sharp blades protruding from his fists, a simple wave of hand is deadly and in the past unless you were familiar with the comic book character you never really got a chance to witness the savage brutality of his instruments and methods. But in Logan we finally see Wolverine do what he does best. Now some may say that the gore was dialed back a bit too much and I would probably agree with them, but by no means does this take away from the film. We still see what those admantium claws can do to flesh and bone. What many Wolverine fans will definitely get a kick out of is getting to watch Logan fight a younger clone of himself. When these two meet it is an epic battle of no holds barred steel cage match proportions.
The action is also where Laura gets to showcase her talents and boy does she. Where Logan feels more like a battering ram, just pounding and crashing through random enemies, Laura is more like a graceful beast; deliberate and fluid but ferocious. In regards to choreography her fight sequences are excellent, Keen does some amazing stunts and stylized fighting, Jackie Chan would be proud. And even in her tiny package she convinced me that she is not someone to be trifled with. What I loved most though was how she was able to convey her feral tendencies and intensity through facial expressions and posing. I might even say she does this better than Jackman. Take this below shot for example, this could have been ripped right from a comic panel. She is either just excellent at taking direction or she did her homework, my guess is both.
I hate constantly comparing Logan to the previous Wolverine films but I feel like it is something most fans are going to do. And where the previous films really fell off is the story construction. The previous films both had decent plots and I was along for the ride for a good bit of the film with little to no complaints. But as the story moved along we eventually begin to lose interest because we realize we have little emotional investment in any of the characters [even at times Wolverine himself] and there are no stakes. Essentially we feel no real connection to the story and much of this has to do with the way it is presented to us. It feels more like a series of random scenes simply stitched together. You never identify with the characters or feel any attachment, the story just moves along until it eventually concludes. The Wolverine wasn’t as bad but it still suffered from this in some way. Mangold is apparently the cure for these ailments. Each scene and more importantly each scene has purpose and is intentional in what it is saying.
Logan is an extremely emotional film, more so than many dramas that were meant to elicit an emotional reaction. You understand, you relate and more importantly you empathize with the characters and their journey. You laugh with them, you feel anger with them and at times you cry with them. There are real stakes and not just the obvious, in this case saving Laura from her pursuers and getting her out harms reach. But there are emotional stakes for Logan. This journey in some ways is a redemption for him. There is a scene in the film and you can hear it in the trailer [Even in the trailer it was stirring] where the Professor is talking to Logan about family and love and he tells him, “You still have time.” Such a simple statement and again there is nothing for us as viewers to draw upon directly from the film but we get it, we know what the Professor is saying. It’s a powerful statement and one I think will resonate with many people.
As far as negatives I can point out there are not many. There is a point in the film where numerous other children with super powers are brought in and I definitely became worried. It’s not the fact that they were children but they show up rather late in the film and whenever you start introducing other characters with powers too hastily it tends to add a bit of cheesiness. Having to wait for each character to showcase their power and if it’s in the midst of some sudden battle or chase [as is done in this film] it feels rushed. Mangold executes this decently I suppose, oddly though of the 10 or so children we only get to see 3 of their powers and for two this is only because they have a heroic moment later in the film. It’s also odd because since these kids were being chased/assaulted you would think now would be the time to use your powers, yet most of them don’t.
Also there are some inconsistencies that aren’t really explained well in the film. For example we learn that because of Professor Xavier’s deteriorating mental state that he often has violent seizures. However, unlike normal humans when the Professor has a seizure it sends out a debilitating psionic attack on anyone in the vicinity causing what appears to be extreme discomfort and also freezing them in place. This is similar to what we have seen him do in the other X-men films however this was usually intentional. This happens a few times and each time we see everyone is frozen but for some reason Logan is not fully effected by this attack. Although in obvious agony he is still able to move about but slowly and unsteadily. For the purpose of the film this is because he always ends up saving the day by reaching the Professor and giving him his medication through an injection but from a viewer’s perspective this is never really explained, just something we have to accept and that is something I don’t like having to do when watching a film.
Again there were high expectations for Logan and although it definitely delivered it is by no means perfect. It’s a good film with a touching story and some powerful performances. There are many though who are giving the film an extreme amount of praise and to each their own I always say. I am certain you will find some who will say this is the greatest super-hero film they have ever seen. Now I do agree that it is probably the best X-men related film I have seen, but I can’t go so far as to say the best super-hero film overall. What I can say is that Logan is unlike any other super-hero film I have ever seen, I would say it transcends the genre. It is emotional, heartbreaking, and hopeful, something I had yet to see done so well within the genre. It has definitely raised the bar for what we can expect and has proven that these films don’t have to be kitschy and can and should be taken seriously. One thing is for certain…Justice League has its work cut out for it.
Logan Rating: ⭐⭐⭐½
Additionally if you are interested The Verge did a wonderful write up here explaining the background story of the X-men comics that actually appear in the film. It was an interesting addition to the film which I enjoyed. There are a few covers and even some full pages penciled by Joe Quesada and Dan Panosian. A nice added treat for long time fans.