I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a prediction that Logan is going to draw a lot of comparisons to The Dark Knight; I even made this comparison during Episode 003 of the Film Threat Podcast, and I feel like as time goes on more and more people will agree. It’s a very rare and special occurrence when you see a film that takes an iconic character and transcends the genre completely; The Dark Knight is not a good comic book movie, it’s a great film that defies formula and convention. Logan is not a good superhero movie, it’s a poignant examination of fragility, vulnerability, heroism, and parenthood coupled with some of the most brutal action scenes I think I’ve ever seen in a studio film. This is more of a nuanced film with an indie look and feel to it that just so happens to be populated by one of today’s most iconic comic book characters.
I’m going to try to keep this relatively spoiler free, what I’m revealing here is pretty clearly shown in all trailers and TV spots. The film takes place in 2029 and mutants are no more. Logan (once again played by Hugh Jackman) is a sad, alcoholic shell of his former self; his healing factor has begun to severely diminish, he has a bent claw that doesn’t extract the right way, and he’s desperately trying to keep a low profile. He takes on jobs as a limousine driver (using an alias that’s a nice nod to fans of the comics) so he can use the money to take care of his old friend, Professor Charles Xavier. When he’s hired to take a mysterious little girl to distant location for a large sum of money, all hell breaks loose. The girl is Laura, or X-23, (played by relative newcomer Dafne Keen), and she has very strong ties to Wolverine. What transpires is this unique and joyful amalgamation of a picture; part road movie, part superhero action flick, and part existential drama piece.
Like I said, this review will be relatively spoiler free plot wise, but I still want to highlight what made Logan so special for me. Hugh Jackman has stated very adamantly (PUN!) that this is his last time playing the character, which is an absolute shame because he plays a very grizzled and weathered version of Logan flawlessly; I’d have really loved to see more from this version of the character. You really relate to his frustration, and it’s hard watching him limp, bleed, and blister; he’s been virtually invincible in previous movies due to his healing factor repairing horrific injuries in virtually seconds. The absolute highlight of this film for me was Sir Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier. Since we last saw him, Xavier has basically lost control of his immense omega-level mutant powers due to degenerative brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s a strange thing to see the most powerful mind in the world so vulnerable and frail. There are these moments where Sir Patrick Stewart is downright terrifying playing his character as cerebrally lost and aggressive; then there are several moments where the character is tender and lucid, Patrick Stewart is at his most warm and charming during these scenes, especially when they involve young Laura. The relationship between Logan and Xavier is a truly heartbreaking one; Logan is taking care of Xavier with the help of another mutant, Caliban (played this time by Stephen Merchant). If you’ve ever lived with or been around someone suffering from dementia, you know that caring for them is often difficult and mentally taxing for the caregivers. Logan clearly cares for Charles, but at times you can see Logan’s collectedness crack. They snap at each other, argue with one another, and this was my favorite part of the film.
The last character detail I’ll touch upon is the relationship between Laura and Logan; Logan basically has paternity thrust upon him and he’s extremely hesitant to accept it. I know it sounds a bit cliché’ in concept, but it’s truly magnificent in execution. The chemistry between Jackman and the young Keen works. She’s extraordinary in conveying her emotion through her physical actions, and there are amusing scenes where he obviously understands her more wildly primal impulses better than just about anybody else ever could.
The film does have a few issues I feel I need to bring up, but the problem is these issues are very spoiler-heavy, so I’ll be as vague as possible; this film needed a better main villain. There’s build-up, and then the payoff is one of the most disappointing things I’ve experienced in a movie in recent memory. The secondary villains are The Reavers and their leader Pierce (played by Boyd Holbrook). Holbrook does a fine job as the charismatic and Southern charmed Pierce, but at times he does come off as being a tad bit Matthew McConaughey-ish. The rest of The Reavers are nameless claw fodder waiting to be violently torn apart. Stephen Merchant is almost always a delight, and his role as Caliban provided a nice dosage of comic relief without going overboard.
I feel the third act is not nearly as strong as the first two, but the climax is damned near perfect and a great send off for Jackman and the Wolverine character.
This film is brutal, well deserving of its R-Rating. A tip of the hat to Mr. Jackman, who reportedly took a pay cut to ensure this film would get an R-Rating, it honestly served the film having it. The cinematography is beautiful and earnest, not flashy and ridiculously over-the-top like previous entries to the X-Men series.
This is the best “comic book film” since The Dark Knight, and I think it’ll really serve as a reminder that these characters and storylines can be more than just clumsy popcorn flicks with bad dialogue and Michael Bay explosion porn.
Logan (2017) Directed by James Mangold. Written by: Michael Green, Scott Frank , James Mangold, David James Kelly. Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant.
9 out of 10