"Logan" (2017) - Rated R / Runtime: 135 minutes
Directed by James Mangold
Written by Scott Frank & James Mangold, and Michael Green
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant
Review by JJ Mortimer
Not to be confused with any of the previous colorful, often-cheery X-Men related films, Logan is a bleak, depressing, comic book drama - a graphically-violent superhero movie that strips away the super heroics and instead delivers an emotionally resonant, superbly-acted character piece that serves as a true-to-heart sendoff to Hugh Jackman's the Wolverine.
What blew me away from the very start of this motion picture is the level of small detail the film makers put into establishing an already well-known character, and utilizing every nuanced piece of dialogue and physical acting to establish the mood and tone for the rest of the film. Immediately we are shown this is nowhere near the PG-13 family fare 20th Century Fox has made us accustomed to prior to the release of Deadpool, and our lead characters have become weary, aged, and withered by the death chisel that this film's world has become.
The f-word is thrown around in Logan's script like cotton candy at a carnival, and limbs and heads are hacked and slashed apart in moments of sheer horrific violence that (not surprisingly) better suits what the Wolverine character truly is. He's a wild animal in human form, but in Logan, director James Mangold goes into exuberant detail to show us that same vicious entity in an old man's body, akin to the last ride of an ailing, aged cowboy as he sets off toward the blood-red sunset of despair and loneliness.
There's not much to the story of Logan, though its plot is riddled with fine moments, well-written dialogue, and set pieces that finely show (and hint at) the events that not only got us to our Mad Max-level post apocalypse with nary a mutant left in the world, but also propels our lead character into a situation where he learns how a powerful company that's harboring (and growing) new mutants for the sake of weaponization - a cousin to the Weapon X program that gave Wolverine his adamantium skeleton - has unleashed something (or someone) with close ties to Logan himself.
My main concern before watching this film, knowing that is was to be Jackman's last portrayal of the iconic character, was the inclusion of X-23, a little girl with similar powers to Wolverine (played by Dafne Keen). My fear was that her presence would lighten the tone of what was to be a gritty, bloody fan service comic book film. But, my fears were unfounded as her introduction and involvement in Logan's personal swan song brings importance and levity to his story. The real drama in this film comes from the developing bond between the withered old animal, and young and violent pup that has not yet learned what it means to be a child, resulting in a few scenes that are so harsh and emotionally dramatic that you forget this film takes place in the same universe as the film where Storm electrocuted a man-Toad after saying the dumbest line in comic book film history.
Logan is all the more impressive in the fact that it focuses so contently on it's lead character while giving us a plot line that satisfies his purpose in the universe. The film smartly tones back the bombastic, blockbuster action and allows for slower moments of introspection. The film allows the bulk of its run time to focus on strong performances and speeches that somehow manage to encompass the inner turmoil that we so rarely get to see in films that focus more on explosions and surface-value cardboard characters. Logan is a flesh-and-blood motion picture, and the more Wolverine/Logan is slashed, shot, stabbed, and mangled, we are opened up more to what makes him who he is (pun slightly intended, but not referring to his guts).
This "moment to shine" concept leads me to what I believe is the best performance in the film, and that is of Patrick Stewart reprising his role once again as Charles Xavier, a man who was once the most powerful mind in the world, and who in this film is hinted at having been one of the causes for the death of so many other mutants in a scene we can only imagine. Charles is now in his 90s, and is showing signs of dementia and a crippling ache to free himself from the confines that prevent him from losing control of his mind and hurting so many in the process. Stewart resonates as a man who was once very composed, upstanding, and fatherly in his mannerisms to harbor those that are deflected from the world that rejects them, but is now crotchety and at times vile, as his great mind is weathered by drugs and medicine that would keep his mental powers from losing control under the stresses of old age.
Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are award-worthy in their performances, in a film that doesn't necessarily present any new boundaries in storytelling for our characters to traverse, but rather presents them with obstacles that not only add to their roles in the series, but satisfy the need for these two actors to go out in top form.
If I can find any negatives about the film from my perspective, they would be difficult to list. If anything, the final act of the film has a few small cliche moments involving child mutants that reminded me a bit of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but didn't take away from the power of the film. I'm also talking only about a few shots, and not entire scenes. A couple little plot holes also stuck out, like situations where a mutant could have used his/her power but didn't despite having the ability to totally overcome the hostage situation they were in. Like any great film, there's always going to be little inconsistencies or editing errors, but I just accept those and move on with my enjoyment of the film. The kind of things that I noticed didn't hinder the narrative of the film, but in my mind could have just presented themselves in a slightly different way.
Despite its length and its often slower pace when compared to your average summer Hollywood blockbuster fare, Logan doesn't have a wasted scene in it, especially if you're a fan of the X-Men series and have an emotional attachment to a couple characters that you've seen in these films for the past seventeen years. Director James Mangold went all-out with his love and care to the psychological and physical details of character development and character building are expressed with charisma in this film. Using a western vibe to streamline a strong stand-alone film amidst a series of sequels and reboots, Mangold has given the quintessential film with which many superhero films will be compared, derived, and criticized against for years to come.
Logan's violence may be a turn-off to some, and is NOT a film for parents to take their children to. This is no X-Men: The Last Stand. This is a grisly, violent fucking movie that deserves patience and an understanding of the inner turmoil of its two aging main characters, and an understanding of the importance of a mutant child that is just as violent as her older, equally-metal-clawed kin. It's deliberately slow pace just amplifies the violence when it occurs. If you watch this film and criticize it for having an adult yelling "fuck" in the face of a child, and draw ire from watching a nine-year old girl decapitate a man and throw his head at the feet of her enemies, then you have completely missed the point of what this movie is trying to sell.
Logan is not just proper fan service to a wildly-violent comic book character, but is also a surprisingly emotionally resonant film that any mature film fan can watch, with actors who are just as in love with their characters as the audience that grew up with them. The themes in this film are more adult than anything Marvel or Marvel Studios has produced.
In the end, Logan still manages to be a great comic book movie that just so happens to introduce real-life human gravitas to its fictional, futuristic world, even if not being the sugar-laced, action-packed cup of tea that everyone was looking for.