Movie Review: Logan
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, & Stephan Merchant.
Written by: James Mangold, Scott Frank, & Michael Green
Characters created by: John Romita Sr, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Herb Trimpe, Craig Kyle, & Christopher Yost.
In 1974 Len Wein, John Romita Sr., and Herb Trimpe created what was set to be a secondary or tertiary character in one of Marvel’s best selling titles, The Incredible Hulk. After finding his way into the team of the X-Men via their Giant sized annual the next year, The Wolverine quickly found himself becoming a fan favorite, and staple of Marvel’s renaissance heading into the 80’s
In 2000, Fox was betting heavily on one of these new big budget ‘super hero’ movies based on characters that they knew were popular, but not many involved in the production, including director Bryan Singer actually knew very well. Fortunately for us, (if not for the original cast Dougray Scott, after some issues on other sets), Hugh Jackman was given the role of The Wolverine. Since that time, and over 9 films, Jackman has studiously worked to deliver the character he will always be most associated with, now concluded with the last time he will don the claws.
As Logan starts itself off, it does so by making it very clear that this is an X-Men movie like you haven’t seen before. The opening scene introduces us to a Wolverine that has aged, is covered in scars and wounds both inside and out, and when he confronts a group of gangbangers trying to steal from him and the claws come out, this time they don’t shy away from showing exactly what the cost would be of a human arm/leg/neck, etc being on the wrong side of a sextet of adamantium claws. Yes, Logan is R rated. Yes, it earns that rating without question. But at no time during the movie’s 2hr and 15 minute runtime did I feel that it was stretching just to get that “Restricted” status. Instead, you simply have a team that isn’t restricted by having to pull back to garner a softer rating as they have in the past.
Now in the near future, mutants are on the verge of extinction. We have our titular character, limo driving James Howlett/Logan/The Wolverine (Jackman), Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart) & the newly introduced Caliban (Merchant) living together in self isolation, hoping to simply survive long enough to end their days by sailing off into the sunset. Always the reluctant hero, Logan is much the same he’s always been; bitter, resentful, skeptical, and yearning to find a sense of peace in his world. Caring for a Charles Xavier who is not the man or mutant he once was, Logan is offered a chance at one last fare that would earn him enough to realize that dream. When he meets that fare in a young girl named Laura (a scene stealing revelation with newcomer Dafne Keen), she brings with her a past and future connection to Wolverine that alters the road our final few mutants must now travel down. Bad guys arrive, secrets are revealed, a goal must be reached, and we encounter stops along the way; yet all those common tropes are in full service to a higher goal in this story.
Logan is the type of film that transcends the “niche” genre that its characters exist in. Yes, these are characters that are in superhero movies. Yes, these characters are in comic books and on lunchboxes, are in cartoons and are made into toys. Once this movie begins however, all that fades away and what we are left with is the actors in Jackman, Keen & Stewart, with a director in Mangold, and writers in Mangold, Frank and Green that give us a film that is unabashedly mirroring westerns such as Unforgiven and Shane (the latter much more heavy handedly so) while still respecting and nodding towards the original source material such as Old Man Logan, and even the more recent Death of Wolverine.
Visually, Logan is a beauty to behold. Director of Photography John Mathieson gives the movie a look that doesn’t feel out of the realm of possibility; it is clearly a world in the near future without falling to the standard dystopian look and fare. There are a few nicely inserted interactions along the way that are used to deliver the look and feel of a future that is built on our world as it exists now, simply propelled forward. The music score by Marco Beltrami is used mostly sparingly and while it usually compliments the movie to the point where you don’t always recognize it while the scenes play out, there are a few where it is used blatantly to ensure the audience is slapped with the gravitas being played out emotionally on screen.
While Logan is a swansong for this portrayal of the character of Wolverine, it would be a failure to ignore the stories of the other main players. Just how important Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier is to this film was honestly a shock to me. He plays the normally always stoic Professor X in such a vulnerable way, that anyone watching this movie who has dealt with the ravages of age & time on the mind, will fully feel the effects of his character’s role in this film. I understand why he would choose (as recently revealed) that he is finished playing the character; he was un-tethered here, and is able to close out his time playing the character in dramatic, sorrowful and powerful fashion. Dafne Keen, as the young Laura that you’ve seen in promotional pictures and trailers, is every bit as compelling in her first role here, as Jackman was in that first X-Men film 17 years ago. Whether or not the producers of the mutant universe decide to continue on with her in the role as the character has on the 4 colored page remains to be seen.
Logan is a brutal, violent, curse laden, & vicious end to the Wolverine character that we have come to know since the new millennium began. While so many established franchises these days have a fear of doing anything outside the confines of what their focus group and marketing assessments tell them; that Hugh Jackman is able to bring his take on the character to a close, in this way, shows that you don’t need to make every superhero film for kids and families. Sometimes, you just need to go out and make the right one. For one who almost 20 years ago was a backup casting choice, on a character that almost 45 years ago was supposed to be an easily cast off side character; they have done exactly that.
Movie Review: Logan