I went to see Logan last night with conflicting expectations for how the film would play out. Over the years, the Wolverine films haven’t done much to set the bar very high, so a large part of me has always been very critical each time a new entry emerges. Still, after seeing the trailers, I couldn’t help but hope that It would deliver a solid experience to send off Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. I can say, happily, that I was not disappointed. Before I go any further…SPOILER ALERT!
James Mangold introduces us to old and, if it’s possible, grumpier Logan (Wolverine is not in this movie), who is basically squatting at a compound near the Mexican border with the famed Charles Xavier. Only, this is not the Professor X you’ve come to know. He is a deteriorated version of his former self, suffering from debilitating seizures, that when amplified by his incredible telepathic strength, bring the surrounding world crumbling to its knees. Logan is working to keep this ailment under control while they are hiding out, and not too long into this bit of adversity they find themselves in a difficult situation with young girl named laura. She and a few dozen other youngsters hail from a secret research facility where mutant powers are harnessed and implanted through a test tube-esque process. Eventually Logan is agrees to transport the girl to a North Dakota safe haven of sorts named Eden. As you can imagine, they run into all sort of hi jinks along the way.
The year is 2029 and the setting has a rusty, semi-dystopian feel, similar to the Mad Max series. There is actually very little evidence to show that the story takes place in the future. Every now and then someone flashes and interesting physical augmentation or weapon, but this isn’t exactly out of place in the X-men universe. It wasn’t until the group made their way to the interstate and the near-futuristic vehicles were showcased, that I was able to feel out the timeline. This is the style of Logan, not everything is spoon fed and explicitly marked to deliver a run of the mill action movie. You need to be patient and wait for the story to develop before you get all of the necessary information.
The biggest takeaway is that this is not your typical Hollywood superhero movie. It doesn’t rely on an abundance of special effects, or an inflated plot about saving the world from ultimate destruction. Instead, the film is almost completely character driven. Its strength comes from the depth and exploration of their leading roles. We’ve seen Jackman as Wolverine a dozen times and Stewart is the quintessential Charles Xavier, but the performances in Logan bring forward completely unseen versions of these characters. They are both broken and clearly exhausted from the events that have taken place over the last decade. This creates a different relationship between them. Logan serves as a rough and straightforward caregiver who is constantly being pulled away from his primary goal because of his invalid father figure. Watching these two scrape their way to the end of the film was an engaging experience that was only amplified by the appearance of Laura. Dafne Keen was an easy addition here, giving an organic performance as a mute and further driving the progression of her character after revealing her speech capability. She stands tough in an extremely violent and dark world.
It’s clear that Mangold is trying to further push the comic book movie boundary in a gritter and more severe direction. That is absolutely accomplished here through grim realism, adult themes, and violence-a-plenty. For the most part it was a great fit, but at times I wondered if it was too much. A large part of the 2 hour feature consists of logan shredding through enemies as if they were made of paper mache. The action and choreography was great, but could be visually exhausting after a while. This brings me to my next point, which is that Logan is hard to watch. This isn’t a complaint either. The upsetting moments were put in place to naturally feed the plot, and this was done excellently. As Logan and his father/daughter duo make their way from Mexico to Northern America, chased by a an oppressive, mutant snatching organization, they leave nothing but death and destruction in their wake. At one point, they find themselves shacked up with a truly heartwarming family. This ultimately leads the death of important characters and by the end of their visit tragedy strikes down son, mother, and father. The entire scene really hits the the final nail in the coffin so to speak, and highlights the forever tragic existence of the Wolverine.
At times I felt like they might have been pushing the R-rating a little too forcefully. Hearing Logan and Xavier throw “fuck” around like it was going out of style could be jarring. Since the previous films were stuck with a lower rating, this brought out a drastic change in characterization. At the same time, this could fall in line with the character’s ghastly station in life so it’s in no way a significant fault. I will say that the boob flashing scene in the limo was completely unnecessary and probably the most inorganic moment in film. I saw this as the equivalent of the director taking the R rating and shoving it right in my face to remind me that I was watching an R-rated film.
There is an obvious dichotomy when you look at the other side of the coin; Transigen. The film seemed to be split down the middle with these two forces, implanting pieces of vague, yet underdeveloped backstory for the mutant splicing organization. Most of the organization’s exposition comes from found footage left behind by the the departed Gabriella. The major issue is that the footage is anything but consistent, showing unrealistically captured video that felt more like an official documentary rather than secret recordings from a cell phone. Dr. Rice felt like a completely unimportant character by the end, and I wasn’t sure why time was ever spent trying to include him. I will say that watching Logan interrupt his monologue with a bullet to the throat was magnificent. Adding to that, the appearance of the “Nega-Wolverine” felt cringe worthy, and I couldn’t find a real reason why he needed to exist aside from confusing Professor X before his death. Boyd Holbrook as Pierce was probably the only bad guy that I actually enjoyed. His delivery of the shady cyborg left me wanting to see more, although that was not the case due to the lack of exploration. The antagonists never really hit the mark when it came to character impact. However, seeing how well the main characters pushed the story, I’m not sure this wasn’t on purpose.
Logan was a great film, that just so happened to include a few superheros. Like The Dark Knight before it, I have faith that it will be regarded as one of the great steps into originality for this genre. While it’s not without its minor flaws, specifically overindulgence and nonessential features, everything that may be lacking with the film still manages to support the truly impressive achievements that are present here. Therefore, I am awarding Logan with 8.7 adamantium claw-ripping penta-kills out of 10. Also, I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but in 2029 there was still no wall at the border of Mexico.
Credit also due to Joshua Vidrine and Jose Soto for their assistance with brainstorming for this review.