Volume 6, Issue 8!
“Movie Review: Logan”
Very few times we get a comic book movie that not only defines the genre, it elevates it to a whole other level. The Dark Knight did this, as did The Avengers (and some could say Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy, or really any Marvel Studios major release). Well, we can now add another film to that list, because I can honestly say that Logan, the final film to star Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, is one of those films. It’s somber and hopeful, as well as violent and heartfelt. For a final bow, Jackman and director James Mangold pulled out all the stops, and crafted a film that doesn’t feel like anything else in the stable of X-Men films by Fox.
Much of this is due to Logan’s much publicized R rating, and make no mistake; the movie earns that rating and then some. Honestly Wolverine hasn’t been this violent since the X-Men Origins: Wolverine video game. Even the most extreme versions of the comics don’t match up to what is in this film. Limbs are violently cut off of people, massive gaping wounds are put into heads and chests, and there are ample amounts of blood. Logan himself is put through quite the ringer, with massive gouge marks deep in his chest and shoulders. If you were considering taking a younger X-Men fan to this film, you should really think twice (or three times), as there’s plenty of nightmare fodder for the kiddos, as well as quite a few F bombs as well.
But as adult as Logan is, none of that feels like it’s doing it just because it has an R rating. In fact, it all fits in with the world that this movie has created. The world of Logan is very bleak, as the mutants that once seemed poised to overtake the world are now all but extinct. Logan, now working as a chauffeur under his real name James Howlett, lives along the Mexican border, where he takes care of an ailing Professor Charles Xavier (a heartbreaking Patrick Stewart), who suffers debilitating strokes that have disastrous effects on the world around him. Yes, even the world’s most powerful telepath isn’t safe from the ravages of time.
And neither is Wolverine. Jackman’s Logan is tired, aging, and sick. Even though he ages much slower than anyone else due to his healing ability, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t age at all. The passage of time has lead to a healing factor that works slower, claws that don’t pop out quite as well as they used to, and the Adamantium in his body poisoning him because his exhausted body can’t keep up with it. Hell, Logan even needs to wear reading glasses at times, which actually gets a few well deserved laughs.
But this aging works incredibly well for the movie. Like The Dark Knight Rises, this is a distinct FINAL chapter in the life of a character; one that we know will never get a true final story in the comics (even though Marvel has had Wolverine “dead” for the past two years now). But unlike Nolan’s uneven final Batman film, Loganhas plenty of earned emotional beats. Director James Mangold has taken the basic concept of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s “Old Man Logan” story arc and made it into not only a version that wouldn’t get them sued by Marvel Studios, but also a reflection on the idea of legacy, heroism, and dealing with a world that has moved on without you. I might even dare say that Mangold’s take on the story is better than Millar’s for that reason. Millar’s is a fantastic action adventure road trip, but here Mangold takes the road trip idea and makes it a somber character study for a man who has lived a thousand lifetimes, and all of them are painful.
By this point Hugh Jackman could play Wolverine in his sleep, but he really sells the emotional moments of this movie. There’s a pain in his eyes that is always there, whether he’s stabbing some guy in the head, or arguing with Charles as he forces him to take his medication. Jackman plays this aging Logan as a man who’s haunted by his past, and no one has done more haunting things than Logan. In a perfect world, we’d see Jackman’s name on the Oscar ballot next year.
The same can be said for Patrick Stewart, who is absolutely heartbreaking as an aging Charles Xavier. Stewart is never a slouch in the acting department, but here he essentially has to play three roles, and he does them all wonderfully. Like Jackman, there’s weariness in Stewart’s performance, and when Xavier is able to remember his history and past deeds long enough, it leads to a pretty shocking revelation if you pay close enough attention to it.
Logan also introduces Dafne Keen to the world as Laura, the young girl that Logan and Charles have to protect and get to safety. Typically the idea of a child actor taking on a major role like this would fill some people with dread, but Keen is a revelation. She’s able to do more with simple movements and eye contact than most major movie stars, and if this movie doesn’t kick start her as the go to child actor for Hollywood, then there’s something wrong with the world. Whether it involved stabbing people in the face or simply walking through a store picking up random items, Keen delivers. She’s a tremendous talent that pulls off her role effortlessly.
One of the interesting things about Logan is the fact that it portrays a world where the X-Men were well-known heroes, with comic books, toys, and all sorts of other merchandise. This idea could have gone into eye-rollingly Meta territory, but it’s used in a way that helps frame the story of Logan’s relationship to Laura. There’s a whole generation of people (including Laura) who believe that Logan is a hero, the hero called “Wolverine”. Despite what he tells them, they still believe he will do the right thing. It presents an interesting area for Logan to be in, as he has to confront a legacy that he doesn’t believe is earned. But this leads to one of the most heart breaking scenes in a comic book movie, and it’s one that I’m not ashamed to say lead to me feeling pretty emotional by the time the end credits rolled.
It’s not just the Meta use of the comics that helps flesh out Logan though, the call backs to previous films in the franchise’s history actually help the movie achieve the emotional moments they aim. Simply put, you couldn’t have made this movie any other time than right now. Logan benefits from the time both Jackman and Stewart have put into their characters, and it strengthens the franchise as a whole. We all know there are some real stinkers when it comes to Fox’s X-Men movies, and we don’t need to bring them up here, but Logan is able to make callbacks to some of the dumbest moments in the franchise and somehow make them work here (especially one that I absolutely hate from Origins).
Based on the strength of Deadpool, the TV series Legion, and now Logan, I really think Fox might be better off just letting talented people run wild with the X-Men franchise instead of trying to compete with Marvel and WB.With Logan, director James Mangold has taken a character and an idea and completely made it his own. Prior to seeing it for myself, I heard a lot of people compare Logan to Unforgiven, and those comparisons are exactly true. Mangold filmed the movie to look like a modern day western, with brutal violence, a hero with a dodgy past, and even a thrilling chase scene that involves a moving train. But at the same time, Mangold was able to make this comic book movie feel completely different from the others. Logan is a perfect example of the strengths of this genre, and deserves to be recognized as one of the best comic book films of all time. It’s the movie Hugh Jackman, and the fans, finally deserved.