Logan (2017) – Movie Review
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: Scott Frank, James Mangold & Michael Green
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant & Richard E. Grant
Music: Marco Beltrami
Release Date: March 1st 2017
Even throughout the numerous highs and lows of the “X-Men” movie franchise since it was started by Bryan Singer in 2000, one element has stayed entirely consistent; Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine. Appearing in every single “X-Men” movie, as well as starring in two of his own spin-offs and making cameos in ‘X-Men: First Class‘ and ‘X-Men: Apocalypse‘, Hugh Jackman has cemented his blockbuster legacy as one of the most beloved comic book movie characters of all time. And to think, news of his casting in the late 1990s was met with disdain.
But after playing the character for 17 years, all things must end with ‘Logan‘ being the final time Hugh Jackman will play the Weapon X Mutant, loosely based off the “Old Man Logan” series published in 2008 and written by Mark Millar. That comic book story saw an aged Wolverine towards the end of his life in a post-apocalyptic future and really that’s all the elements they kept in this 2017 adaptation simply known as ‘Logan‘. ‘The Wolverine‘ director James Mangold returns to helm Wolverine’s last ride, but does this character go out on a high note and even if he doesn’t, could that be the entire point?
It’s the future and life sucks. The X-Men are no more, mutants are going extinct and an aged Logan (Jackman) is losing his healing ability with the adamantium skeleton slowly starting to poison him. He cares for an elderly Charles Xavier (Stewart) whose brain is deteriorating, causing him to suffer seizures which put everyone around him at risk. But one day, the two encounter a young mutant; 11-year old Laura (Keen) who has metal claws and a healing factor like Logan, who is being pursued by a mysterious government organisation. Logan and Charles must protect Laura and ensure that she and potentially a new generation of mutants are safe from forces that seek to wipe them out.
Anyone going into ‘Logan‘ expecting something akin to previous “X-Men” movies will likely find themselves disappointed. ‘Logan‘ takes place in an alternative, near-future with few mutants, there isn’t much in terms of action or CG-spectacle, it’s R/15-Rated due to excessive swearing and violence, there’s very little fan-service or cinematic-universe-world-building and even its ties to the Mark Millar “Old Man Logan” comic-book storyline is loose, at best. In terms of franchise-continuity, there’s a brief mention of Logan being a cage-fighter like in the first ‘X-Men‘ movie back in 2000, but aside from that this is a completely standalone narrative which seems to go out of its way to disappoint its viewers in a meta-sense.
While fans have been clamouring for a “Berserker” Wolverine, ‘Logan‘ opens by showing that this movie takes place in a world where that probably isn’t gonna happen as he gets beat up by thugs and as he’s laying, coughing in the dirt the title of the movie pops up next to him. This is a bleak future with little room for heroism or even a semblance of nobility with the X-Men having been wiped out in what’s revealed to be the most banal and underwhelming way possible. The biggest threat in this movie isn’t a Sentinel, or another powerful mutant foe, but rather Logan emotionally opening himself up to his pseudo-daughter; Laura, a.k.a. X-23.
The film also takes place in a future world that is rather ordinary and not too far removed from our reality. There are self-driving trucks and more advanced cybernetic limbs but apart from that, this is a rather underwhelming future in the best possible way. There are actually a lot of parallels to contemporary America expanded upon in ‘Logan‘ whether it’s the not-so-subtle commentary of Mexican immigrants trying to find a better life in Canada with America becoming a fortified dystopia, racial prejudice (both literal and metaphorical) and the country’s unhealthy obsession with propping up the corn syrup industry, all adding together to make a bleak future that mirrors our present.
What we’re left with is a bitter world inhabited by mostly bitter characters with Charles and Logan essentially swapping their prior roles as Logan is the carer and Charles is the one with destructive powers and is a danger to everyone around him. There are moments of hope but they’re fleeting and the plot is littered in tragedy but Logan is a character that longs for death yet still can’t help but answer the call for heroism as he’s tasked with protecting Laura/X-23 and making sure she crosses the Canadian Border to safety. While the movie draws obvious parallels to the western movie ‘Shane‘ (the characters even watch the movie and quote it), ‘Logan‘ feels more like the comic book movie sub-genre’s answer to ‘Unforgiven‘, from the reluctant hero on one last job, the ageing star of the genre etc. which brings us to Hugh Jackman.
While many of his previous forays as Wolverine have left an impact, it feels like this is the definitive portrayal of the character on the big screen. Jackman’s aged and jaded portrayal of the Weapon-X mutant might be the best performance of his career as he caries the weight of his prior deeds on his shoulders in every frame he’s on screen. The ageing make-up is terrific, but it’s helped by a very physical performance with an astonishing amount of range and depth. Patrick Stewart also gives a career-best performance as an often rude, senile Professor X who is not in control of his powers. Professor X also embodies the themes of the film by being the epitome of the idea of a fallen hero as we even get a scene where Logan has to help him use the bathroom in a cramped cubicle.
The rest of the cast are great as well with Stephen Merchant as the mutant Caliban who helps Logan care for Xavier, Boyd Holbrook is easy-to-hate yet charming as a mercenary tasked with bringing X-23 in and while Richard E. Grant completely plays as-type as a slimy villain, it’s still a solid performance. But the real supporting star is Dafne Keen making her feature-film debut as X-23. She doesn’t get much dialogue, but she’s a giant on-screen presense and is a force-of-nature in the action scenes where she commits bloody acts of violence. She takes what could have been such a flat character and fills her with dimension and this is a star-making turn as well as a potential gateway for many younger, female viewers into the action genre.
Towards the end of the movie another threat does emerge and it’s with this villain that the film falls into a similar pitfall that ‘The Wolverine‘ fell into where it devolves to better fit with its comic book lineage and while the metaphor is clear and what it represents is interesting, it does feel like it detracts from what the first two acts of the movie were setting up. But it still leads to an ending that is heartbreaking and just bursting with pathos so, in a way, the ends maybe justify the means. In all other respects, ‘Logan‘ likely would not work as well as it does were it not for the lineage of the “X-Men” films that came before it and Hugh Jackman’s near-20 year history portraying this one character. This is the type of film you cannot make twice and it’s great that ‘Logan‘ came out as good as it has.
Production-wise, this is one of the least expensive “X-Men” movies but it doesn’t feel like a small or cheap enterprise. Everything from the great lighting, make-up, and great blending of practical and digital effects gives ‘Logan‘ a really polished look. Oscar winning make-up artist Joel Harlow (2009’s ‘Star Trek‘, all of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and ‘Inception‘) and his team do an amazing job at ageing up Jackman and Stewart as well as delivering a level of violence akin to Wolverine turning his opponents into lasagne. But even in that regard, some of the action defies expectations and disappoints with one scene involving Logan driving a car through a fence and getting caught in the fence, whereas in any other action film he would have blasted straight through it. It’s just another one of the film’s brilliant subversion. Marco Beltrami’s score is haunting, the cinematography (whether colour or black-and-white) is striking and the few VFX-heavy moments are really well handled.
‘Logan‘ is a once-in-a-generation genre film that can only exist in its current form under very specific circumstances and thankfully, director James Mangold stuck the landing. Some may cry foul due to this version not including characters like the Hulk, Hawkeye and others like its comic book source material but that’s because ‘Logan‘ carves out a path for itself and it’s all the better for it. Its haunting ending truly sticks with you and it’s upon further reflection does it become clear that those emotions were throughout the entire film and just how effectively structure it is as a whole. It offers career-best work from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, revelatory turn from Dafne Keen and gives the character of Wolverine a fitting, if depressing finale.
I give ‘Logan‘ 4 and a half stars out of 5.
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Posted: 1st Mar 18