Film Review: Logan
By Andrew Clarke (@AwaitingAndrew)
Hugh Jackman has been portraying Wolverine for 17 years, appearing in nine films. Despite the height difference and never appearing in the suit from the comic books, it’s a casting that has left the actor synonymous with the character like few others. Now audiences have but one last adventure with Hugh Jackman in the X-Men universe with Logan (though we are all hoping for a cameo in Deadpool 2).
Logan is a bleak, gritty, almost western genre take on the character of Wolverine. The basic plot of this film is not particularly new, parallel with one of my favorite films from last year, Midnight Special. Logan follows an older James “Logan” Howlett and Charles Xavier – Sir Patrick Stewart in also reportedly his final portrayal – traveling cross country, protecting a child with special powers against the forces that are trying to take the child. Of course, that only tells part of the tale of this film – it is a Wolverine movie, after all.
While not sharing much in common with the Old Man Logan comic, that’s the essence of the character we see in James Mangold’s latest film. This film’s Logan is a character clearly at the end of his rope. His self-healing powers aren’t what they used to be, and the lives he’s taken and the damage he’s been dealt over the years are taking a toll on his body and his spirit. We also see the same apply to Charles Xavier, who by the film’s timeline in the year 2029 is seeing the deteriorating effects of such a long life.
James Mangold returns from 2013’s The Wolverine to direct Hugh Jackman in this role one last time. The Wolverine was an underrated film, and the unrated extended edition is even better. Thanks to the overwhelming commercial and box office success Deadpool saw last year with its R rating, there shouldn’t be any need for an unrated version this time around, as Logan is the first Wolverine film to be deservedly rated R. While this has led to a somewhat excessive amount of cursing, at least when considered against its predecessors, there is also a lot of bloodshed and gore – something the comic book Wolverine does quite well. Nothing is glossed over or left to the imagination, as Wolverine rips his claws into someone’s skull in one of the film’s best and most inventive scenes. It’s honestly quite refreshing to see, and Hugh Jackman is going out with a roar.
Though the ripping apart of enemies remains, this isn’t the fun Wolverine we are used to. In Logan is a Wolverine who’s on his last leg. Anyone at this movie is no stranger to his cinematic story, though the events of Days of Future Past have surely altered it to at least some extent. As we meet Logan in this film, he is a limo driver in Mexico, going by his birth name James Howlett in attempt to leave the life he knew behind. Of course, we’ve seen and we know that leaving behind an explosive past such as Wolverine’s never lasts in movies, and soon Logan and Professor X, two of the last remaining mutants in the year 2029, are on a race against time and against the enemy to transport a girl to North Dakota. And that’s all I will say about the plot.
While Jackman goes out with a roar – assuming this is truly his last outing – Dafne Keen enters the X-Men universe in this film with a roar. In case you haven’t seen any of the trailers, I won’t say anything about this child except that the character and the actor both are something special. She’s part of what makes this story so refreshing in the X-Men cinematic universe. Mangold’s film is a different take from what we’ve seen so far in the other nine films of the universe, including Deadpool. I don’t want to say it’s not fun watching Wolverine rip enemies to shreds in this film, but with a more gritty take on the character, it hurts almost as much as it is glorifying, as we know toll it’s taking. These are characters who are beaten down, about ready to give up, and it’s resembled in the film’s aura. Logan nearly shares more similarities with a modern western or a near post-apocalyptic film than it does an X-Men film. While the stakes in superhero movies have always been high – and perhaps they’re not truly as high in this one – in Logan, it always seems that any moment could be the last.
There were times throughout when this film didn’t feel like an X-Men or superhero film, and that’s a good thing. It’s one of the overarching reasons Captain America: The Winter Soldier is so highly regarded amongst the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it helping the same be the case for Logan in the X-Men film franchise. However, there are characters that whenever they appear in this film remind audiences in a negative light that this is an X-Men film. And no, I’m not referring to Wolverine, Professor X, or the girl. Likewise, the film’s antagonists are not unlike the superhero villains we’ve come to expect: one-note and rather uninteresting. These aspects derail from the film, out of place in an otherwise more real and dystopian era for the franchise. (I have one other major negative but plot related in the film’s middle act, and I’m avoiding spoilers here.)
Despite some pacing issues and a few minor gripes, Logan is a fantastic entry in the X-Men film saga. While for me personally it probably won’t be the most re-watchable film of the franchise, it’s a testament to the work by director and co-writer James Mangold that Logan often doesn’t feel anything like the fun but flawed X-Men films we are used to. The weak point of the previous and otherwise great standalone film directed by Mangold, The Wolverine, was the film’s final act. Logan’s final act is Hugh Jackman’s swan song, truly where he and this film shine the brightest. And his final foe, in analyzed retrospect, may be the biggest one he’s ever faced.
I give Logan an 8.
Thanks for everything you’ve put into this role over the years, Hugh, and I can’t wait to see what you do next.