My Review of Logan (2017)
Well, it has happened. Hugh Jackman has officially capped off his term as everyone's favorite mutant in a final sendoff of Wolverine in the appropriately named, Logan. Funny story: I went to the theater in my gray Wolverine shirt and new jean jacket before realizing that I was dressed just like Logan’s daughter in the film. Oh, and my name is Laura. Below is a summary of the film followed by my thoughts on the final installment of the Wolverine franchise.
It’s 2029, and Logan is one of few mutants left in the world. He spends his nights as a limo driver and his days taking care of his frail friend and mentor, Charles Xavier. Both men are physically and psychologically broken. Logan is suffering from adamantium poisoning, making it difficult for him to heal. He is so worn out that he can barely take out a gang of thieves trying to steal the rims off of his tires in the opening scene. Meanwhile, Charles’ mind is broken in an almost Alzheimer’s-like state, and he suffers from seizures which affect anyone near him with deadly pain and paralysis. Logan is saving up to buy a boat so that the two can escape to the sea and live out their remaining time together, however long that might be.
Logan’s plans change when a nurse approaches him, offering cash to take a young girl, Laura, to a safe haven known as Eden. This girl turns out to be a genetically engineered mutant and Logan’s daughter, possessing the same healing abilities as her father and having undergone the same adamantium grafting on her bones. The story then turns into a road trip with Logan and Charles helping to get Laura safely to Canada without being caught by Alkalai Transgien, the facility that created Laura and several other mutant children as part of a program to wipe out mutants using other mutants. The pair slash and claw their way north, and with Charles along for the ride, the three become a dysfunctional family on their way to a place that may or may not be real.
As everyone has been saying, this is unlike any X-Men movie that has come before it, and like few superhero movies you’ve ever seen. It is a stripped down, gritty story that dials the violence level to 10 and lowers the fantastical elements to a three. If you take out the few X-Men references and all traces of superpowers, you still have a compelling, stand alone, character-driven, action movie. Despite its intense action sequences and unparalleled violence, the film is full of quiet, thoughtful moments that send Wolverine out with a whisper rather than a bang.
What is most surprising about the movie, though, is how unpredictable it is. Inspired by old westerns, Logan is about what drives us to live and how we live with ourselves when we are faced with terrible choices. Without changing in tone, the story shifts through its twists and turns with unexpected ease and emotion. There were times when I was so surprised with what was happening on the screen that I was expecting it to be a dream sequence or premonition, thinking there was no way that this scenario could continue. But, Logan doesn't rely on cheap movie tricks to shock and amaze. Instead, it relies on identifying the expectations that audiences bring to the film and then turning those expectations upside down.
My one fear going in was that it would be too dark or ugly, unlike the previous X-Men and Wolverine movies which are colorful and easy to swallow. The trailers made it seem like the film would be super heavy and dreary, but this movie was beautifully shot. It makes great use of color and settings, and while it is a heart breaking story, there is enough humor and heart to keep the characters from getting too lost in their sadness and seeming too foreign from their previous incarnations.
That being said, this movie would not work without great performances. Not only are the two leads playing characters that they have played multiple times, but they are playing versions of them unlike anything they have seen before and have to break out their full range of abilities in order to make it work. Jackman especially has to carry the film unlike ever before, playing the most sympathetic but also the most angry version of Wolverine we have ever seen. He's not just cranky and cynical. He is angry, swears like a sailor, and never softens to the father-figure role he has played for young mutants in the past. Likewise, Patrick Stewart has to play the most unwound version of Professor X without losing the essence of the character entirely. This is helped by newcomer Dafne Keen who plays Laura in the film. It is through her that Stewart can exhibit traces of the mentor Professor X that everybody knows and loves. Keen herself exhibits so much rage and violence in a role that only the most talented of child actors can pull off, and she kills it, for lack of a better word. She is like a caged animal who will only answer to her masters, but when she is unleashed, you will see some of the best action moments in the movie.
This film is a lot like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy in that you could take away the names and powers, and no one would know that the story is based on comic book characters. As usual, most of my complaints fall into the realm of what I expected to happen versus what I got from the film. I was hoping for more X-Men references whereas this film does its best to mention the team as little as possible. The most attention they get is in the X-Men comics that Laura brings along with her that Logan harshly criticizes along with vague hints about what happened to the X-Men that led to their demise. I was also hoping for Liev Schreiber to make one last appearance as Sabretooth, even in a small cameo, bringing the Wolverine franchise full circle, but being one of few who actually liked X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I can understand why they didn’t. And too, weren’t we supposed to see Logan finally put on his famous yellow and black mask, if only for a moment? It's small moments like that which call back to the comics or previous movies that I missed.
The movie makes good use of its R rating as well, allowing audiences to see some of the most bloody killings that Wolverine has ever unleashed onscreen. It is zombie movie gory which is not recommended for young children or those not experienced with seeing that kind of violence on screen. I think that a collection of R rated superhero movies would do the genre good if used when necessary and appropriate. However, I do hope that superhero movies do continue to be largely filmed with a younger audience in mind so as not to totally lose their primary fan base. However, as long as there are toys and Happy Meals to sell, I don’t think this will be a problem. What will be a problem though, is explaining to young fans why they can’t see this or future films about their favorite superheroes.
I have to admit, I can’t say that I had the super emotional reaction that others were reporting when they came out of the theater. The character and film do not go out with an overly sappy ending nor does it end with a big budget effect. To me, the ending felt satisfying, appropriate, and final. As with real life, it is difficult to watch a character suffer, waiting around to die. But what happens when a characters can't (easily) die? Due to their circumstances, Logan and Charles do not have much of a character arc. Their stories end where this one began. Logan’s relationship with his daughter does not turn into the warm and friendly ones that he has had with former X-Men members, such as Rogue. Logan is a beaten down man, afraid of getting too close to anyone other than Charles. Their bond is too old and too strong to break, having experienced the devastation of losing everyone else he has known in his life. Logan and Charles will never be who they once were without the people who made them that way, and that gives them nothing to lose, besides the fear of failing to help Laura get to where she needs to go.
The film follows no previously set timeline and makes very little effort to try to help the audience find out where it belongs in the sequence of X-Men events, but it doesn't matter how they got to where they are, only that they did. However, it does leave behind some building blocks on which to follow the stories of a new team and their adventures, providing a little hope in an otherwise hopeless story that sends our hero off into the cinematic sunset, at least in this timeline.
Hugh Jackman has gotten the rare opportunity to perform one character in multiple scenarios and story lines, very similar to how a single comic book characters lives many lives over decades worth of stories. I don’t want to talk about the character’s future as I feel like this movie needs some time to ferment into the X-Men Cinematic Universe before moving on. Logan in particular is about one of the most unique and sophisticated stories that could be told in this genre and leaves the audience with an appreciation for the thrills provided and lessons learned over the past 17 years.