The following is a review of Logan – Directed by James Mangold
It’s been a long time since Hugh Jackman first joined the X-Men series. He was never the franchise’s first choice to play the iconic comic book character. Supposedly, the filmmakers of the original X-Men film always wanted Russell Crowe to play the Canadian mutant, but, instead, got Jackman.
Jackman has now confirmed that Logan will be his final film as the Wolverine (unless Ryan Reynolds convinces him to appear in a Deadpool movie), and I expect that people will always want him back. After all, Hugh Jackman is now – and always will be – our Wolverine.
He, through his character, has always been at the center of every major conflict in all X-Men films except for two (X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse). The character even became so popular that they decided to make him star in a spin-off film that dealt with his origin.
Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a tonally inconsistent, bloated mess with awful CGI that, for a moment, made some people tired of Wolverine. He hadn’t outstayed his welcome, but he needed to take a step back. Perhaps that is why X-Men: First Class, where he is only featured in a single montage, felt so fresh in 2011.
James Mangold’s quasi-sequel The Wolverine, which I still believe is massively underrated, also acted as a breath of fresh air, as it gave us Wolverine as a ‘stranger in a strange land.’ While the film was still colorful and somewhat cartoony, the filmmakers clearly knew the character they were dealing with. They understood who Logan was, and they understood what the loss of Jean Grey did to him.
What Wolverine-centered action has always been missing is the violence. It has always felt like the filmmakers were holding back from showing what exactly happens when the Wolverine runs amok. When James Mangold returned for Hugh Jackman’s final chapter as the Wolverine, Logan, the trailers promised a grounded, more realistic, and extremely violent take on the character. I am happy to tell you that Logan delivers on the marketing’s promises. Logan is terrific.
“He said, I was destined to live forever, with no reason to live.” – Quote from James Mangold’s The Wolverine (2013).
Logan takes place in 2029, at a time when very few mutants are still around. Logan (played by Hugh Jackman) is now a world-weary limousine driver, and the only action he sees are low-lifes trying to steal from or vandalize his work vehicle. When Logan isn’t working, he and Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant) are taking care of a 90-year old Charles Xavier who has become unstable.
While working at a funeral, Logan meets Gabriela (played by Elizabeth Rodriguez), who is in desperate need of his help. Although Logan initially refuses to help, he is somehow forced into helping a little girl that Gabriela has been taking care of. Her name is Laura (played by Dafne Keen) and she is a mutant that has abilities that are similar to Logan’s.
Gabriela pays Logan to drive Laura to a place called ‘Eden’ in North Dakota. But Laura is being hunted by a group called the ‘Reavers’ – led by Donald Pierce (played by Boyd Holbrook) – that are working for a mysterious company, and her sudden appearance has put Logan and Charles on their radar. Now a suicidal Logan, an unstable Charles, and a mute Laura are all being chased by powerful forces.
Logan is an inspired, ambitious, and violent neo-western, superhero chase film. It is, essentially, a combination of Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special and David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, with a couple of mutants thrown in there. It, even, constantly references George Stevens’ western classic Shane. Logan is, quite frankly, a fresh and very different superhero drama.
I really enjoyed the three central performances in Logan. Newcomer Dafne Keen really impressed me here. She has been given somewhat of a challenging role. She has to be convincing as a threatening, young mutant, and she has to communicate in the way that her character would, which, for the most part, is non-verbally or in a language that Logan doesn’t understand.
Patrick Stewart does a fantastic job in this film. Although he still played the ‘old version’ of Professor Xavier in his last X-Men film, the character is, in Logan, in a very different place in his life. Stewart’s character is getting old and he doesn’t understand the treatment he is getting from Logan and Caliban. Xavier has never felt more realistic, and it is such a sad sight to behold.
And that leads me to the central performance. Hugh Jackman has never been better as this character, who is almost as sad to watch as Xavier is. Logan is aging and he is sick, and you can see it in the way his claws won’t always come out entirely. You can also see it in the way Jackman walks, you can almost hear it in the way he talks.
One of the special things about this film is seeing Charles and Logan together on screen in Jackman’s last hurrah in the X-Men universe. They have always been good together. Logan has always been one of Charles’ favorite ‘sons,’ and Logan has always been somewhat of a lone wolf that always had a home with Charles. Here Charles isn’t just struggling with his own mortality, he also actively disapproves of Logan’s hopelessness. We get to see a different side of their relationship, and it is very exciting.
Let’s talk about the violence, finally. Over the years, Wolverine’s actions haven’t always been given the visual weight that they deserve. Especially in Mangold’s The Wolverine, it always felt like something was missing in the action and fight scenes. With this film, Mangold answers what was missing. Violence is the answer, and there is a lot of it in Logan.
The very first scene in the film is one of the most violent. You see his adamantium claws go through peoples’ heads. You see the claws cut off an arm. Never before has the dangerous and violent nature of the Wolverine been more apparent. It is something we, as fans, have always wanted to see in these films.
However, it also means that there is something I need to say to parents. This is too violent for kids. Sure, who am I to tell you what to show your children? Right. Well, Logan is as violent as Deadpool is crude. It is not for everyone, and I do feel the need to warn parents of that.
To be honest with you, I don’t have a lot of issues with the film, and most of my issues would probably just be categorized as nitpicks. For example, I think some of the CGI could’ve been better. It did stand out to me, and not in a great way. Also, although the western references mostly work, it did feel a little bit clumsy and poorly done in the hotel-scene (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it).
You could also argue that Logan is a little bit too predictable. I think it’s perfectly possible to predict and guess the major plot-points in the film, and only certain moments and scares really surprised me. Logan also has the classic superhero movie villain problem. I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more from Donald Pierce, but I will say that Boyd Holbrook was terrific in the role. Pierce’s boss, however, is incredibly forgettable and definitely didn’t work for me.
But that is all, really. A couple of nitpicks and two issues that, ultimately, didn’t annoy me very much. It pleases me to be able to state that Logan is an amazing final chapter for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. It is an uncompromising, grounded, and emotionally satisfying film.
9 out of 10
– Jeffrey Rex