Doug Reviews: Logan (2017)

Logan represents Hugh Jackman’s final performance as the X-Man Wolverine, but this film is about as far from an X-Men film as you can get. Does Jackman go out on a high note or should he just have left well-enough alone?

The year is 2029 and mutants are a dying race. Logan (Jackman) is working as a limo driver in the American southwest. The reason why the Wolverine is working in such a mundane job is because just over the border, he and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are caring for and hiding an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Logan is not doing too well himself, as his healing factor isn’t quite what it used to be. It also doesn’t help that he’s trying to drink himself to death. Their miserable existence is upended when a mysterious girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) enters their lives. She’s on the run from sinister forces including a paramilitary group called the Reavers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and scientist Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant). She needs Logan to get her to North Dakota where she can escape across the Canadian border. Logan reluctantly helps, bringing an erratic Professor X along for the ride, but will this adventure help Logan re-find his purpose or drive him deeper into despair?

Without a doubt, Logan is the best of the three Wolverine films and it rivals the two best films in the X-Men franchise—X-Men 2 and Days of Future Past. The film, which is really more of a character drama than a traditional comic book movie, has enough heart and emotion for three films and it represents a fitting sendoff for series star Hugh Jackman, who has been playing the character since 2000’s X-Men. The action is sparse, but visceral when it happens and well-choreographed. Be warned, though, Logan more than earns its R-rating. This is a very hard “R,” with graphic violence and language, so don’t bring your kids to see it. But in that violence, audiences finally get to see Wolverine unleashed, which has only been hinted at in other films—he probably comes closest to his legendary “berserker rage” in X-Men 2. As is the case with many of the other X-Men films, there were some nagging logic holes spread around the film, but the drama is so great and the characters so rich, it doesn’t really detract from the film that much. Also, while I appreciated the metaphorical meaning of the final villain Wolverine must face in this film, at first, it came off as a bit schlocky to me. It’s nowhere as egregious as, say, a giant robot samurai, but it was a little jarring. Having said that, it totally makes sense in the narrative and the world that Wolverine inhabits. The western genre plays into the film very heavily and that grounded tone and narrative separates it from the bombast and spectacle of other comic book/superhero films. Logan, like Deadpool and The Dark Knight, stands on its own and shows that there are different, more interesting ways to do these films without producing the same film over and over, while all you change is the characters. A lot of credit has to go to Director James Mangold, who also developed the story with Jackman and contributed to the screenplay. Mangold also directed 2013’s The Wolverine, which was two-thirds of a great movie, but with Logan, you can see what happens when the studio heads don’t meddle and just let filmmakers make films. More of this, please, Hollywood.

The cast is sensational. Hugh Jackman delivers an amazing performance as a man at the end of his rope and struggling to find reasons to keep going. He’s also haunted by his past and who he is as Wolverine. I’ve loved Jackman in this role since he first appeared in X-Men. He just seemed to “get” Wolverine and nailed the characterization perfectly. Logan is a great culmination to his time as the most popular X-Man. Patrick Stewart is also amazing as a Professor X slowly slipping into dementia. He has essentially combined three iterations of the character—he is still the dignified professor at times, while in other scenes he mirrors James McAvoy’s more combative Xavier from the last three X-Men films, and the third personality is a man losing his grip on his mind. His performance, like Jackman’s, is all at once touching, funny, and surprising. Dafne Keen makes her feature film debut here as Laura, who is, as comic book fans know her, X-23, a young mutant very similar to Logan. Keen doesn’t say much throughout the film, but she says so much with her expressive eyes and face. Her mannerisms when she first meets the Reavers on screen are great and very reminiscent of Jackman’s as Wolverine. When she finally does speak, she delivers her lines like a pro. She’s a great discovery and one can only hope that her star will continue to rise. I wasn’t sure what to think when comedian Stephen Merchant was cast in this deadly serious film, but he hits it out of the park as Caliban. He brings his dry wit to the role, but also delivers on the dramatic front. He’s a tragic character and he’s a pleasant surprise here. Grant and Holbrook are good as the main villains of the piece, though I really wanted some more fleshing out of Grant’s character. He kind of shows up in the middle and his origins and motivations are still a little murky by film’s end.

Overall, Logan is an amazing sendoff for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and a great film in of itself. It is far and away the best of the Wolverine films and ranks near the top of the X-Men franchise as a whole. If you can handle graphic violence and want to experience a different kind of comic book film, see Logan.

 

Rating: A-

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