Movie Review: ‘Logan’ (Second Opinion)
Read Slam Adams’ review here!
Plot: It’s 2029 and the world is empty of mutants. Former member of the X-Men Logan (Hugh Jackman), lives in a small hideout just over the Texas/Mexico border with an aging and dementia ridden Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a mutant tracker named Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Desperate, worn down, alcoholic, and with his healing powers severely diminished, Logan supports himself as a limo driver and nurses a pipe dream of buying a boat for he and Professor X to live out their final days. However, Logan’s life is turned upside down by the arrival of an eleven year old mutant named Laura, a mutant with powers similar to his own. Reluctantly, Logan agrees to get the child to safety. But with goons from the nefarious company Transigen hunting them, Logan finds his powers both mentally and physically strained to the max.
Review: I’m going to put this out here right out of the gate. The Dark Knight is the best, and remains the best, superhero movie I’ve ever seen.
Logan is a hard number two.
Visceral, impeccably shot, with gripping characters, and a first-rate screenplay, Logan not only lives up to the hype but ultimately exceeds it. For the better part of a decade, Marvel Studios have ruled the roost when it comes to the superhero genre. They’ve done it with a winning formula that’s paid dividends at the box office and with fans. However, the formula has also become increasingly repetitive, stale, and predictable. As much as I enjoyed Doctor Strange, the film is safe and derivative of Iron Man. A little over a year ago 20th Century Fox took a shot with an R-rated superhero film called Deadpool. Not only did it succeed at the box office and with audiences, it also implied that fans were looking for something different and more adult.
If Deadpool was the implication, Logan‘s critical and commercial success makes it a fact. Logan is a superbly crafted film that works on multiple levels. I hesitate to even call it a superhero film. Rather it’s a great film that contains superhero elements. It’s a neo-noir Western, a road trip movie, and in some places even a horror flick.
In the hands of a lesser director, Logan could have been a mishmash of a film with no sense of identity. However, with James Mangold at the helm, all of the seemingly disparate genres blend together for a gripping, powerful, and ultimately hopeful film. Logan is easily Mangold’s best film since 3:10 to Yuma, ironic considering Logan in many aspects is a modern day Western. Every scene from the opening harried fight sequence between Logan and a bunch of gang members, to the final emotional shot, has Mangold’s singular meticulous nature all over it. Unlike The Wolverine (which Mangold also directed) where the final quarter of the film was obviously studio driven, Logan is Mangold’s movie through and through.
It’s been a few days since I’ve seen Logan and the movie still haunts me. “Haunts” I believe is an appropriate word because the film is truly haunting. Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green have crafted an astonishing screenplay with dialogue that’s so heartfelt and honest, you’ll forget it’s a superhero film. There’s so much subtext and nuance to the dialogue, Logan demands multiple viewings. One example really stayed with me. There’s a moment late in the movie where Logan tells Laura she’ll have to learn to live with killing people, to which she replies, “They were all bad.” Logan comes right back with, “Just the same.” That last line functions on two levels. He’s saying that people, good or bad, are still people. However, he’s also saying that killing bad people will affect you as much as killing good people.
Killing and violence in general seems a central theme in Logan. And make no mistake, Logan is a relentlessly violent film with decapitations and eviscerations galore. There’s a clear influence from Unforgiven here as one of the things that haunts the title character is how much his violent life over a period of two centuries has taken its toll. Like Unforgiven, Logan shows the ultimate destructive power of violence, that it begets only more death and devastation. Violent children returning home to nest. Logan also owes a debt to the classic Western Shane (which at one point is even shown in the film) as like the title character, Logan is that retired gunfighter who saddles up one more time to do what is right. Like Shane, Logan can’t escape the nature of who he is. Yet in the end it doesn’t make him a bad man or a good man. It makes him human.
Logan is not a cookie cutter, rainbows and cupcakes film. It’s deep and thoughtful and will have you come away asking serious questions. However, there are moments of levity and it’s a film that leaves you with hope. It’s also a meditation on aging and the reality of mortality. This is exemplified by Charles Xavier, now in his 90s and suffering from seizures that can literally kill everyone around him. Stewart gives an Oscar worthy performance. This is not the Professor X we’re used to. Stewart’s performance provokes sympathy but there’s also an optimism to it that shines through. Although Logan is ostensibly the one taking care of Charles’ physical ailments, Professor X feels it his duty to take care of Logan’s soul, often reminding him that family and happiness are possible.
Cinematographer John Mathieson and frequent Ridley Scott collaborator, puts out some of his best work. He’s able to capture the early, arid Texas landscape and the later verdant forested hills of North Dakota with equal alacrity. Mathieson and Mangold balance tender and heartfelt moments between Logan, Laura, and Charles with violent visceral fight scenes. Yet they never come across forced or discordant. Oscar nominee Marco Beltrami delivers an elegiac and harrowing score that never overwhelms any of the scenes. Instead they manage to compliment each moment, as all great scores should.
Logan has come under some fire for having a weak villain, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. Boyd Holbrook steals every scene he’s in as the relentless and vicious Donald Pierce, head of security at the Transigen corporation and leader of the Reavers. In addition Stephen Merchant, usually known for his comedic performances, gives a soulful performance as Caliban, Professor X’s caretaker when Logan isn’t around. The real breakout star is Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23. Rarely have I seen adult actors with such pathos and subtlety. What she’s able to do with her eyes, facial gestures, and body movements is a sight to behold. It was amazing to see her go toe to toe with Jackman in every scene, an actor four and half times her age with more years of acting experience than Keen has been alive. If Logan is any indication, she’s got a promising career ahead of her.
Yet ultimately this is Hugh Jackman’s show. And boy does he deliver as Logan/Wolverine. From the word “go” you know this is the Wolverine story he’s wanted to tell on screen for years. This isn’t the powerful, near invincible Logan we’ve seen in the past. Not in the least. This is a Logan beaten down by life, forlorn, sporting a persistent limp and a foul mouth. In short it’s a Logan in desperate need of redemption, an opportunity that Laura is able to provide. It’s also clear from the outset that Logan is hiding a pervasive sickness, although ultimately what’s causing it, is not what you may think. Jackman has owned this character for over a decade and a half. He knew this would be his swan song and he poured all of his heart and soul into the movie. It’s a performance that captivates and impales you like an adamantium tipped claw to the chest.
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Logan is a turning point for superhero films. With its reception both critically and commercially, I believe studios will now be more inclined to tell adult superhero movies with deep themes. Yet slapping Logan with the moniker of “superhero movie” comes off insulting because it’s so much more than that. Logan is an astounding cinematic achievement for any genre and the first great movie of 2017.
My rating System:
0-1 God Awful Blind Yourself With Acid Bad
2 Straight Garbage
4 Sub Par
8 Very Good
10 A Must See
My rating: 10/10