(potential mild spoilers for Logan…but if you haven’t seen it, why are you here?)
The superhero genre is starting to get a little staid. A little long in the tooth. We’ve passed the exuberant youth when you forgive the mistakes (definitely do *another* Punisher movie) and embrace the ridiculousness (Ghostrider, anyone?), or give them an easy pass for the special effects just not being quite there *yet.* How many times can Marvel recycle the Iron Man formula before we stop throwing our hard earned cash at them? How long until DC finds that just slapping the Batman logo on something won’t guarantee its financial success? Does Deadpool’s success mean more rated R comic book movies? Will there ever be another Dark Knight trilogy-level great performance?
Logan is superhero storytelling done right. At just the right time. It’s a lovely goodbye to a beloved character, a heartfelt story of redemption, legacy, and family. We can only hope future storytellers use this as their model.
Let’s face it, the X-Men universe has as many failings as it has had successes, and the Wolverine solo movies haven’t been fantastic. Wolverine: Origins (ugh) was a tragedy, and the Wolverine, though a significant improvement over the first, still had rather serious third act problems.
Logan is based loosely on the “Old Man Logan” miniseries by Mark Millar. It’s set in 2029 in a bleak future where mutants have been dying off. Gone is the beautiful mansion full of hopeful children, no leather costumes, not a quip to be heard. It’s implied that Logan had a hand in the destruction of the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, and if you read the comics you understand the reference. The landscape is brutal, dystopian. Logan is aging, and finally even his mutant-powered body can’t heal all the pain he’s been through. He is scarred and stiff, and Hugh Jackman shows all the suffering and loss the Wolverine has been through in his eyes and scraggly beard. This is a movie about pain.
But when I say this movie was brutal, I mean at times I would say, “DAMN, movie!” It was utlraviolent, no holds barred, admantium claws through skulls and leg bones. Plus Charles Xavier swears. A lot.
But Professor X is aging, and consequently suffering from a degenerative brain disease, dangerous in one of the most powerful telepathic mutants in the world. He’s losing his memories and his grip on reality, and he is GRUMPY. Logan is keeping Charles in a broken down water tower to shield the rest of the world from his psychic outbursts, with help from the mutant, Caliban and powerful drugs. Logan dreams of saving up enough money to get a boat and get out to sea to keep the Professor away from other people, and the people away from them. Mutants, it seems, are being hunted.
When Charles starts babbling about a little girl he’s been talking to, Logan mostly writes it off and yells at Caliban to let off some steam. But when a mysterious lady shows up asking for their help her to get she and her “daughter” to a safe place in the north, things take a serious turn. Logan learns he has a daughter, or a cloned version of him, and she is a lot like him in everything from her abilities to her attitude.
Newcomer Dafne Keen plays Laura Kinney with FIRE. Watching fight scenes she and Hugh Jackman shared were almost balletic, if ballet had a lot more violence and growling. But in addition to her fierceness she also managed to show a need to connect, and she immediately warmed to the Professor. Who wouldn’t? Patrick Stewart is a delightful human.
Logan stubbornly refuses to help, he has plans that involve boats and no temperamental mini-Wolverines. But as we knew he would, he eventually bends and agrees to shepherd her to her goal, and they begin their road trip north.
This story is simple. It’s a road trip movie with characters we already know and love. It’s sci-fi, but not overcomplicated. It reminded me deeply of Mad Max: Fury Road, but also old westerns (nods to Shane throughout), and a little film noir.
But in addition to solid storytelling, this film is beautiful. Cinematographer John Mathieson and Director James Mangold actually use their cameras to convey emotion and action, and capture beautiful shots like the one in the poster. They don’t solely rely on CGI or VFX, and the movie is all the better for it.
Yet Logan, for all it’s action, is a movie about Wolverine as a character. Not as he is as an aged old man, but in remembering who he was as a hero, and becoming that hero one more time for his daughter. In no other Wolverine or X-men film have we seen so much emotion from the character. The pacing drags a little in the second act, but it gives the audience a chance to catch their breath and see the little girl in the monster who violently defended her friends and now needs a little support. Logan struggles to find a way to show affection, and in the end, he finally succeeds in the way he knows best.