Since 2000, the X-Men adapted movie franchise has swayed back and forth in my opinion from good to barely watchable. Some of it is age, for both the films, and me but mostly it's just been a series bogged down by bland writing, forgettable performances, and recycled storylines. In 2016, with some much needed fresh blood, Deadpool revived my waning interest in all things X-Men. Following up with this year’s James Mangold directed Logan was yet another break from the core X-Men franchise films. Concentrating on the aspect of “one last ride” with the wayward mutant character was designed to get us in the seats, along with a promised Hard-R rating. It turns out, that after two Wolverine focused films, that didn’t quite work, James Mangold has finally presented the character as he was meant to be after all these years.
Hugh Jackman returns as a far different version of the Wolverine character than we’ve seen before. Taking place in the year 2029, Logan is making a living (if you’d call it that) by driving a limo. The first few moments of the film show just how damaged he is emotionally and physically. However, there is still some fight left in that old dog. He finds out that Logan is taking care of an aging Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is suffering from an age-related brain disease. He often has seizures that prove incredibly harmful to all those around him. Working as a caregiver to the aging professor is Caliban (Stephen Merchant) in a serious role that was frankly completely unexpected for the otherwise comedic actor. The three live just across the border in Mexico trying to stay under the radar.
Their derelict lives are interrupted when a woman comes looking for Logan to help her with a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). Logan is not pleased about having to take care of this little girl, but circumstances make it beyond his control and he is charged with getting her to a place called Eden, a mutant sanctuary. Laura’s appearance also brings with it Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the technologically enhanced leader of a group called The Reavers. They are charged with recapturing Laura by any means necessary.
This basic premise starts the cat and mouse like chase of Logan and his crew by The Reavers. The film is a definite departure from the more traditional comic book movies that we’ve seen from Marvel Studios. Logan is much more in line, in style, with Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Far more character driven than standard far lasers and magic. In many ways, it takes its cues from films like ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘The Wrestler’ more so than a Spider-Man or Captain America film. This isn’t a comment on quality, but rather just in style and story structure. Due to that change in feel, there are moments when you wouldn’t be able to tell that this was a comic book movie, and I personally think that’s just fine. Marvel Studios has their style and it's working great, DC is trying to create a style that is sort of coming together, and now Fox is trying this. Mangold’s hand in Logan is apparent from the first moment and never lets up. The previous film, The Wolverine lacked follow through in the third act. Logan does not have the issue.
One of the big draws of Logan was the R rating. The Wolverine character is pretty violent in nature, so fans were very excited for the possibilities of seeing him let loose on screen. Well, I am here to tell you that you won’t be disappointed. The brutality of the character is on full display here. The movie waits about 2 minutes before you get your first glimpses at just what the R rating means. The film also shows off Laura/X-23’s abilities as well, and they definitely need to be in the world of an R-rating. The performances were certainly worthy of the marketing campaign of this being Jackman’s final run at the character (so he says). Jackman puts together a serious tone for Logan that was brooding and passionate. It lacked a full spectrum of nuance, but his character’s world is so incredibly bleak that this might have been on purpose. Patrick Stewart’s performance as the aging foul-mouthed Professor Xavier was great. I am not sure Stewart could give a bad Xavier performance even if he tried. James McAvoy has incredibly large shoes to fill. Stephen Merchant’s Caliban was not a particularly large roll but he did surprise me with how well he transitioned into such a serious character. Boyd Holbrook’s Donald Pierce was a southern fried menace that had some great verbal sparring sessions with Logan. He never reached the heights of ludicrousness, which can sometimes happen with comic book villains. He was straightforward in his purpose and execution. Last but certainly not least, Dafne Keen, as Laura/X-23 was a miniature badass. Her glances we like shooting daggers towards anyone who crossed her path and could be followed up with some serious devastation. Not sure what’s in the future for the character, but Dafne Keen’s portrayal was a great introduction.
There wasn’t much I found wrong with the film, but two things did stand out. The runtime was entirely too long. The film could have shaved off about 20-30 minutes and worked just as well. Parts dragged a bit in the second half of the movie, which should have been tightened up in the final edit. Lastly, the ending was a bit melodramatic and didn’t need to try so hard to garner emotion. It took away from some of the sheer brutality of it all.
All and all, Logan might just be one of the X-Men universe’s best films. Working to break the narrative style of its predecessor helped in the long run, and studios shouldn’t be afraid to do that from time to time. Even juggernauts like Marvel Studios have pulled off deeply personal stories in order to break the mold of their past work. Logan is a great send off to actor Hugh Jackman who’s been playing the role for 17 years. Finally, in the end, he got to portray the beloved character as he’s always wanted.
4 out of 5 stars