Logan (2016) 20th Century Fox/Sci-Fi-Action-Drama RT: 137 minutes Rated R (strong brutal violence and language throughout, brief nudity) Director: James Mangold Screenplay: Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green Music: Marco Beltrami Cinematography: John Mathieson Release date: March 3, 2017 (US) Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Quincy Fouse.
Logan is a superhero movie but only in the academic sense. It’s set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has characters from the X-Men movies. The similarities end there. If I had to compare Logan to anything, it would be one of those late-career westerns- e.g. The Shootist, Unforgiven- in which a retired gunslinger is forced to return to his old profession one last time. It also recalls the classic western Shane (it even has a scene of the characters watching the 1953 film) as well as Terminator 2, Children of Men and the Mad Max movies (Beyond Thunderdome, in particular).
While Logan is certainly guilty of falling back on clichés, they’re NOT the ones normally associated with the superhero genre. For one thing, it doesn’t rely on fancy CGI effects or apocalyptic scenarios. As much as I enjoy the MCU flicks, they’re starting to run together in my mind. I can’t be the only one that feels this way. Logan subverts the genre by telling a gritty, violent story centered on a retired hero with existential issues. It’s serious, somber and depressing. It’s also quite exciting. There are several cool action set-pieces. It’s super-violent and bloody which is a good thing as I always thought Logan (aka Wolverine) should be an R-rated superhero. In Logan, he gets to go full-tilt-boogie crazy. He’s like a Cuisinart on two legs.
Logan is set in the year 2029. Most of the world’s mutants have been eradicated by a virus. The few remaining ones prefer to keep a low profile. Logan/Wolverine, played once again by Hugh Jackman, works as a limo driver. Although his healing powers are beginning to fade, he’s still quite the bad ass. He makes quick work of a group of toughs trying to steal his tires in the movie’s opening scene. Even so, he knows his days are numbered. So are his old mentor’s (Stewart). Professor X, now in his 90s, is senile and prone to seizures. Let me tell you, when a mutant as powerful as X has a seizure, everybody knows it. Anyway, they live off the grid in an abandoned smelting plant in Mexico along with Caliban (Brit comedian Merchant), a light-sensitive mutant with the ability to track other mutants.
One day, Logan is approached by a woman, Gabriela (Rodriguez, Orange Is the New Black), who asks him to escort and an 11-year-old girl named Laura (newcomer Keen) to a place in North Dakota called “Eden”. He doesn’t want to do it but has no choice after Gabriela is murdered. Some really bad types want to get their hands on the kid. It turns out she has the same powers as Logan. She can even produce knives from her feet. She’s the product of illegal genetic experiments and has escaped, with Gabriela’s help, from the lab along with other genetically-modified children. Yep, little mutants! They’re being chased by the lab’s head of security (Holbrook, Run All Night) and his genetically-enhanced mercenary army under the orders of project head Zander Rice (Grant, Hudson Hawk).
Not only is Logan the best of the X-Men movies, it’s the best movie I’ve seen this year (so far). It subverts the superhero genre in many ways like putting the traditional post-credits bonus scene at the beginning making it a pre-credits scene. It’s a first! So there’s no need to stick around through the end credits. I won’t say what happens but it is very funny. Then we get into the depressing stuff. I don’t mean this in a negative way but Logan is a downer. Its heroes represent the end of an era. Mutants, like the gunslingers of the Old West, are no longer relevant or essential. They’re literally a dying breed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a superhero movie that can make viewers cry. That is, unless you count 2015’s Fantastic Four but it really isn’t the same thing since it actually brought on exasperated sobbing as opposed to real tears. SPOILER ALERT! Like Alien 3, there’s a note of finality here. Closure, if you will. That doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t see the characters again. In the MCU, resurrection is feasible.
Jackman gives his best Wolverine performance ever. He’s a bitter, angry drunk who wants nothing more to do with the superhero business. Besides, what’s written about him (and his old team) in the X-Men comic books (Laura keeps a couple in her book bag) is mostly BS. He’s reached that crucial point in life where men of questionable morals start feeling guilt over their dirty deeds. All the killing he did over the many, MANY years is finally getting to him. He’s lost most of his friends and purpose in life. He doesn’t want to see Laura go down that same path but he has little control over that. Stewart also does a great job as elderly Professor X who knows he’s reached the end of his life. He lends a note of poignancy as he urges Logan to try to enjoy what life he has left. In her first role, Keen is simply incredible. She doesn’t say much (until the last 30 minutes) but still gets much across with her eyes and facial expressions. She’s like a young Christina Ricci.
The fight scenes in Logan are exciting and well-executed. Unlike other superhero movies, they’re not overedited to disguise the fact that CGI is really doing the work. The fight scenes have fluidity. The actors look like they’re really fighting. Director James Mangold (Walk the Line) keeps us close to the action. The violence is good and bloody; the body count is high. I like the dark tone of Logan. I also like how it references other movies. Like the hero in Shane, Logan gets close to a family being threatened by evil land-snatchers. What I like best about Logan, however, is how it deconstructs the genre and gives us something we don’t expect, a “superhero movie” that cares as much about character and story as it does action. It’s not trying to show off or outdo other superhero movies. The action has flow, it feels organic to the story. It makes you look at the genre in a whole different way. It’s brilliant and a total must-see.