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Review: Logan (2017)

Logan (2017)

Directed by: James Mangold

Premise: The third standalone Wolverine movie. Set in the near future, Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) is in hiding with Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). They encounter a young mutant (Dafne Keen) who is pursued by the sinister agents of a corporate laboratory.

What Works: In much the same way that 2016’s Deadpool sent up the clichés and pomposity of the superhero film, Logan is a straightforward antidote to bloated and overreaching comic book movies. This is a serious film but not in a way that is pretentious. Opposite of X-Men: Apocalypse in virtually every way, Logan strips down the cast and the scope of the story to an intimate scale. The film opens after a calamity has wiped out the X-Men. Mutants are going extinct and Logan is not healing from his injuries the way that he used to. He lives off the grid with Professor Charles Xavier, who is old and infirm and kept on medication to stave off seizures that could have deadly consequences. This is a bold way to begin the film and it is far departed from any of the other X-Men pictures or any other superhero film for that matter. Among Logan’s most impressive qualities is the way it creates vivid stakes for its characters. Logan is essentially a western in which the old gunslinger is called out for one last job and it echoes Shane and Unforgiven. In this case, Wolverine is recruited to escort a young mutant girl to safety which he does at Charles’ urging. The film isn’t about saving the world, it’s just about saving this one little girl and ultimately about accepting mortality. The human stakes of Logan are far more involving and affecting than so many other superhero films about mass destruction. The human scale of the movie puts the emphasis on the characters which allows the actors to give tremendous performances. Logan is led by Hugh Jackman in the title role. Jackman has played Wolverine in nine films released over the past seventeen years. He brings that history to bear on this final installment and Logan is a moving finale for the character. Also impressive is Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. The professor is a different kind of character in Logan than he was in other X-Men movies and Stewart makes him into a sympathetic and even tragic figure. The central cast is rounded out by Dafne Keen as Laura, the young mutant. Keen holds her own against Jackman and Stewart and her feral qualities gradually give way to a nuanced character.

What Doesn’t: Logan is not like the other X-Men films in a couple of respects. For one, Logan does not fit into the continuity of the rest of the series. Although it is never stated overtly, there are strong implications that Logan exists in its own reality, separate from any of the other X-Men movies. That’s not a flaw of this film but if that is the case it means that this is a different character than the Wolverine of the previous X-Men films and so Logan does not really wrap up the story of the character we’ve seen to this point. Logan is also unlike the other X-Men films in that it is an R-rated picture. The film includes foul language and sexuality as well as the gore that was only implied in Wolverine’s previous adventures. This also is not a flaw of the movie; it’s a stylistic choice that is appropriate to the tone of this film but parents should be advised that Logan is a hard-R and should make judgments accordingly. Logan does sag a bit in the middle. The movie runs two hours and seventeen minutes and in places it feels its length. This is partly due to the pacing but also because the film lacks clear narrative goal posts. The characters are going somewhere vague and they are being pursued by villains whose goals are also murky. Logan would have benefitted from a more concrete narrative as to where the characters are going and why and who is trying to stop them.

Bottom Line: Logan is one of the best, if not the best, entry in the X-Men film series and certainly the best of the standalone Wolverine films. It’s a different movie than its associates in the X-Men universe but in ways that distinguish it and make it a better movie.

Episode: #638 (March 12, 2017)