March 5, 2017.
I think I’m in the minority here, but Deadpool was a disappointing movie. It was quite funny, don’t get me wrong, but it lacked a clear story. Ryan Reynolds was really great at spewing random nonsense at the screen, but the movie didn’t capture me. It was the R-rated superhero movie that broke ground, and proved that audiences will flock to see limbs being disassembled and an abundance of f-bombs being spewed. But it wasn’t all that great. Logan is all that great and more. It is a near-perfect superhero movie, and easily the best in the X-Men franchise. Logan takes the R-Rated superhero genre and flips the script by not only including an insane amount of violence and cursing, but creates a complex, emotional character study and is the perfect swan song for Jackman as Wolverine.
Logan is directed by James Mangold and stars Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, and Hugh Jackman as our titular hero. Mangold also directed 2013’s, The Wolverine. An overall underrated film in the X-Men canon, but was bogged down by its terrible final act. Mangold improves on everything from his first Wolverine film, and delivers us one of the most complex superhero movies to date. The year is 2029, and there are only a number of mutants left. Logan is a limo driver for a city near the US-Mexican border. He drinks too much, his wounds never fully heal, and is taking care of his mentor, Charles Xavier (Stewart), out in the middle of the mexican dry heat. Our story is propelled when a young mutant girl named Laura is thrust into Logan and Charles’ lives, and they must protect her from a mysterious group that are after her powers. The story in Logan is inherently complex, and the relationship between the characters is what elevates the emotion and creates a deep connection between our protagonists that other superhero films often fail to do. Logan has a great story attached to it, but it takes a little while to get the ball rolling. The first quarter of the film, and the setup of the story, is quite slow. There are a lot of expository scenes, (very necessary because we are pushed into this new time period without any context) and the way that we meet our story and the villains feels too random to be true. The first 30 minutes only sets up our main conflict, it is boring, but it is necessary. But once the ball starts rolling, it doesn’t stop. Everything after the 25-30 minute mark is near perfection in all its R-Rated glory.
I’m going to backtrack a bit, and start with the opening scene of Logan, that has nothing to do with story or plot, but sets up the tone and feel of the whole movie. Logan wakes up in his limo, only to finds four mexican gangbangers trying to strip the bolts off his rims. Logan doesn’t like this, and I’m sure you can guess what happens to the four amigos. The violence in this film is incredible. It’s not restricted by its rating. The R-Rating allows it to be free to do whatever the hell it wants. The fighting and violence is raw and real. It compliments the setting perfectly, and the emotion of the movie would not be as powerful without it. This movie is like a western-chase film set with superheroes and in the future. What an amazing combination right? Full disclosure here; there is a lot of blood in Logan. If you’re squeamish you may find your stomach dropping and your heart racing while you’re sweating profusely in your seat. I don’t want to spoil the many awesome deaths that are in Logan, but I can tell you there are decapitations. There are faces getting slashed and punctured by the adamantium claws that make up Laura and Logan. There are men who get impaled by construction vehicles. Logan has it all, and the violence is as close to perfect as a superhero movie can have.
The action is incredible in Logan, but the slow character building scenes are just as memorable and important. Mangold directs Logan with an eye for character building. He profusely incorporates character driven scenes amid the ballistic action to balance the film out. These scenes are quiet, and they drive the emotional core of the story. All the scenes are sprinkled throughout the film when it hits the 1 hour mark. Exposition is little, but character interaction and depth is high. The dinner table scene that appears in the trailer might be my favorite of the movie. It’s touching, funny, poignant, and sums up the relationship between Logan and Charles perfectly. It’s a small moment, but stuck with me long after the screening. The relationship between Logan and Laura is also developed really well. Logan starts off with no attachment or care for Laura. He looks at her as a way to obtain money so him and Charles can leave their mexican hell hole. As you would guess, the relationship starts to change, and it fully blossoms at the very end of the movie, which leads me to the final shot. Logan’s final shot may be my favorite of any movie I have ever seen. It is emotional, and will undoubtedly leave the audience with tears welling up in their eyes. It’s perfect.
I also need to talk about Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in this film. They’re both incredible. Jackman sells his tortured soul who’s been through hell and back perfectly. He drops f-bombs left and right. He’s seen everything and been through everything. His personality has changed to a pessimistic old-man who just wants to live the rest of his life in serenity. It is Jackman’s best performance as Wolverine, and is honestly awards-worthy. Stewart is very subtle in his role as Charles Xavier. He is deft in his transitions from senile old-man to the wise, understanding character that inhabits the other X-Men films. The scene where he explains, “this is the best night I’ve had in a long time,” is stirring and heavy. Stephen Merchant was pretty good as the albino mutant Caliban, but I take points away from the way his character was handled. He was nothing like I thought he was going to be entering the movie. I’m ok with this, but I’m not ok with how his character is just a device to drive the plot. There is no depth or emotion to him. The young Dafne Keen as Laura doesn’t have a lot of lines, but she makes use of her time with real facial expressions contributing to the feeling the audience has with she and Logan’s relationship. Boyd Holbrook is really charming as the muscle of the operation, and the second in command of the evil corporation set on capturing Laura. This leads to my biggest problem with the film and superhero movies in general; the villain(s). The main villains in Logan are one-dimensional with nothing interesting about them. They don’t help drive emotion, and have zero meaningful attachment to any of our protagonists. They are your by the numbers, one-off type villains who don’t serve the story any justice.
Logan was one of my most anticipated films of the year. The Johnny Cash type western vibe I got from the trailers sold me, and it carried well into the movie. The emotional depth of Logan is some of the best of the superhero genre. The raw, R-Rated action is ballistic and respects the tone of the movie well. Our main squad is well built with wonderful, quiet moments of character building. The story takes a while to get interesting, and the side characters/villains are weak and uninteresting. There is also a scene near the start where an employee of the evil corporation takes videos, claims that what they are doing is “illegal”, and still manages to perfectly film the doctors and crew members maintaining and operating on the patients while in full sight, all shot from her iPhone. You’ll know what I mean when you see the movie. In retrospect there is no way that video would have been able to be shot, and edited together. However; the highs of Logan greatly outway the lows, and all of it assembled together creates an emotionally resonant, character driven superhero film that earns its R-Rating. I implore you to see Logan, as it is a beautiful, almost poetic swansong for the great Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
(Side note. There is a lot of plot points that come up in Logan that were first explored through the first 3 X-Men movies, and both the solo Wolverine films. I would recommend seeing these films if you haven’t before going to Logan, as they will give you a more heightened emotional reaction between the characters.)