Logan is the tenth X-Men movie . . . and might just be the best.
When I review a film from any franchise that has what might be described as “rabid fans”—be it Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, or anything from the Marvel or DC universes—I feel the need to confess my level of fandom up front so that readers know where I’m coming from. In Logan’s case, I need to talk about where I stand on both X-Men and an entire genre: Westerns. The truth is that I’ve never been that into X-Men films. I’ve enjoyed most of them (I even liked Apocalypse more than most people, it seems), but I don’t get excited for them in the way I do about a new Star Wars installment, and I pretty much forget about them until the next one comes out. And Westerns have never been my thing. But the weird truth is that Logan could be described as director James Mangold’s attempt at an X-Men Western . . . and the even weirder thing is that it works fantastically.
The year is 2029, and Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is some sort of Uber-like limousine driver. He’s bitter, grumpy, usually drunk, and also appears to be popping pain pills as his regenerative healing ability is failing and his leaking Adamantium skeleton is now slowly killing him. But his claws still work, and we get up-close and brutal proof of that in the opening scene, which sets the tone for the rest of the film. And that tone is dark, dark, dark. To the point where I was totally stunned at certain parts, thinking, “Wow, did they really need to do that?” So in case you’re wondering: no, don’t bring your kids.
Faring just as poorly as Logan is Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart, excellent as ever), who Logan and the albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) have hidden away in order to protect the world from his age-related convulsions. Seems that when your mind is deemed a weapon of mass destruction, you can cause some serious damage when you have recurring seizures. Charles is wasting away, regretful about the past, and filled with sorrow because the trio seems to be the last of the living mutants.
Until suddenly, they’re not.
A mysterious woman pursues Logan, tells him that she and her eleven-year-old daughter are in danger, and pleads with him to take the seemingly mute Laura (Dafne Keen, who’s wonderful) to safety in North Dakota. Logan wants no part of it, but the money is good and he’s desperate for funds to buy the pills that keep Charles sedated. Soon after Logan takes the job, a group of bad guys show up, led by a man named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, also well cast), and they demand that Logan hand over the girl. And that’s when Logan and Charles learn the hard way that Laura is like Logan—she has retractable claws, regenerative abilities, superhuman strength, impressive fighting skills . . . and quite an attitude.
From that point forward, our mutants are on the run, and if the gritty feel and barren, dusty look of the film didn’t resemble a Western before, you won’t be able to deny the similarities after the characters watch the 1953 classic Shane in a hotel room and then quote it later on.
There’s a true sense of despair in Logan, and it works because of Hugh Jackman. The entire cast turns out stunning performances, but if Jackman didn’t set exactly the right tone, the film just wouldn’t work. I’m not sure if this is the last time we’ll see Jackman playing the character he’s brought to life for 17 (!) years, but he has certainly poured his heart and soul into what seems like a definitive, heart-wrenching goodbye. And he treats fans to a few surprises (which I won’t spoil) before he’s done. Mangold, who also helmed 2013’s second Wolverine-centric film, The Wolverine, was the right choice to help send the character off. (Perhaps his experience directing 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma even influenced Logan’s look a bit?)
One of Logan’s only flaws is that it’s really not a stand-alone film. While someone who has no idea who Wolverine or Professor X are might still like it and could follow the plot, there’s simply waaaaaaay too much backstory for any writing team or director to be expected to fill in for newbies. Those who understand Charles and Logan’s full character arcs are going to have a more meaningful and deep experience that will likely end with them walking out of the theater saying, “Wow.”
The Bottom-Line: While you will undoubtedly understand and enjoy Logan more if you know the history of its main characters, this dark, Western-esque film still stands as the best Wolverine installment in the X-Men series—if not the best film of the series overall.
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier/Professor X), Dafne Keen (Laura), Boyd Holbrook (Pierce), Stephen Merchant (Caliban), Richard E. Grant (Dr. Rice)
Credits: Directed by James Mangold. Written by Michael Green, Scott Frank, and James Mangold
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Erika Olson © March 3, 2017