Very few times since the beginning of the superhero boom have I felt we have gotten a visceral, guttural, and hart moving film in the genre. Logan, stands in good company. Many times when we go see a superhero movie the first thing we expect is a big budget, special effects out the wazoo, and little to no plot. Logan will subvert many potential film goers expectations. The very first thing we see in the film is Mangold letting you know this is not your daddy's Wolverine. Or maybe it is. Because this is not the Wolverine we've seen in previous films. He's vicious. He is incredibly violent. And the camera lingers on the action so that you truly know Wolverine is the best at what he does... and what he does isn't very nice.
We start the film with Logan, once again masterfully played by Hugh Jackman, in one of the most vulnerable states we've ever seen. Even if you've seen returning director James Mangold's last Wolvie effort, The Wolverine, you have yet to see him in the state he is in throughout this film. He's battered. Bruised. Broken. He is truly at the end of his rope and clearly out of the superhero shenanigans racket. Not only is Logan in dire straits but so too is Charles Xavier, who is reprized by Patrick Stewart, and he is in (hard as it may be to believe) worse shape than the titular character.
Even Caliban, a returning character from X-Men: Apocalypse, who is now played by Stephen Merchant in this new iteration, is not as pompous and flippant as he was in the recent X-Sequel. Both characters are struggling in a world that has long since moved on without them. They make it clear something cataclysmic happened to decline the mutant population, but the director (I feel) made a strong choice not to divulge too much information. Its hinted at here and there, but Mangold keeps the attention firmly centered on Logan, Xavier, Caliban (to an extent), and the film's newcomer – Laura, played by Dafne Keen.
Now, if you've seen even one of the shortest and least spoiler filled clips/teasers, or if you saw the after credits stinger at the end of X-Men: Apocalypse, you probably already know who Laura is. She is one of Marvel's latest and highly popular characters, X-23. They don't really go through much of the film referring to her as such, but its made very clear within the first act of the film. Logan is given a task he isn't very jazzed about taking on, and it involves transporting Laura to a “secret sanctuary” where other mutants are living out their lives in peace. If you're thinking “Hey, that sounds awfully like the plot of Naughty Dog's mega hit video game The Last of Us!” no one would blame you for it. Everything from the look of Logan and the attitude and charisma of Laura screams it.
Its not a bad thing that they went this direction, because it serves the story so well. Everyone involved in this film is chewing up scenery like its an all you can eat buffet. Hugh Jackman is bringing an even more world weary and angry Logan than we've ever seen. Stewart has channeled the best parts of his previous portrayals of Xavier, and even brings in some of his Rated R charisma from Starz's now canceled Blunt Talk's main protagonist, Walter Blunt. Even the film's villain, Donald Pierce, is well played Boyd Holbrook and his portrayal lends so much lightheartedness with just enough snarky villainy to remind you this is still a comic book movie.
I say that because through the first two acts of the film, action sequences and set pieces aside, the film is incredibly grounded. Its not until the final act where the movie starts to take a turn down Superhero Alley. Now that probably sounds like harsh criticism, but I promise you I mean this in the nicest way possible. There were many moments in the movie I literally forgot I was watching a movie in the X-Men franchise. And it isn't a bad thing either. The fans needed this kind of film. I'd go as far as to say this is as close to a “The Dark Knight” styled film as a FOX produced X-Men franchise film could be. This could be literally any other movie minus the superpowers and comic book origins, which is a tactic Marvel Studios has used to its advantage with hits like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Ant Man.
That being said, Mangold and company throw a lot of surprises at the audience that even I, a dyed-in-the-wool geek who has seen it all just about, was very happy to see the twists and turns they had in store. Meeting the Munsons (played by Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, and Quincy Munson) offered a nice reprieve from the action and special effects, even if it was only short lived. The humor utilized by the cast is spot on with little snarky comments made by characters like Caliban and Pierce, to the moments of blatant sarcasm and arguing Logan and Xavier engage in. Even Laura is absolutely magnetic through the entirety of her screen time, and she barely speaks.
One of the only parts of the movie I was less sold on is Richard E. Grant's Dr. Rice. It wasn't so much because he wasn't acted well, but because he didn't offer anything tangible to the story that Holbrook's Pierce wasn't already supplying. His role could have been cut entirely and the film would not have suffered for it, which saddens me because I love Grant as an actor. Another point of contention in this movie is the run time. It not necessarily long in the tooth or anything, but I feel some scenes may have dragged on too long, and in some cases just to reinforce a notion that the rest of the films makes incredibly clear from jump street.
Regardless of my previous criticisms, this is a movie that knows what it needs to do and doesn't stand on too much ceremony to get the job done. The ending will move many people, and though it raises some questions, it answers far more. It offers us the next step in the story, as well as, gifts us some of the best performances in a superhero movie we will probably see for a long time. I would dare say this is likely going to be a favorite in the X-franchise. Maybe even the clear favorite aside from last year's break out hit, Deadpool.
With this movie and the previously mentioned Deadpool, FOX has finally found the formula. R rating + compelling storytelling – producers meddling = a strong film. Sadly, Fantastic Four couldn't get the same treatment, but this has made me feel confidant that future X-Men films, X-Force, New Mutants, and whatever other X-projects are lying in wait will be exactly what we need... so long as they stick to the formula and remember the mistakes of X-Men: Apocalypse.
- Chemistry between Logan, Xavier, and Laura
- Logan and Laura's fight scenes
- Holbrook's Donald Pierce
- Mangold's surpise hits
- Richard E. Grant's Dr. Rice
- Some scenes are a little unnecessary