Logan (2016) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity
Running Time: 137 min.
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Eriq La Salle
Director: James Mangold
Screenplay: Scott Frank, James Mangold, Michael Green
Review published March 4, 2017
In a fitting send-off for Hugh Jackman (Eddie the Eagle, Pan) with his most beloved character (this is his seventeenth year in the breakthrough role covering nine film appearances), Logan, becoming the second X-Men film in Fox's history with the franchise to have an R rating, more willing to take chances with a more adult property after the surprise success of Deadpool. So long to the bloodless skewerings at the hands of Wolverine's adamantium blades, as director and co-writer James Mangold, who also helmed the prior solo spin-off, The Wolverine, goes in full bore with the lopped-off limbs and vicious stabbings, and liberally sprinkles the F-bombs we only heard a couple of times in the previous efforts.
Set in the year 2029, we find a world where there are no newly born mutants, and the ones that did exist have been all but completely wiped out. Spirit broken, body beaten and losing its ability to quickly heal, and with a sense of self-loathing to the point where suicide seems an increasingly attractive option, Logan finds himself working as a limousine driver, trying to scrape together enough funds to help nonagenarian Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart, Green Room), who he has stashed in an isolated facility in Mexico, away from the general population due the the fact that Professor X, without his meds to corral his psychic abilities, loses control of his mutant powers and lashes out in seismic burst from his seizures. During this time, Logan is introduced to a young girl named Laura (Keen, "The Refugees"), an escapee from a mutant-manufacturing lab who, astonishingly, seems to have identical powers to the Wolverine. Hitting the road, the trip seek to escape those who are out to take them down, while also looking for a mythical mutant sanctuary called 'Eden'.
Mangold, who delighted with a great modern Western with 3:10 to Yuma gives his superhero film a deliberate oater aesthetic, even paying some nods to suggestions of cowboy attire, as well as a lengthy tribute to the classic genre piece, Shane. Despite being set in the near future, this one's still mostly out on dusty roads, as our antihero must come to terms with his desire to be left alone, while also determining to do what's right as part of a team. It also gives him a chance to protect a daughter figure, in a story thread resembling the recent Mel Gibson vehicle, Blood Father, though with more severe implications to those around him depending on him.
There's more than R-rated graphic violence and potty mouths to set Logan apart from the rest of the pack. There's an attempt at giving the titular character more definition in his character, as well as to up the gravitas of the stakes at hand in making his go from outcast to reluctant hero. As there's less budget to invest into an R-rated feature, Mangold calls his shots as far as special effects goes to a few key set battle sequences, keeping razzle-dazzle to a minimum in between. The film works best as a character study, which is also why the begrudging need to still infuse the story with traditional X-Men plot mechanics, and ham-handed ones in their delivery (the battle at the climax is especially artificial in its feel and predictable in its plot developments), gives the production an imbalance that doesn't fully allow us to take Logan and his plight as one worth fully delving into from a psychological portrait standpoint.
While Jackman's performance goes a long way to making Logan work, the film as a whole has a sense of unevenness to it, as well as prolonged lulls that make its 2.25-hour length occasionally feel longer than it necessary for the purpose of a fairly simple plotline. The villains are also largely forgettable save for one that looks and acts remarkably like himself, eventually culminating in showdowns reminiscent to Terminator 2. While the rest of the film is grittier than what we've seen before on the side of the heroes, the bad guys seem like the same-old comic book villains we expect in this universe in terms of their performances, chewing scenery and delighting themselves in their maniacal deeds.
Supporting players are hit and miss. It is a fine debut to the series for Dafne Keen as Laura, who has to work with a mostly dialogue-free role. There's not enough there to suggest she could carry a film on her own, but as part of an ensemble, she should be an asset. Patrick Stewart is a welcome presence as well, in what he has already stated will be his last turn in the iconic role. The rest of the cast is either workable or somewhat stiff (the handling of the other child performances is particularly mechanical), but with Jackman front and center the vast majority of the time, the film still manages to work well enough on a surface level. However, there are quite a number of deaths within this film, one of them involving people who deem to help the mutants find their destination, and those scenes, while surprising in terms of showing us how no one is safe in this world, lack the emotional bite you might expect if the thriller within Logan weren't so superficial beyond whatever pain Jackman is bringing to the role.
X-Men fans will likely be ecstatic to hyperbole (some will no doubt instantly proclaim Logan to be the best superhero film since The Dark Knight, just as they did every prior one they loved, and every effort they love henceforth) given the amped-up violence, as well as send-offs to one of the most iconic comic-book characters in history, played by the man who ended up defining him to a new generation of film fans. Those who are tepid on the series will receive a more mixed bag, offering more depth in terms of its grit and resolve, but not feeling the emotional punch of some of the key moments in the film for those who've already been fully invested into the Wolverine and his world of mutant heroes going into it.
Still, Jackman delivers one of the better performances in his career in his defining role, appropriately using his actual name rather than his mutant-powered moniker, as it delves into who the man is inside more so than how he works as a public persona. He will definitely be sorely missed in future franchise entries. While I have a suspicion that one of the most popular superheroes in comics will return in some form or fashion, whomever takes over the role will have some some big shoes to fill, or, I should say, some long retractable claws.
©2017 Vince Leo