Logan Review

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Hugh Jackman hangs up his claws in this (probably) final outing as the ever popular Wolverine in Logan; this time, Wolverine and an aging Professor X (in a no-less important final outing for Patrick Stewart’s Xavier) take a road-trip to save a young girl in a post-apocalyptic future. It’s cheery! Lee, Lawrence and Aisling review.

LeeButton

The comic book adaptations that have come to define the last ten years have often been plagued with the desire to do everything all at once, use all the ideas; especially both Marvel and DC Comics, who have such a long, storied history of inventiveness it just feels a waste not to use as much as possible at every given opportunity. The problem is some stories just don’t require or benefit from an excess in creativity; some stories do more with less. Logan is one such story, and for the most part, it gets the focus and detachment from that well that it truly requires.

In this issue of X-Men, long-time angry Canadian Logan (or Wolverine to his fans) has found his well-established powers of self-healing and imperviousness are slowly-but-surely fading due to some likely self-evident metal bones poisoning. On top of this, it’s the near future and almost all mutants have been wiped out, leaving Logan and the now senile Professor Xavier to hide-out over the Mexican border. Eventually they get tasked with protecting a little girl and her mother on a cross-country trip and Logan reluctantly accepts for another opportunity to find himself along the way.

If that feels like a lot of exposition thrown at you right off the bat, then you’re now at least half prepared for the opening of Logan, which prefers to tell you its issues rather than address them through subtlety or some visual tactics; all of which is fine, par for the superhero course. Once all is addressed however, the film’s pace takes a noticeable turn for the purposefully slow. Sure, plenty of opportunities for violent set-pieces rear their heads along the way, but 70% of Logan is a sombre family road-trip, echoing the demure struggles of another Fox find: Little Miss Sunshine.

It’s moving stuff for the most part, allowing the audience to get, at long last, a solid grasp of the misery and self-loathing that drives Logan through his misadventures. Always a softie with a longing for companionship, now turned bitter and jaded in a surprising reflection on what it must be to truly reach an age where almost all of your friends have died. Some affecting turns of grief processing and desperation bring the character more to life than ever before, and having the tone step away from melodramatic to frustrated and defeated feels like a fitting way to call it a day for this iteration of the character.

There’s something akin to optimism driving the movie too; a genuine conspiracy of hope amongst the sheer dustbowl of depravity that has driven our characters to this point. Through Laura (or a young X-23 to her fans) we get something of an asylum seekers tale, and through her eyes we experience the distrust, resentment, naivety and relentless hope that must be felt by those who seek refuge in other, supposedly better places. The ending is rather open-ended as well, sparing us that firm Disney fairy-tale resolution that would surely overstretch the means of the narrative.

With a dark, knowing humour, a surprisingly complimentary leaning on hard gory violence and more than a handful of memorable quotes, scenes and moments to boot; Logan does more than it needs to step out from the superhero herd, almost enough even to make you glance over the numerous amount of times that it forgets to.

A forgettable political villain thrown in almost as a knowing parody of the standard set by X-Men, yet not cleverly enough to warrant savouring; a stumbling doppelganger threat that, admittedly, personifies Logan’s constant internal turmoil in a fun way, is totally at odds with the story being told and feels far too hard a call-back to the goofiness of the silver age X-Men; a number of diversions on the road-trip that don’t introduce themselves naturally leading you to see the efforts the screenwriters were making to tie all their ideas together, such as the short stay with the farmers or the artificial screenplay-lengthener casino visit – there’s just much too much filler in this story.

Child slavery, immigration, loss, Alzheimer’s, torture, interpretation of legacy, depression, family turmoil, father-son and father-daughter parallels, suicide; the list of important topics grows sky-high, only to be either barely touched upon or overshadowed by shady corporate shenanigans, magic serums, a hierarchy of villains vying for the spotlight and some loose talk of future wars which have no place in this story and stretch the runtime well past the cosy hour-forty-five it should have been.

Add to that missed potential with likeable villain Donald Pierce being downgraded to a useless side role before the film is out, a totally meaningless albino mutant played by Stephen Merchant that really could have had a spot in this story before relegation to plot-forwarding sniffer dog, and a number of glaring plot holes (they had drones the whole time? And it’s cute, but she could talk too? We’ve spent an awful long time moaning about Eden’s existence) and slowly the film starts to chip away in recommendation.

But that’s really only something that will affect rewatch and reflection. In the moment, it’s an emotional and fitting tribute to a character that has seen both the goofy ludicrous and powerful brilliance in his run with an inconsistent but beloved-non-the-less series. The finale is note-perfect, the allusions to Terminator 2 and westerns (Shane most notably) throughout are pretty apt, and, while also drenched in the kind of jarring misery that really does eat at you even as the movie tries to make uncomfortable jokes, overall it’s hard to imagine the kind of person who wouldn’t get something from this trip.

No post-credits, by the way. That’s how you know they were serious.

B+

[Lee’s review originally posted 03/03/2017]

LawrenceButton

It’s really everything I could ever want from a “solo” Wolverine movie.

Isn’t it so strange that a character whose superpower entails eviscerating people to death with impossibly-sharp claws would only get that meaty R-rating after nearly seventeen years, at (ostensibly) the very end of his cinematic tenure? And with some lovely child-violence thrown in too! It feels like a treat, a nice reward for continued patronage. You could argue the gore is superficial, but this is a character for whom savagery is a core theme, and PG-13 is frankly insufficient. In any case, seeing the red spray as a series of loathsome goons are reduced to fine shreds triggers what almost feels like an epiphany: “My God. This is it. This is all that we’ve ever wanted; it all seems so simple now. How could this have taken so long?” It’s a reassuring “at last!” feeling, and it lulls you into a pleasant sense of comfort- that you are in safe hands, so that you permit some gambles later on.

And there are some ballsy risks taken, of that there is no doubt. Too ballsy, even. It seems this movie is writing cheques that FOX won’t be willing to cash. Sure, it’s set in the future (2029), with plenty of time in-between then and “now” to slot in a few more flicks; but the bittersweet finality of Logan will make any previous victories decidedly pyrrhic. And you can only Days of Future Past yourself out of trouble once before audiences get wise; no backsies!

Logan follows the eponymous character (Hugh Jackman) as he hides out on the Mexican border with the mentally deteriorating Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and the suddenly Bristolian Caliban (Stephen Merchant), only to find himself embroiled in a chase between a large biotech corporation and a young mutant (Dafne Keen) with some unsettlingly familiar powers. What’s more, the healing factor keeping the poisonous adamantium that lines his skeleton from killing him (amongst other things) is slowing down, and a cure is nowhere to be found.

The scope is greatly reduced to a more personal level than previous entries. No earth-saving here, no deciding the fate of society; just doing everything to ensure that at least someone has a happy ending. Shane is an explicit reference point, and while likely not a direct influence it rings of No Country for Old Men’s neo-western trappings, but diluted down with comic-book silliness; I cannot comment if that’s to its detriment or not. I can say that it is surprisingly touching; if anything, it’s a heartfelt send-off to Jackman and Stewart.

Despite my earlier praise, it’s troubled in some important places. It seems the Marvel curse of weak cinematic villains isn’t restricted to the works of the company itself; Logan’s offering is Amoral Scientist Model 42 (Richard E. Grant), available from your local Halloween costume boutique. He’s backed up by Amoral Mercenary Model 8 (Boyd Holbrook), some assembly required. They’re as generic as they come, and the means of their comeuppance is so appropriate that it almost makes up for it, but only almost.

I haven’t seen the entire series, so I must ask: is it really so difficult to have a fleshed-out, high-quality cinematic X-Men villain that isn’t Magneto? The Hellfire Club from First Class were pretty fun, but at the end of the day it was just Kevin Bacon hamming it up and keeping the seat warm for Magneto to hop in later; the villains of Logan are more representative of an overall “threatening force” than anything else. And the film just can’t quite escape those little contrivances; why not just kill that guy, Logan? And let’s be honest Caliban, we all appreciate the thought, but was that really the most effective use of those grenades?

Despite the movie being otherwise excellent, it leaves many worrying (exciting?) uncertainties about the franchise’s future. Maybe “Shaggy Dog story” is too strong a phrase, but that’s certainly the feeling I got. What now, though? More children murdering and/or being murdered, one hopes. The underground club that I usually go to for that sort of thing has barred me, for “degeneracy”.

A-

(Note to Editor: Oh, how I tried to shoehorn the sentence: “It did the best with what it had, but what it had wasn’t very nice” into this review.  But alas, I thought it was too good to warrant it. Future opportunities are growing direly thin!)

AislingButton

Inspired by the comic Old Man Logan, Logan closes the door not only on Wolverine, but the X-Men franchise as we know it.

With the mutant apocalypse depicted – and supposedly prevented – in Days of Future Past coming to pass, Logan’s virtue is the simplicity of its storyline. There is no supervillain. It’s not an over-inflated, over-complicated sci-fi trip involving time-travel and ancient deities. Instead, it is essentially the familiar ‘road-trip’ story, depicting a man trying to run away from his past but who ends up discovering his purpose along the way. Indeed, Logan’s heart is the relationship between its three leads. Jackman and Stewart are at their very best, whilst newcomer Keen is electrifying as Laura.

With the recent onslaught of superhero movies, the genre was beginning to feel more than a little saturated. Logan distances itself from previous films by delving into territory few superhero films dare to. Gone are the impressive costumes and awe-inspiring demonstrations of mutant superpowers. Wolverine himself even ridicules his comic-book depiction, juxtaposing it against the aging, decaying bodies of two of X-Men’s most iconic characters, leaving us with the adamantium-coated skeleton of the world’s most renowned superhero.

With the news that this is Jackman and Stewart’s last outing as Logan and Charles Xavier, Logan is a fitting swan-song for them. Although with James Mangold reticent to place Logan in any definite timeline, one cannot help but feel that it not only makes the character of Wolverine redundant, but the whole X-Men universe as well.

X-Men first burst onto our screens in 2000, giving life to a series of prequels and sequels. Whilst Wolverine and Professor X are undoubtedly its biggest stars, the audience is never given closure on the fate of the other X-Men who helped make the franchise the behemoth it is. The irony that Charles Xavier killed his mutant protégés seems little more than a cruel twist. It’s a cheap move for those invested in the series as a whole.

As a standalone, Logan is incredible. As part of the X-Men franchise, it is a depressing ending. It is something audiences could not have predicted; whilst previous X-Men films centred on the fight for mutants to be accepted, Logan defies being super in favour of being human.

B-

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One thought on “Logan Review

  1. Pingback: AtlanticSC Podcast #S02E03 – Logan | Big Picture Reviews

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