Have you ever seen a movie so incredible that it just leaves you speechless? At this point, I can damn sure say I have. I’ve been sitting at my computer for weeks, trying to figure out how to write this review. I think it goes without saying that Logan is a good movie. Even a great movie. So what can I say about it? How do I put into words the profound effect of the grand finale to one of cinema’s greatest characters?
Guess we’ll find out.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is a character that needs no introduction. He first hit the scene in 2000’s X-Men and was a huge influence on the current wave of comic book movies. His portrayal of the character has gone so far as to affect the way Wolverine comics are written. The latest installment, however, flips the script on the entire character. James “Logan” Howlett is a century and a half old by the start of the movie he lends his name to, and it’s finally started wearing on him. The X-Men are gone, save for himself and Professor Xavier, who has now gone senile. The two, along with Caliban (last seen in X-Men: Apocalypse, though the two appearances of the character are surprisingly unrelated), live in hiding in Mexico. One day, while working as an Uber driver, Logan is tasked with being a hero one last time, escorting a mysterious little girl across the country, all while being chased by some fanboy with a robot hand and his newest creation.
…I know it sounds like I’m describing an awesome road trip superhero movie, but that would be grossly misrepresenting what this film is like. Sure, it’s got action (sweet, gorey, R-rated action), but at heart it’s a character drama and in form more closely resembles a western. Much like Watchmen (the book), it’s less a superhero movie and more a movie about people who happened to have been superheroes once. One of the biggest influences on the film is Shane (1953), allusions to which are worked into the movie in only the most heart-wrenching ways. Perhaps the strongest element of the film is how it manages to subvert superhero tropes in favor of those more common in westerns and deconstruct the genre in a way very few can pull off. The obvious comparison is to The Dark Knight Returns (the book), as both follow the resurgence of a retired superhero in a dystopian future. Interestingly, the film actually has more in common with TDKR than it does with Old Man Logan, the book on which it’s most directly based. The storytelling in Logan is much more subtle and somber than in Old Man Logan, as the latter tends to roll around in the tried and true superhero tropes rather than do anything creative with them.
Having established the film as a character drama, I suppose I should probably go into depth about the characters, seeing as they are the most important parts of the film. Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine quickly becomes his best, as he masterfully portrays a man who’s lived and suffered for entirely too long. The core of Wolverine’s character is a primal, animal anger, fueled by tragedy, which Jackman brings to the screen in a brilliant performance. The way Logan deals with grief by lashing out in anger is highlighted here, showcasing what two lifetimes of suffering can do to someone who wasn’t entirely alright to begin with.
This film is rated R, meaning Logan is allowed to drop as many F bombs as he wants. While this could come across as forced for the sake of being edgy, it feels completely natural and well-deserved every single time, including when Xavier starts doing it. These guys aren’t in the best place, physically or emotionally, and it doesn’t even register as odd when the bombs start flying.
Even if you’re not up to date on all the X-Men movies (even just the good ones) Jackman’s acting will no doubt strike you as some of the best in recent years. I mean no exaggeration when I say he deserves an Oscar nomination for this role. The other leads are no less incredible. Like Jackman, Patrick Stewart will be retiring his role as Professor X after Logan. Xavier is almost 100 years old in this movie, and is finally showing signs of senility. His portrayal of an aging hero losing himself to brain disease will ring tragically true for anyone who has had to watch a loved one go through the same things. However, Xavier isn’t treated as an old man that Logan has to drag around, as both Stewart and the writers take great care to make him a caring father figure, and he even begins to show signs of his old self as he interacts with X-23. Speaking of whom, sweet Yeezus is she great. X-23, AKA Laura, is the little girl Logan has to bring across the country. Making a child a central character is usually a writer’s way of giving up on making a decent film in favor of appealing to a young audience, but Dafne Keen manages to give a performance that frankly has no right to be as good as it is, considering her age. She’s mysterious, she’s cute, she’s badass, she’s everything X-23 should be. She’s acting alongside two of Hollywood’s most celebrated actors and keeping up with them at every beat. I don’t think I can stress enough how great of a job these three do at bringing their characters to life, as it’s one of the major reasons this film serves as a beautifully fitting send-off to a character most of us have grown up with.
Great, now that we’ve gotten that stupid, emotional rom-com stuff out of the way, let’s talk about action. Like I said, this film is rated R, and that’s not just for some “naughty words” or “adult themes.” This movie is gory as all Hell. Wolverine comes in full force here, no holding back. The opening scene alone features several dudes getting dismembered, and every action scene follows in the same spirit. I think this movie might have some kind of world record for onscreen brainings. While it’s not the focus of the film overall, it’s never an intrusion, and it always manages to blow your mind. Logan is a perfect example of using a sweet action scene to further the story rather than take a break from it, as so many other movies are wont to do. Logan manages to absolutely destroy some people, but it’s also painfully apparent how weak he’s becoming as a result of his old age. Fortunately, he’s got X-23 backing him up, who’s just as savage as he is and filled with youthful energy. It’s honestly pretty amazing what they get away with in some of her scenes. Most movies, R-rated or otherwise, wouldn’t be quite brave enough to impale a little girl through the torso with a harpoon — and that’s just one part of her first fight. The fighting is all fast-paced and inventive; the effort that went into finding new ways to eviscerate people really shows. But perhaps the most exciting action sequence is the slowest. I don’t wish to spoil it for those who still haven’t seen it, but there’s a scene where Logan and Laura rack up the body count while neither can move much faster than if they were knee-deep in molasses. The scene is put together so well that it legitimately feels hard to breathe, even if your theater isn’t that crowded. It’s a true testament to the extraordinary acting and cinematography.
As I’ve said, this film is a grand finale to the Wolverine. I know none of us at PHS have known a world where Hugh Jackman wasn’t synonymous with Wolverine, so that aspect of the film hits especially hard. We’ve grown up with this character. We’ve seen him in movies ranging from masterpieces like X2 to trash like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. For a character as monumental as this, one who defined a generation of cinema, I can honestly say this is the goodbye that the character deserves; anything else would be a letdown. Everything Wolverine embodies comes to a climax in one beautiful work of art. Logan sets a new standard for superhero movies and will not be forgotten any time soon.
THE LOGAN NOIR REVIEW
With the blu-ray releases of the film, a new black and white version was included as a bonus, called Logan Noir. This appears to be inspired by the Black and Chrome edition of Mad Max: Fury Road that came out last year. However, unlike Fury Road, Logan doesn’t put a particular emphasis on color for much of the movie, meaning draining the color has a much different effect. The black and white serves the film’s bleak tone, and in certain places, it actually improves on already great cinematography. Scenes that take place indoors and at night, for instance, benefit immensely from the conversion. However, it’s unfortunately a double-edged sword, and varies in quality from shot to shot. For every close-up that uses the higher contrast to show off Logan’s injuries and grit, there’
s a wide shot where you just wish you could see the colors of the environment. Logan is at its heart a western, not a noir, so it stands to reason that the noir-ification doesn’t quite work uniformly for the whole film. Ultimately, it’s a neat little idea tacked onto a movie I was planning to buy anyway. If you’re a fan, it’s worth at least one watch, but after that you’ll probably just want to watch the original whenever you decide to revisit it.