It’s been 17 years since Hugh Jackman sprouted the adamantium claws as Logan, aka Wolverine, in 2000’s X-Men. Through eight movies, Jackman has become synonymous with the character, creating an iconic figure on the big screen. Even when the films didn’t quite hit the mark (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I’m looking at you), Jackman still embodied the role well and made him supremely watchable. Perhaps no other actor has been fitted to a comic book icon as well as Jackman has with Logan. And now, with a new film terrifically directed by James Mangold, the character comes full circle, and gets the finale he deserves.
Logan begins with our titular character in a bad way, sleeping in the limo he’s taken to driving to make a living. It’s 2029, and mutants have all but disappeared from the Earth. A group of thugs tries to steal the wheels of the limo, and right from the outset the film earns its R rating. Fight scenes are brutal and graphic throughout, with the salty language to match. Logan gets approached by a nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) asking for his help in getting a young girl named Laura (an outstanding Dafne Keen) across the Canadian border to a safe haven. Logan at first refuses, as he has his old teacher and friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, once again a delight in the role) to watch out for. He’s also visited by Pierce (a suitably villainous Boyd Holbrook), who works for an outfit searching for the girl. Needless to say, things get a bit bloody and chaotic as Logan, Charles, and young Laura go on the run.
The trio give the movie a strong center, and help focus its main theme of family. Logan has generally been a loner, only when he was part of the X-Men did he truly have a group to belong to. The relationships are well defined and explored. Charles and Logan have a dynamic father-son relationship. It’s obvious there is a great amount of love and respect between them, even when both expose their more cantankerous selves. There’s also the great father-daughter relationship between Logan and Laura, bringing the character full circle from the first X-Men movie where he cared for and protected Rogue. Logan once more rises to the occasion to protect a group of children from sinister forces, as he did in X-2. Of course, these kids being mutants aren’t completely defenseless, but they don’t have enough power to completely keep them safe without help.
Again, the group of mutant kids echo the film’s theme of family, as they’ve come together to seek out a safe haven on the other side of the border. The bit with immigration and the borders give the film a timely feel considering the current political climate in the US, and yet it doesn’t stop to shove an overtly political message down the audience’s throat. Instead, it does a great job of maintaining its focus on the family dynamic, whether it’s Logan making sure Charles gets his medicine to keep his powers in check or Laura sitting watching the western Shane with Charles. The film has a couple of meta moments,used to fantastic effect, showing X-Men comic books and even a classic Wolverine action figure. The scene from Shane may at first appear to be filler, but when the film echoes back to it that scene takes on a more emotional impact.
And emotion does play its part in Logan. Naturally, the rage figures in, and the fight scenes between Logan, Laura, and Pierce’s henchmen are quite brutal. The R rating allowed Mangold to take the shackles off and allow the Wolverine to slice and dice in all his glory. Blood and body parts go flying, and the brutality isn’t held back for anything or anyone, including the children. But there’s more to Logan than just being a brutal, bloody action flick. There’s also a deep, emotional drama that flows beneath the surface. Logan has aged and is slowly dying, his healing factor no longer working fully. He’s lost plenty, and the haunted look in his eyes tells it all. Jackman imbues a gravitas to the character, giving him an emotional weight that pays off in spades at the film’s climax. Rarely has a comic book film been able to deliver such raw emotion so effectively, and it’s the performances by the cast that lifts this movie up above your typical action packed comic book fare.
The movie makes the most of its 137 minute run time, and I never once felt there was a wasted scene that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. Even the moment when our main trio stops to help a family round up horses that have gotten loose on the highway echoes back to its central theme. A sit down dinner between our heroes and the Munson family (Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, and Quincy Fouse)offers a nice respite before tragedy strikes in horrific fashion, and the cast just makes it work in making that section have weight and feel an important part of the whole. Despite the brutality and violence, there are a few lighthearted moments. Patrick Stewart delivers the film’s funniest lines, and Stephen Merchant as Caliban offers a few light hearted moments in his helping to care for Charles. This is a superhero film without being overtly about superheroes. Instead, Mangold and the film’s writers (the director wrote the screenplay along with Scott Frank and Michael Green) wisely focused on humanizing these characters. In exploring that human drama, Logan rises up above its comic book roots and becomes something more.
In short, Logan may very well be the best comic book movie put on the big screen to date. It’s smart, entertaining, and uncompromising in its brutality. And underneath all of that violence lies a beating heart that truly delivers an emotional impact. Never have such characters been more relatable, despite engaging in supremely violent acts the rest of us will hopefully never have to deal with. The theme of family is strong, and forms the dramatic backbone that holds the whole thing together. This is a truly outstanding movie, and Jackman has firmly cemented himself as a pop culture icon with his best performance as Logan to date. Everyone pretty much delivers their A game here, and young Dafne Keen is just phenomenal and holds her own with the veterans Stewart and Jackman. This is a film that should not be missed. Logan brings the character full circle, and Jackman gives him a most fitting finale in his long road on the silver screen.
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