Logan is the latest installment in the 20th Century Fox superhero lineup, and the last film Hugh Jackman will appear in as Wolverine.
Though the character has been a staple in the X-men franchise, the Wolverine solo films have sat on the outside of the X-Men cinematic universe. At least that is the direction they have appeared to go in, thanks to director James Mangold. In Logan, Mangold aims for a steady, more grounded reality — free of camp and CGI overload. But be forewarned, this is a film for adults. It’s a bleak and violent world, with enough blood and guts to make you cover your eyes.
However, aside from film setting, the story isn’t terribly original. This is more of a rehashing of the first two films, where Logan is the jaded anti-hero, turned hero, once he finds a cause worthy enough to fight for. Logan presents the audience with some prominent themes, but unfortunately, as with all Marvel cinematic properties so far, there is apprehension with going deeper with these ideas. Despite that, Logan is enjoyable as Huge Jackman basks in all of its brutal glory.
The film opens in the year 2029 with a haggard, wasted Logan (Hugh Jackman) waking up in his limo to a couple of cholo’s jacking his rims. It doesn’t end well for the robbers as Logan becomes the Wolverine and eliminates the crew with deadly accuracy. He isn’t a celebrity or a wealthy man but a limo driver, striving to keep a low profile in a world without mutants. A mutant hasn’t been born in 23 years, so he spends his days drinking, and taking care of an ailing, dementia stricken Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart).
Logan’s world is turned upside down when a young mute girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) enters his life. Laura is being hunted by a group of lethal mercenaries called “reavers,” lead by a man named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). It turns out Professor X has been communicating with Laura telepathically. He finds out that she is a genetically modified mutant turned killing machine with two retractable blades in her hands, and one in each foot. Laura and her companion Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) seek the help of Logan and Professor X to get them to a mutant asylum called Eden, but not if the reavers don’t get to her first.
Logan feels like an anti-superhero film. It is the most grounded of any mainstream superhero film to release in the last decade. I applaud 20th Century Fox and James Mangold for taking risks with the look of the movie. But in the back of my mind, it feels like too little too late. This depiction of the character is how it should have been from the beginning. The violent, feral Wolverine is who most fans have connected with in the comics. But maybe that’s also why the film works so well as a self-contained movie.
Mangold works hard to make Logan feel solid and relevant, and his direction is straightforward, although, the premise isn’t terribly original. It has strong similarities to Mad Max: Beyond The Thunderdome. Logan is the grumpy, loner, selfish mutant too chaotically neutral to get involved with anything that exists outside his world. Just like Mad Max. The color palate is also similar with its orange, beige, and sienna hues. Both films even include a group of special children that the hero chooses to protect, (at the beginning for his own gain, but then realizes the situation is bigger than his needs).
Speaking of children, Laura’s character is an issue of contention for me. Don’t get me wrong, actress Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23 is phenomenal. Her talent for physical movement and her emotionally charged facial expressions are exceptional, but the film neglects to tap into that further as the movie skims over the meaty, yet traumatic past of the character. In the comics, Laura is manufactured in a lab and trained to be a child assassin. She becomes one of the best but is treated like an animal. She is stripped of her autonomy, her freedom, and control over her body, so is under the complete authority of her creators. As a new character to this universe, the movie doesn’t give the audience a fluid connection to the character, so it was difficult to empathize with her. This is so frustrating and typical of Marvel. Why won’t they go deeper?!
Then, by the third act, the plot begins to taper off. New characters are introduced, with no texture added to them. I didn’t particularly care about anyone because, again, I couldn’t find the connection. They are all dealing with major internal and external crises which is hastily explained and then it’s on to the next scene. Sure, it’s a Marvel movie, and I don’t expect them to be Oscar worthy, but if it’s supposed to be taken seriously, take your story and your characters seriously.
*Sigh* Despite my complaints with Marvel as a whole, I did enjoy the film. I love that James Mangold took a chance on telling a realistic, story with fantastical elements instead of the other way around. Jackman should be proud of his contributions to the series and this is a good send off for the actor. I will miss him.