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since 1997 | by maryann johanson

Logan movie review: wounded Wolverine, dangerous beast

Logan green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
The X-Men series — the entire superhero genre — has never seen a film like Logan before: raw, rageful, tormented, human. Best of the series yet.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): mostly love the X-Men movies; love Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

With their extended metaphor about mutation as a stand-in for all the many reasons humans find to be bigoted toward other humans, the X-Men stories have always been perhaps the most grounded of the superhero universes, at least in their exploration of what it means to be “super” in a world where “super” is feared and hated, where “super” is ostracized. The mutants of X-Men are just ordinary people with unusual talents that, for the most part, they have to hide, and the movies in this series — of which we have had 10, counting this one, since the series debuted in 2000 with X-Men — have been as much about realistic people trying to come to terms with their abilities as they’ve been about the usual comic-book action thrills.

No spandex or capes. Almost no FX. Hell, there’s barely even much color.
tweet

And among the characters we might call the alpha males of comic-book superdom, Wolverine — aka James Logan — stands apart, too. Though he is close to invulnerable, he has none of the cheerful godhood of Superman. Unlike Batman, he did not seek out a career righting wrongs. And very much unlike Captain America, he was tricked into consenting to the experimentation that augmented his mutant powers, a horrific and invasive violation of his body (when a mad military man surgically traded in Logan’s bone claws for ones made of the superstrong medal adamantium). There has never been a more reluctant hero than Wolverine.tweet There has, perhaps, never been a hero so abused by life and so cursed by his abilities.

But even the X-Men series has never seen a film like Logan before: raw, rageful, tormented, human. This doesn’t look like any other superhero movie ever, either… from any comic-book universe. No spandex or capes here. There’s almost nothing by way of FX — lots of car chases and crashes, lots of stuntwork, yes, but almost all of that seems to be practical. There’s none of the big brash sci-fi whiz-bang we’ve come to expect from the genre,tweet and of which there has always been plenty in this series. Hell, there’s barely much in the way of color, even: director James Mangold (Knight and Day, 3:10 to Yuma) and cinematographer John Mathieson’s (Pan, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) muted palette of desert browns and industrial grays mirrors the grim mindset of down-on-his-luck Logan and the emotional and physical depletion he’s running on these days.

The man comes around again, for the last time.

The man comes around again, for the last time.tweet

“These days” is 2029, and Logan (Hugh Jackman: Eddie the Eagle, Chappie) is hiding out along the Mexican border, eking out a scant living as a limo driver in El Paso. He’s got 90-something Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart: Ted 2, Green Room) tucked away with him, keeping the elderly mutant mostly doped up all the time because he’s having telepathic seizures that conk out everyone in the vicinity. (They’re in the middle of nowhere. There’s no one else around except another mutant, Caliban [Stephen Merchant: I Give It a Year, Movie 43], who’s helping Logan take care of Charles.) Something is wrong with Logan: he’s covered in scars and walks with a limp, which means his mutant superhealing isn’t working for some reason. He’s going gray and getting old, but it’s more than that, too: he looks like hell, actually. Something is very wrong with him. (In case you’re wondering, the story here bears no resemblance whatsoever to Mark Millar’s graphic novel Old Man Logan, though the film’s title is perhaps an homage.)

Something is wrong in the larger world, too: no new mutants have been born for 25 years. It’s like Children of Men for mutants.tweet (The science fiction worldbuilding here is minimal, and sneaky, and all the more effective because of it. Driverless trucks passing by in the background on a freeway, for instance, are somehow creepy and eerie in their modified familiarity: they have no cabs, which makes them seem decapitated.) Except out of nowhere little Laura (a ferocious Dafne Keen) appears; she’s around eight years old, she has mutant powers like Logan’s, and she needs to get somewhere safe, away from the mysterious and menacing Pierce (Boyd Holbrook: Morgan, Jane Got a Gun), who is pursuing her for reasons that will later become clear. Will Logan please drive her to a place in North Dakota called Eden, allegedly a refuge for young mutants (others also exist!)? Logan doubts such a place is real, but his reluctant heroism has been engaged…

The SF worldbuilding is minimal, sneaky, and all the more effective because of it.
tweet

Everything that is shocking and dark and upsetting and surprisingtweet here — of which there is much — is all the more so all of those things because Logan is not an action movie: it’s a personal drama that only happens to be set in a parallel reality where mutants exist. Jackman has always given Logan an appealing emotional vulnerability under the character’s gruff exterior, but here that engages new depths of empathy on our part with Logan’s new physical susceptibilities, not only for the character but for the actor as well. The fantasy of superpowers and the blow their deterioration must mean to a man like Logan takes on a new poignancy when we consider that playing a character who has not, previously, seemingly been subject to aging simply is not possible for a nonmutant man like Jackman to keep up forever. He’s been playing this character for 15 years, and while the actor is still extremely robust — the most dramatic FX here may be the hair-and-makeup job that makes Logan look way more beat-up than Jackman actually is — he is nearly 50. He wasn’t going to be able to play an ageless badass like Wolverine for much longer. (In fact Jackman has said this will be his last outing in the role.)

Logan with the next generation (and probably the next movie franchise) of mutants.

Logan with the next generation (and probably the next movie franchise) of mutants.tweet

There is action here, though it’s more like a one-last-stand sort of Western such as Unforgiventweet than typical comic-book battles. The violence — of which there is plenty — is gory and pulpy and fleshy, which is surely what it would really be like in a world in which superhumans regularly beat the shit out of one another, and out of mere mortals. Logan is not bloodlessly cartoonish in the way that even really great comic-book movies have been, wherein entire city neighborhoods can be razed without a hint of the human carnage that would naturally accompany such a nightmare. The scale is small here, but the human toll is tremendous in the way that a single death can be depicted as far more terrible than mass destruction.

This third film in the Wolverine trilogy — after 2013’s The Wolverine (also by writer-director Mangold and also with cowriter Scott Frank) and 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine — is by far the best of the bunch, and probably the best X-Men movie yet, except that Logan exists on its own plane of darkness, of willingness to be bold and definitive, of commitment to the human authenticity of its characters. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I suspect we shall not see its like again. It’s almost too legitimately harsh to be escapist.tweet I felt nearly as worn out as Logan himself by the end.


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Logan (2017) | directed by James Mangold
US/Can release: Mar 03 2017
UK/Ire release: Mar 01 2017

MPAA: rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (strong bloody violence, strong language)

viewed in 2D IMAX
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • Dent

    As if I needed any more encouragement to see this. I’m glad it lived up to it’s trailers.

  • Isabelle May

    I’m looking forward to seeing Caliban in this: having seen Merchant perform live in theatre back in July 2015 I’ve been wanting more serious stuff from him. And less of dross like the two films you referenced that he was in…

  • Merchant’s role is not enormous. Just an FYI.

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  • Isabelle May

    I figured, but thank you anyway ?

  • Johan

    Very good movie indeed. Laura was superbly portrayed, and the dynamics between her, Logan and Charles are very powerful.
    Very nice to see the reavers, Caliban, as well as some lesser known mutants like Ricktor.
    Looking forward to see the rest of the new mutants’ adventures (maybe we’ll witness the the creation of Factor X? Generation X? Something else?)

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    Genere: Azione, Drammatico, Fantascienza
    Stelle: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant
    Durata: 135 min.

    Produzione: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

    Sinossi di film:
    Nel prossimo futuro, uno stanco Logan si prende cura di un malato Professor X in un nascondiglio sul confine messicano. Ma i tentativi di Logan per nascondere al mondo e la sua eredità sono up-terminato quando un giovane mutante arriva, inseguito da forze oscure.

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  • Danielm80

    I’m fascinated by this essay:

    http://www.vulture.com/2017/03/logan-and-pop-cultures-love-for-silent-violent-little-girls.html

    I’ll decide whether I agree with it once I’ve seen the film. In the meantime, I kind of want to write a science-fiction story, based on “The Little Mermaid,” about a girl who trades her voice for unbeatable fighting skills.

  • Cathy Forman

    Truly adult notions of violence, the cost of violence, and the sometimes equally terrible tolls that love and restraint demand be paid.

    It’s Logan’s “Sailing to Byzantium” (Or should that be “Adamantium’?)

    A true return to the root of what made Marvel great: what would a real, actual HUMAN BEING think,do and say if they had superpowers?

    Bravo.

  • The writer there is not wrong. Laura is not the protagonist of this movie: she is there to motivate Logan to Have Feels. This movie would not score well on WATW.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    This movie, Rogue One, a Trump presidency. We’re really living in the darkest timeline.

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  • flowerbug

    I’m going crazy! Help! Were those oil trucks that were speeding down the highway real or was that just for the movie?? They scared me for some reason, I suppose it’s the unfamiliar look about them. I hope someone will answer me. I’m upset the Imdb.com boards are gone now.

  • Bluejay

    True. Laura is fantastic in this movie, but it’s not her movie. She’s portrayed much more in depth in the various comic series devoted to her, with Marjorie Liu being (I think) one of her best writers. Hopefully future movies will take advantage of that.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    The auto-trucks? Those are just for the movie. They could be real by end of the 2020’s, but probably not much before that.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I don’t really see Logan as a jump off point for a new X-Men series. I think it’s more of a one-off, “What If” story.

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  • Danielm80

    SPOILER
    .
    .
    .
    Did we ever find out what happened in Westchester? I don’t think it was ever spelled out, but it’s possible I missed it. (Or it could be a reference to Age of Apocalypse, which I’m unlikely to see anytime soon.)

    I suppose the logical conclusion is that Charles caused a “quake” which killed a large number of people, but I feel as though there are details I should have caught and missed completely.

  • Bluejay
  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That actually clarifies something else: I couldn’t for the life of me figure out, if they were driving from El Paso to “North Dakota”, why in the hell they would divert to Vegas. There aren’t many futuristic touches to Logan‘s 2029, but a “Strip” in OKC seems to be one of them.

  • Oh dear, I completely missed the fact that the Westchester Incident killed the X-men. Now I am very sad. :-(

  • I don’t think OK City’s strip is even futuristic: there are already lots of casinos in the area: http://okc.about.com/od/casinosgaming/tp/okccasinos.htm

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Huh…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    there are lots of casinos everywhere there are Native American Reservations. But, even in OKC, they’re mostly scattered outside the cities proper. But I agree we’re not far from seeing Strips popping up in cities, across the the West. And 2029 is barely more than a decade out.

  • Is it a strip, though? Or is it just one casino? I can’t recall…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    I think it was, but I could be wrong. I couldn’t find where the shot those exteriors, though I did find that the interiors were shot in Louisiana.

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  • Bill

    Terrible movie. Plot holes, convenient limitations and non-kills to keep the story moving and not true to x-men lore. Reviews have been given by those who can’t possibly appreciate the past films. Gritty and real, yes, but no need in this this franchise.

  • Bluejay
  • Danielm80

    I think Bill was going for a G2 and a reverse O2.

  • Reviews have been given by those who can’t possibly appreciate the past films.

    Yup. That’s me. No appreciation of the previous films. None.

  • dannyo66

    We just came out of the dark ages and are coming into the light. Donald Trump has basically been exonerated by James Comey and the extreme left is seeing it’s days as numbered.
    Donald is a President unlike any we have had before. The politicians have managed to screw this country into the ground. Who’s to say a business man can’t save it. Our best days are ahead of us thanks to Donald Trump.

  • Carlos

    I absolutely hated the movie as well. While I can appreciate the desire to do something different with the genre, I fail to see any originality here. If I wanted to see something raw, depressing, boring, and ultimately predictable, I could watch the scab form on a cut on my forearm.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    And to think they say conservatives have no sense of humor…

  • RogerBW

    Hey, I think we can all agree that “Donald is a President unlike any we have had before”.

  • Tonio Kruger

    As opposed to that timeline in which the South won the American Civil War. Or the one in which the Axis Powers won World War II. Or the one in which the Soviet Union won the Cold War…
    Yes, we’re living in dark times all right…

  • Tonio Kruger

    “Now is the summer of our discontent.
    Made glorious winter by the House of Trump..”

    On second thought, the current president bestrides the world a bit too much for my taste. Almost as if he were one of those huge colossus-type things. And some of his associates have been alleged to have a lean and hungry look…

  • Donald Trump has basically been exonerated by James Comey

    Oh, you dear sweet child…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Thanks, Tonio, I was afraid somebody wouldn’t get the joke.

  • afelgate

    Great review MaryAnn! I love this movie too. The scene where Charles unleashes his powers is staying with me. There are other standout scenes, too, such as when the mutants visit the family and experience normalcy for a poignant fleeting evening. One note – I think Laura is actually 11 – her “medical” form is shown at one point and reads 132 months. TBC!

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