Monday, March 6, 2017

Logan


Directed by James Mangold.
2017. Rated R, 141 minutes.
Cast:
Hugh Jackman
Patrick Stewart
Dafne Keen
Boyd Holbrook
Richard E. Grant
Stephen Merchant
Eriq La Salle
Elizabeth Rodriguez
Elise Neal

It's 2029, no mutants have been born for a quarter of a century, and only a very few even remain alive. One of them is Logan (Jackman), better known to movie-goers as Wolverine, the one common thread across all the X-Men movies. He's scratching out an existence as a limo driver, which occasionally causes him a problem or two. All he really wants to do is save up enough money to help a friend in need. That friend is none other than former leader of the X-Men, Charles Xavier (Stewart) who is suffering through what appears to be a particularly dangerous form of Alzheimers. Their world gets turned upside down when a woman and a little girl come looking for Logan's help. It turns out the little girl, named Laura (Keen) is a mutant, with some very familiar powers no less, and has some extremely dangerous people after her. Against his better judgement, Logan tries to help her get to a safe haven that may, or may not, exist.

Wolverine has endured as a character because he has always been an emotionally vulnerable person in spite of his phenomenal gifts. He's a man constantly wrestling with his past and trying to alter his future. Most of the X-Men films and the two previous solo flicks for him have exploited this in pretty similar fashion. He begins a movie at the height of his powers, has some external force greater than he diminish that power, which he must then overcome. Logan cuts to the chase. When we catch up with our hero, he's already in pretty bad shape. His famous healing powers seem to be barely holding him together. This immediately makes him more of the type of hero we in the audience like, a guy struggling to get by. Wolverine is weary from all the battles, physical and mental. Hugh Jackman himself seems appropriately worn down. All seventeen years of playing this character lean heavily on his shoulders. The man is worn down from carrying an icon around with him for more than a decade and a half, and it's so perfect.

Also fatigued, and just as good, is Patrick Stewart. This version of Professor Xavier is lacking the one thing he has desperately clung to all his life, control. He doesn't like it, but he's resigned to the fact his fate is in the hands of others. However, the emergence of a new mutant has rejuvenated him, as much as that's possible. His relationship with Logan also keeps him going. Xavier realizes that as much as he needs Logan, Logan needs him. The father-son dynamic they've always shared has grown from being one of uneasiness way back in 2000's X-Men to being something undeniably natural. The chemistry between Stewart and Jackman has never been better. They truly feel like two men who have been through many harrowing ordeals together and saw their bond strengthen with each one. The plot requires them to focus on Laura, but the love they share fills up the screen even through their bickering.


Despite all my gushing, however, Logan is not all gooey emotion. This is very purposely, an R-rated action flick. Our heroes drop a number of f-bombs, but this isn't where the rating is most effective. It is most effective when Logan bares his claws and the fighting starts. For the first time on screen, we get the full impact of what it must be like to be on the receiving end of Wolverine's, and Laura's, fury. The two of them sustain plenty of damage, as well. The result is a film peppered with wonderfully gory action sequences. These scenes combine with our hero's vulnerability to ensure that we know the stakes are real. Far more than most superhero movies, the story presented to us goes deeper than the usual superficial battle between good and evil. That aspect is certainly there, but of a more immediate concern to Logan, Charles, and Laura is that this is clearly a matter of life and death.

Even as the fate of its characters hangs in the balance, the film still realizes this all started with a comic book. In that regard, Logan is an intensely meta piece of art. It is easily the most self-aware of all the X-Men, with the exception of Deadpool (if we're calling that part of the franchise). Logan does it in a way completely different from how it's handled in Deadpool. That film relentlessly skewers the genre while managing to function within it. Logan also functions within the genre, but doesn't poke fun at it. Instead, it chooses to use its knowledge of its own history as a tool in its self-examination. The questions it seems to constantly ask are 'what are we doing this, for?' This is all just comic-book stuff, right? By giving this fact a prominent position, the film illustrates how superheroes have transcended their initial medium (comic books) and their second medium (movies) to become a huge part of our everyday culture. To make the point hit its mark, the film takes a cue from Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy and sets the film in a world as closely resembling reality as possible while still being able to accommodate superheroes and super-villains.

There are a couple of missteps within the film. The biggest may be the inclusion of a group of other kids. It's a two-fold problem. First, their presence lessens Laura's importance. Scarcity creates value. In this case, she is not quite as special as she should be because she is not a singular entity, but one of a group. It doesn't help that, aside from Laura, these are all half-baked characters. They are only here to either be featured in a ten second shot showcasing their powers or to provide more bodies on the screen during fight scenes. The other issue is that the story is fairly predictable. We're never really having to guess what's coming next. The steps taken in most chase movies are dutifully followed, here. If there is one area where the movie really dropped the ball is in its handling of Wolverine's doppelganger. This is a character ripe with possibilities, especially as it pertains to the overall meta tone of the film. Still, in the grand scheme of things, these are small problems. Logan overcomes them by emphasizing relationships. This gets us absorbed enough in the film that we're not sitting around nit-picking. We're invested in the process, even though it's one we've been through before.


20 comments:

  1. I want to see this movie because I have heard good things about it. I know the first 3 X-Men films. I saw the first pre-quel with James McAvoy and then I become lost. I don't know which films come next. Now...where is Storm? Rogue? Did they all bite the big one??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I highly recommend it. Chronologically, based on the setting for each, this is by far the latest. None of the other X-men are directly mentioned, but it is heavily implied they're all dead.

      Delete
  2. Neat review. I'd agree with a lot of what you say. I did like the way she took so long to speak. And how she was like a little girl in terms of riding the little horse and liking candy and girly sunglasses, but capable of massive violence. My main issue with the kids was there was far too many, and they seemed so slow to get organised at the end.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, far too many. They ground things to a halt.

      Delete
  3. I was worried when another Wolverine movie was set to come out as I hated the other two and pretend the first didn't even happen, BUT I've only heard good things about Logan and its source material. Enjoyed your review as it seems fair. I'm off to see it tomorrow so I shall see what all the fuss is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is much better than either, and yes, let's all pretend the first one doesn't exist. I hope you like it. I'll be looking out for your thoughts on it.

      Delete
  4. Yeah, our thoughts on this were very similar. It's a great movie and explores the idea of mutants ageing and their powers changing over time well. I think Logan's doppelganger was, as you said, a misstep; it just puts the film back into standard comic book territory and stops it reaching a little higher. The film needed muscle and X-24 provided it but I don't think they used him as effectively emotionally as they could have. X-24 could have been a moment for Logan to reminisce about his lost 'youth' and literally have to fight the savage he used to be.

    You know when the other kids came along, I thought that Logan would end up taking them under his wing in a Professor X-esque fashion. Glad the film didn't become that cliché.

    Speaking of the kids, did you notice - when they're all get their revenge on Donald Pierce - that one kid's power was the ability to control grass or whatever? Seems she could have made more of that power while fighting a bunch of people in a FOREST!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. X-24 was a misstep. I don't mind so much that they used him, just that they didn't do anywhere near all they could with him.

      So glad they didn't go that route with the kids.

      Great point about the kid controlling the grass and dirt. Lol.

      Delete
  5. I never thought to describe this as "meta" but you're absolutely right in that regard. I really enjoyed this, I haven't liked an X-Men movie in so long. My biggest complaint was X-24 though. They should've just made him a separate person instead of another Logan. I actually thought for a split second they brought Liev Schriber back in the first scene he was in.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought that, too, lol. That first shot looks an awful lot like Liev. Glad I'm not the only one to see that.

      Delete
  6. I'm definitely looking forward to this movie. When I do, I'll come back to read your review and chat. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow man, I never thought it, but..... I really want to see this now!! The R rating has me interested, and not because of the swearing or silly jokes like Deadpool. I want to see some action, and having just re-watched The Raid (and the main actor of The Raids new film, Headshot) it'll be interesting to see how effective the action is compared to those two.

    I like the sound of Wolverine as a character, I never really knew much about him. But from what I can gather, it seems that he isn't the typical superhero character, which immediately has me interested. Hell, I loved Suicide Squad just because it at least shook up the formula and had an attitude. This though... I was gonna skip it, but you've convinced me to go check it out tonight :D

    Thanks a lot mate, now I'm 15 bucks out of pocket! :P Hopefully I like it. I love Jackman and haven't seen any X-Men films, so it'll definitely be a new experience at the very least

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's a compliment of the highest order. All I can say is I hope you like it even half as much as I. Thanks a bunch!

      Delete
  8. I thought the inclusion of the group of kids played into meta nature you wrote of - those kids were the one who helped bring out the Wolverine as they saw it in comics, and as we saw him 8 times before - with the cutting of the beard and the 'medicine'. And they didn't need to be fleshed out for me - they're kids so I think the audience wants them safe and saved instantly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good point about the kids bringing out the Wolverine they knew. I hadn't thought of it that way, but you are right. Thanks for that. I still would've preferred them a bit more fleshed out, but what you say makes sense.

      Delete
  9. Nice review! I really enjoyed this one. With so many comic book movies lately, most don't distinguish themselves (or even try). Logan felt unique and felt like a worthy addition (and great closing chapter) to Wolverine's story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Logan definitely tried to do something different and it succeeded. And it is a great closing chapter.

      Delete