Movie Review: Logan (Fox)

Man, where has the time gone right? I was 5-6 years old when the first X-Men film was released, seeing one of my favorite comic book characters jump from the […]

Man, where has the time gone right? I was 5-6 years old when the first X-Men film was released, seeing one of my favorite comic book characters jump from the panels to the small screen and then finally onto the big screen was a great feeling and memory.  

I was 15 years old when Wolverine finally got a spinoff solo film from the overall X-men franchise.Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine seemed like a promising start at the time, and while there were some cool moments in the film, and stellar performances from Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber as Wolverine and Sabretooth, it wasn’t enough to carry the movie since the plot didn’t help especially when concerning the poorly handled aspects of the source material that had been developed over the years by many comic book writers such as Chris Claremont, Frank Miller, Larry Hama, Paul Jenkins, Jason Aaron etc.  Despite a bad start, it was a blessing in disguise, because it delivered us two movies that helped the X-men franchise (more notably Wolverine) with The Wolverine (2013) and Deadpool (2016), two characters who didn’t get their due until those two films were released with favorable reviews and appeal.

Director James Mangold and Hugh Jackman worked together on The Wolverine (2013) which was a far more better film than the ill-received  Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Mangold’s The Wolverine was a character driven film inspired by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s Japan saga where Wolverine traveled to Japan. The time around James Mangold and Hugh Jackman return with the appropriately titled film Logan.  While the movie is heavily inspired and adapting material from Mark Millar and Steve Mcniven’s Old Man Logan storyline, It’s definitely taken some cues from other source material such as Paul Jenkin’s Wolverine: The End, NYX (X-23), while mixing it up with its own sensibilities.  But as a movie itself, how does it hold up in terms of story, and as a stand alone film? If this really Is Hugh Jackman’s final film in the entire X-Men franchise, did he really deliver a swan song of a performance? As a film, should you or should you not go see it?

The premise of Logan is centered on distant future, based 5-6 years after X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014). The world is barren and in complete disarray.  As far as the world knows it, their heroes, the X-Men are dead, and mutants are extinct. The last surviving members of the X-men is an aged Logan/Wolverine and an ill Charles Xavier. They lumber along as nomads living on the borders of the South trying to thrive and live a reclusive life among the post-apocalyptic scenery. Once a young girl arrives, bearing similar abilities to Logan, trouble follows as certain forces all want to capture the girl, dragging Logan into the conflict.

The Plot/Story:  Judging by the trailers, where Johnny Cash’s cover of the classic Nine Inch Nails track “Hurt” was played, along with the scenes shown, the trailer looked promising, and despite the comparisons to the video game The Last Of Us, it is very much it’s own thing. While there is a sense of similarity or inspiration, it definitely executes the water works in the same way as that game. That is a good comparison since this movie and its story is really strong in terms of execution, delivery, themes and tone.

This movie took inspiration from the Old Man Logan tale in terms of the post apocalyptic, barren landscape aspect. Now, that doesn’t mean the world is a nuclear wasteland. It just means that in regards to mutants, it’s a wasteland for them given that they are extinct. If there any mutants, they wouldn’t last long due to the extremes that are placed on them. That’s the only thing this film takes inspiration from. The only other aspect that this film takes inspiration from, is Paul Jenkins Wolverine: The End, where wolverine and professor X are the only remaining members left, residing in Canada, reclusive to the world. There are other elements that this film borrows from such as the X-23 origin series NYX, where it displays effectively how Laura was born and abusively raised. The bare elements of those stories give some layers of inspiration, but Mangold makes effort for the film to take the essential elements of the stories, and weaves a organic tale of his own that really stands on its own, not just as a comic book movie, or a superhero movie, but as an actual movie. Taking the concept of a belovedly ,world renowned character, telling a tale of an aging man, no longer exclusive to the laws of time and death is something that is rarely done in films.of this genre. Our protagonists go through a trial of situations both external and internal. Externally Logan and Charles have to deal with varied dangers, such as dark forces that are hellbent of capturing an 11 year old who is more than what she seems, local gangs, lawmakers, etc. Yet internally, they are struggling with time, age, health, their mental state and tons of emotional turmoil in a way that is grounded in believability.

The phrase ‘trying to make it realistic’ or ‘ make it grounded in reality’   is a phrase I dislike using these days because everyone uses it to describe how ‘good’ a film is.   One shouldn’t  look for something to be real, because it would have to apply to the laws of our world, lacking any sort of spectacle and amazement. Believability is a better word due to the fact that while a movie has a fictional tale, based on fictionally beloved characters, it doesn’t need to be extremely ‘ realistic’. It just needs to make you ‘believe’ that the fictional events and characters despite their extraordinary circumstances, convincing you into suspending belief that they themselves are more than fictional. In other worlds, characters with superpowers will never be realistic, and it’s pretentious to say that. But if the characters personality, sensibilities, and stories make you convinced of the experience, then by suspending belief, that’s how you make people believe in the spectacle. That’s how you make them feel ‘real’ despite the fact that it’s all fictional.

If you can convince audiences to believe in these characters, and feel their turmoil, then that’s how you do your job as a filmmaker. And James Mangold knocks it out of the park. He takes these characters -that long time comic book fans, and long time moviegoers are familiar with- and breathes life to them, making you- the viewer – feel as though you know them personally. These characters despite their abilities are as flawed as people in real life, trying to keep up with time despite their age, and to see Logan, and Charles go through such a tension filled journey, really makes you the viewer feel as though you’re saying goodbye to a very close friend, mentor, or relative.

Every step of the journey, a new situation is presented to Logan that truly challenges his ability’s and limitations that feel truly consequential to himself, Charles and everyone else involved. The stakes are high, and when things go bad for these characters, they go horribly wrong, and they get bloody.

Bloody? Wait? Bloody?

Yes. Given the R rating, and thanks to Tim Miller and Ryan Reynolds  for paving the way with Deadpool, showcasing the character the way he was meant to be shown, Logan does what the other films couldn’t do. Mangold and Jackman are able to deliver a true to nature depiction of Wolverine as a force of berserker nature. When Logan gets into his berserker rage, there is no mercy, and it makes the violence, and deaths actually mean something. Unlike the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, which are understandably family friendly, and formulaically safe (makes them more profit with all age audiences and accessibility), Mangold and Jackman get much more flexibility and freedom to go outside the usual formulas associated with the genre. We see these characters trudge through onslaughts, and retain personal damage. They don’t joke it off with funny quips that are said every ten seconds. And doesn’t try to be stone-faced dark and edgy for the sake of being edgy.

There is a fundamental human element that makes this film more human than the MCU and the DCEU films.   When humor is shown, it’s displayed in intimate character moments and interactions between individuals, their sensibilities, and  mannerisms are  appropriately reflected on display with well placed moments of appropriately timed humor. The MCU films while enjoyable, and somewhat balanced at times, tend to suffer from that aspect a lot, which at times sacrificing what the superhero/ comic genre truly has to offer on the silver screen that has failed to be interpreted from actual source material.  Speaking of which, there are moments that are very meta in regards to the way the world sees Logan, how Charles and Laura see Logan, and how Logan ultimately views himself. This aspect lends itself to believability,  making them feel real in the same way that Richard Donner made people believe a man can fly. The film has character, and Logan and his cast are unique personalities that truly convince you that these are living, breathing characters, that deal with their own existential dilemmas of everyday life, despite their otherworldly abilities and situations.  

Antagonists:

With that said, The antagonists in this film, are probably the best that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has ever faced on the silver screen, and will probably ever get on the silver screen. In the comics, Wolverine has had a plethora of villains, some of which have made it to film such as Sabretooth (played by Tyler Mane in X-Men, and Played fantastically by Liev Schreiber in the unfortunate X-Men Origins :Wolverine). We had Lady Deathstrike (played by   in X-2), and we’ve had Silver Samurai (played by , which despite the first two acts of The Wolverine, kinda fell flat in the third act). The general antagonists are The Reavers, who are cybernetically enhanced mercenaries that (like in the comics) that work for a mega corporation named Transigen, who are associated with the dwindling extinction of mutant kind. The Reavers are strong, coordinated, merciless and ruthless, not afraid to shoot anyone regardless of age and color . They make sure to clean up shop anytime they step foot in a place that they no longer want to be recalled. They’re vicious. And vile, and they have a sense of personality, especially the Leader of the reavers Cameron Hodge.

From act one all the way to the final act, the film throws you onto a roller coaster ride full of varied emotions, making you feel and empathize, sympathize, with each of the protagonists in a human way that is not often common in films of this genre. It’s easy to swap character costumes and tell the same story, and same characters with a different aesthetic. It’s not to knock the MCU films, but it’s something that audiences have become aware of with in the current renaissance of the genre.  Each character really gets a good portion of time focused on them, providing depth to their personalities and their overall shared journey.  

Action/Special Effects:

This is finally the wolverine film that long time wolverine fans (whether you like the fox X-Men films or not) have been waiting for. As mentioned prior, we get to see Wolverine go into his Berserker Rage.  When he literally exacts the kind of damage on to those who bare Ill will towards him and his companions, he really proves, once and for all, he is the best there is at what he does. When the claws pop and start slicing, people’s limbs, heads, everything starts flying. It isn’t for the sake of being violent, it’s a reflection of cause and effect, the consequence of lethal force being utilized as a counter self defense which services the character and plot beyond just the spectacle, or tasteless blood shed that most R rated films try to emulate. When mercenary’s are mauled by Logan, the ruthless aggression, the essence of the character, is truly executed with excellence that would make any die hard fan (or anyone who is not fond of the prior efforts) proud. It took 17 years to finally get a Wolverine that can finally take the kid gloves off and show the kind of savage aggression, that the comics introduced. The fact that there is minimal CGI, which is utilized when appropriate is another example of what makes this film click. Its great to have CGI, but when bombarded with it to a degree that it takes up most of a film, it can be desensitizing to the audience and can rob the story, and performance from a filmmaking it a disservice. This movie had a good healthy balance of practical effects that really.complimented the performances in this film, especially with Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen who slice across the room with furiosity, style and grace. Truth be told, I have not watched a movie that made the fighting, and violence feel emotional, or at least significantly  mean something not since The first Matrix film , where anytime Neo faced off against Agents, it was as much of an emotional and distressing tussle as it is a physical one. Which is something that the Directors, cinematographers, editors and the cast execute so well.

This is a full-circle story that I could not explain. Logan as a character has to deal with so much more than just himself. The world is so bleak and bears a lot of resemblance to the xenophobic and politically charged times that society resides in today. This movie’s plot and theme s go beyond the traditional sensibilities of what is usually expected with in superhero/comic book films. Its tone is of a neo-noir/ western, a last stand off kind of film if you will. The stakes are heightened in a believable manner that makes you feel as though these characters and events are real. It’s hard to talk about the film without giving such details away, because as a film, it’s one that one not only watch, but a story that needs to be experienced. What people need to know, especially long time fans (such as myself) and the hardcore fans need to understand is, despite the need for style, substance is always important. It is key, because without that, one can’t fully engage with the characters nor care for their story in there is no substance or foundation that makes it so.

The Cast:

Hugh Jackman as Logan/ Wolverine:

Despite the ups and downs of the X-men franchise, (the Ups being:X-Men 1, X-2, X-men First Class, The Wolverine and Days of Future Past, Deadpool . Downs being: X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and X-Men Apocalypse, and the guilty pleasure: X-3) I appreciate what the franchise did for comic book movies.  After the Joel Schumacher Batman films, comic book movies were in a time of obscurity, not really being taken seriously and treated as a joke, let alone was waning in interest in the 90’s. While Blade really started the revival of comic book movies, and a few years after, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002) inspired a huge comic book boom, It was Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000) that really made the kinda push that comic book movies needed in order for such enthusiasm that later films (like Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Ironman, The Avengers) and the entire genre to be taken seriously. Now, I’ve been a long time X-men fan and reader (currently enjoying Tom Taylor’s All-New Wolverine series, and Jeff Lemire’s Old Man Logan series).  People (such as myself ) at times wish we could have had Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, at least we can say that despite all of the reboots etc, Fox has at least given us one guy who has been consistent in the ol’ Wolverine role for the last 17 years: Hugh Jackman.

Of all the movies I’ve seen him in (Kate and Leopold, The Prestige, Australia, The Fountain, Les Miserables, Swordfish, Flushed Away, Van Helsing, Prisoners, and the over all X-Men film franchise, Hugh Jackman has always given a good performance as Wolverine, and has been consistent despite studios and directors softening the character, restraining Hugh Jackman from really performing the character in ways that would not have been allowed without an R Rating. Audiences can say that we have seen Jackman play every era and facet of the character on the silver screen. With that being said, it makes this performance more pronounced in the sense that aside from the script and direction, Jackman gives what is arguably to date, his most strongest performance in any other film, possibly right next to his performance in the thriller Prisoners. Jackman shows full range, playing on a tightrope juggling Rage, turmoil, denial, while also providing a sense of levity, appropriately timed humor, and fragility in a wah that hasn’t been displayed with Wolverine on the big screen.

From beginning to end ,his character shifts, into different circumstances and mood swings that allow Jackman to perform and bring out his very best, living in the moment, breathing as one, with the character. Fascinating enough, he is the only actor in any superhero franchise that has consistently played the same character, so to see him add more layers to the character with his performance is still surprising given what has already been displayed in prior efforts. Looking back, on specifically X-Men 1, The Wolverine, and Days of Future Past , really mark significant corner stone character studies, that show his significant growth, and change as a character. To see Jackman play an aging, regressive, character that is at the lowest period of his life, is something that will be hard to come by whenever fox decides (eventually ) to reboot the character, and the overall universe someday. One this is for sure, whether costume, or no costume, Jackman has solidified himself as ‘The’ Wolverine. Where his character heads will be talked about and debated on, but if it’s any significance, it’s a profound and moving performance that will be hard to ever top nor match should someone take on the claws.

Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier):

In terms of Professor X, Patrick Stewart has been the gold standard in terms of portrayal/ performance of the world’s most powerful telepath and spiritual leader of the X-men. His performance as a 90 year old Xavier, who is suffering from severe illness due to age is something that is more impacting than his prior fates in the prior X-Men film franchise. What’s so graceful about his performance is that not only does he retain his charm and personality, he is able to show a side of Xavier that is truly fighting against his own eventual fate. In some ways, this aspect of Xavier really reflects as kind of a full circle moment to when he was at his lowest period in Days of Future Past. But, unlike his prior performances, Stewart displays an aged Xavier who is delusional, and struggling to retain his mental well being much like how an elderly friend, mentor or sibling is dealt with Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s. Stewart is able to take those realities and fears of a loved one’s mental and physical condition and translate it through his performance as Xavier with emotional resonance , that even the toughest hearted person can sympathize with. Seeing his interaction with Logan and the young girl Laura, acting as both a father role to Logan, and a grandfather role to Laura, is organic, making everything he does, whether it’s having violent seizures, yammering about ads, or mentally thinking straight feel so seamless, and relatable. Stewart has always played Xavier to a T, but he really provides a touching and moving performance in his final act as the character. When he speaks, his presence silences , it’ll surely tug the audience’s heart strings, making them feel as though it may be the last time they see that relative that they were the most closest to.

Dafne Keen as Laura Kinney :

Much like DC Comics Harley Quinn, X-23 originally came from the early 2001’s X-men: Evolution animated series, and then eventually became a mainstay in comics for a good decade. I was 5 years old when I saw Wolverine make the jump from comics, animation, and cartoon. I’m now 22 (going on 23) and to see X-23 make the jump from the comics onto the big screen is really something.  With that said, good lord!!!!!!! I really hope and wish Dafne Keen, the very best in her career because she is definitely a scene stealer! Her chemistry with Jackman and Stewart is so fluid, and it doesn’t feel forced, or corny. When she moves from one room to the next and is doing some insane fight scenes, that involve her, she makes it look as if she did every stunt. There isn’t a moment where she feels like she is out of place. She steals the scene as much as Stewart and Jackman. She is able to provide a balance of cure, adorable, innocence, while providing the same kind of aggression as Jackman, with a unique variety that is similar yet stands on its own.

One thing is for sure, should there ever be a spinoff series, focusing on her, I would definitely look forward to it. She’s been a favorite comic book character of mine, and her presence in this movie gives life to the character that really compliments the early days of the characters existence from the comics In a unique way that stands on its own within this film.  she’ll make you cheer, she’ll make you laugh, and she’ll make you cry, all due to her mannerisms through her performance. For a child actress, she makes one believe as though she really did all of the stunt work for her scenes, which is rarely executed in most films involving a child actor or actress. Thankfully, she did fantastic in the movie.

Stephen Merchant as Caliban: Although the character appeared in X-Men Apocalypse, Stephen Merchant stepped into play the role of the more obscure mutant, and he makes the character’s presence humorous. His Caliban has more personality, and dry, witty sense of humor that makes him a more likable character than what as portrayed in Apocalypse.

Antagonists: As mentioned, the Reavers are very malicious, going to any lengths to get the job done, regardless of who gets in their way.

Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce:

While his character is a departure of the actual character to a degree, he is much more fleshed out within this film. He’s humorous and has a personality that is sarcastic and bounces off of everyone that he interacts. One moment he is militant and the next moment he is a fanboy that just likes to see people he once admired, only to destroy them. He is relentless in accomplishing his task for the company Transigen, who are behind of a lot of things that have plagued our protagonists.  Holbrook’s performance really gives his character more personality than he ever had in the source material, which isn’t bad, and does well to service the plot and the context of the world that these characters reside in.

There is a specific antagonist, who is played by an actor (that I can’t mention, because you gotta see it for yourself).  This force of nature really puts Logan to his absolute limit, making Logan see a reflection of what he had always feared to be should he have ever given into his dark impulses. The performance of that vicious character is well acted, and will definitely catch audiences by surprise. Although, admittedly, I would have loved to have seen the return of a certain rival, or a different villain, this specific antagonist was surprisingly satisfying, forcing Hugh Jackman to really up his game, doubling it up every time he came face to face with his dangerously intimidating opponent.  Much like how Star Wars :Force Awakens Kylo Ren represented what Anakin Skywalker should have been portrayed in the prequel Star Wars films, this film is what X-Men Origins should have been, and surpasses The Wolverine, delivering a very strong third act, that makes it all come full circle for the character, and film.

Director:

James Mangold is taking another crack at The adamantium-clad mutant for the second time directing with this outing. It’s understandable why he would go for a more small scale story that is more character driven since he as previously stated in multiple interviews that he wanted out of the “CGI arms race”, and desired to break away from the well established Marvel Studios formula.

Mangold may not have delivered some spandex, but he delivers a damn good character driven story, that puts you through the motions, never relieving the tension and ever looming dangers that plague the protagonists in this movie. There is some meta stuff in this film in regards to Logan, and his views on the comics that reflect the actual adventures he has had (while also giving a nod to the actual comics ). Admittedly, it almost feels like it is a dis to the comics, but in the context of why Logan is very resentful of it ,since all of mutantkind is dead, and trying to make his life look like entertainment despite the fact this his actual loved ones have died, being a constant reminder of what he’s lost, it’s understandable why he would feel that way. But, Mangold really does a good job at acknowledging what the comics in context mean to Laura, which in a sense, represents our views for the love of the source material and what it means to those who care for it. Its an interesting thing that mangold does in this movie, especially when dealing with the subjects of age, legacy, and death. The film despite its post apocalyptic landscape, is actually fun, while emotionally and tonally engaging. Making the audience see more than just a simple one, two, punch kind of action. Displaying how vicious and cruel society can be, and how vicious and depressing death actually is. Aspects of Fatherhood, are also examined in this movie as well as one’s obligations despite their title, and then existential crisis of dealing with one’s impending demise, is not something one would really see in any other film (DC/Warner Brothers, and Marvel Studios). Much like Tim Miller’s Deadpool, Mangold takes liberties, with the film that compliment the stuff that it’s inspired by, taking the core themes and concepts, and translating into a wonderfully cinematic, well choreographed, well written story, and what is possibly a final farewell to the one we know as Logan, aka Wolverine.

At times much like others, have wished we could have had Jackman’s Wolverine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite that initial want, I’m satisfied to see that much like Deadpool, this is a film that stands one its own merits, tells its own story, taking a risk to do something that doesn’t often elevate the superhero, comic book, let alone film genre. This movie is Hugh Jackman’s swan song, and a damn good farewell to an actor who helped breathe life into a character that became a multinational , multimedia icon. To see how far the actors, the characters, and the films, and the genre have come, evolving and contributing to the landscape, is truly a sight to see. I wouldn’t exaggerate this, or write this as a puff piece. I don’t care if Fox wouldn’t like my observations and opinions, because it would be a disservice to you, the reader to be swayed into seeing something that you may or may not be interested in. I wouldn’t recommend this movie if it didn’t strike all of the things it needed to make me feel compelled to write this.

With that said, It is a great standalone film, and a definite masterpiece for what it is, and really elevates the superhero genre in it’s own right that will have conversations in contrast to The Dark Knight, Deadpool, Iron Man, and Guardians of the Galaxy for years to come.  If The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Deadpool have all be nominated for Oscars, etc, i feel that this movie, as Ryan Reynolds previously said, will possibly break the glass ceiling of films of this genre. It will most likely get snubbed by the academy, and even then, it doesn’t take away from the quality of this movie. If Fox continues to tell good quality, character driven films, they may just turn people around in their own way. Fox has shown much like they did with First Class, Deadpool and Logan, that they are not afraid to go places and have the balls to get out of their comfort zone, which is something that I’d like to see Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers do at some point, (especially with Marvel Studios in terms of Infinity War). Nonetheless, Go see it. See it with close friends and loved ones, it’ll make the experience all the more moving.

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.