Over the last fifteen years or so, superhero movies have become a staple at your local cinema. Most of those – the ones based on mainstream comics, anyway – usually fall into two categories: The highly dramatic, that aren’t really comic book movies (Dark Knight Trilogy), and the torn-from-the-page variety (anything Avengers Related). Logan may be the first to truly be both, an intense, dramatic tale that’s quite faithful to its source material.
I want to focus on the film, but I still need to dispel some Internet Stupid. Logan is NOT (that’s all CAPS, bold and underlined) based on the Old Man Logan storyline written by Mark Millar. Not even close. Are there a few nods or innuendos? Sure. But even those are so loose and small they’re nothing more than a reference at best. Are there similarities? Yes. But they’re things that have happened in dozens of storylines in dozens of different ways in dozens of different comics. So every reviewer saying it’s the film version of Old Man Logan – which is so many of them – hasn’t read the comics and doesn’t do their research. If anything, Logan is based on the 1953 Western Shane, which appears in the film and serves as a metaphor throughout. Now onto the movie.
Logan takes place in a not-that-distant future that offers a bleak, desperate backdrop for Hugh Jackman’s swan song as the Wolverine. Patrick Stewart plays an ancient, mentally deteriorating Charles Xavier whose dementia-driven seizures have made him an unpredictable WMD, and new to Logan’s onscreen story is Laura – a.k.a. X-23 – a female clone created using Wolverine’s DNA. What happens once these three are united is a bloody road trip slathered in self discovery. The group responsible for Laura’s creation has come to reclaim their property and it’s up to Wolvey and the Prof to get her to safety. Is that it? Is this final chapter really that simple? Not even close, so let’s talk story.
Between the Panels
Logan shamelessly and appropriately does nothing but worry about its own story. No continuity concerns and no backhanded ties to films that have no baring what-so-ever on the journey before it. That being said, this film feels like the culmination of every Wolverine/X-Men story to ever illuminate a sliver screen. The confused, tragic and often violent roads James has traveled all lead to this moment. And it feels so right.
James Mangold directed and penned this gem using his Western-style sensibilities and a “one last ride” mindset. What he delivered is a wonderfully conceived story that has several interesting and complimentary levels. At first you’ll see a superhero movie where the hero needs to save the girl. Then you might see a road trip/adventure film. Some might pick up on the father/son drama that plays out brilliantly while others will find the whole father/daughter dynamic at its core. Many might even call it a team-up of sorts. Each angle comprises of simple elements that, when assembled, become far greater than the sum of its already awesome parts.
Mangold took on the task of helping Jackman put his version of the claw-pooping X-Man to bed, and just… wow. There are so many moments, so many chances to see through the spandex and technicolor it blows my mind to think this all started in 2000 with the first X-Men film. But even with an amazing story that uses subtlety and thoughtful characterization to engage an already informed fanbase, it can’t work without a total win in the casting department.
In a film so heavily dependent on the core three cast members, Logan has some really great supporting actors, namely Stephen Merchant and Boyd Holbrook who play Caliban and Donald Pierce respectively. Both add standout performances to a movie built around standout performances. A tad more than Holbrook, Stephen Merchant’s Caliban is a deep, interesting character whose part in the story connects the dots between team-Logan and team-bad guys.
Leading the way as the main character and the guy we all paid our money to see, Hugh Jackman just continues to evolve and improve the Wolverine experience. It’s so sad to see him leaving the role considering each and every time he dons the claws he just gets better and better at being Logan. In this he’s pushed to show so many sides all while telling his own final story. Though his scenes with X-23 kill, it’s the moments with Professor X that tugged the most at my heartstrings. He just gets everything right.
On the flip-side of my favorite moments is Sir Patrick Stewart, and he’s not just an afterthought in a wheelchair this time around. Despite being a central character in most of the X-Films, the older Xavier never really got the chance to stretch his legs. This time though, Stewart is given an emotional mountain to convey and if he doesn’t get a “Best Supporting” nod next year I quit.
Now we know those two were gonna do fine, but what about this new girl I keep seeing in the trailers? That would be Miss Dafne Keen. Dafne is the first to take Laura for a spin on the big screen and can I just tell you, this girl is amazing. She spends the first two thirds of the film with no dialogue but still ends up saying the most with masterful facial expressions and distinct, brilliantly crafted body language. Her movements and fighting style are also amazing, you’re supposed to believe that a 12-year-old girl can take down a squad of military-trained cyborgs, and you do. Will someone in Hollywood PLEASE throw bags of money at this girl to keep her in the franchise?
On the surface you might think that Logan didn’t require a ton of set design or any clever camera work. Its bleak backdrop and desert locals don’t require as much green-screen as past X-offerings and with not a stitch of leathery spandex in sight, how hard could it have been to shoot? Hard. The look and feel of the world around our main characters is consistent throughout and the little touches required to give everything that aged, overused look for many locations is wonderfully done.
The cleaner environments also seemed to have that slightly used feel. It’s hard to put my finger on it, but the sets and backgrounds are so well crafted. All that detail only adds to the action sequences. When it’s claw-pop’n time, choreography combined with the camera work create a visceral, dangerous feel to each fight. It’s not the biggest budget to grace an X-Men film – between 97 mil. and 127 mil. depending on the source – but it may be the best looking.
Simply put, Logan is an emotional character piece filled with thoughtful moments, thought provoking story and superb action. The cast embody the characters on a Oscar-winning level and the storytelling will both break your heart and uplift your spirit. Forget superhero movies, all movies should aspire to be this complete and this entertaining. Other than if I were nitpicking, there’s nothing to criticize. Logan is an amazing movie and the best X-film yet by far.
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