A Movie Review: Logan (2017)
“Nature made me a freak, Man made me a weapon, and God made it last too long.”
There has never been an X-Men movie like “Logan”. Set in 2029, the battered and beleaguered title character, also known as Wolverine, is living in an abandoned factory near the U.S.-Mexican border with his old friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and an albino mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant), who has the ability to sense and locate other mutants. Logan spends his time working as a limo driver, drinking booze, beating the hell out of people who are dumb enough to attack him, and taking care of Charles, whose profoundly powerful mind is ravaged by neurological disorders. The trio is being hunted by mutant-hating mercenary Charles Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his brutal band of soldiers, the Reavers.
Logan’s humdrum life is interrupted when he meets the enigmatic Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who is staying at a nearby hotel. She is accompanied by a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). Gabriela offers Logan a substantial sum to drive her and Laura to a mysterious and possibly mythical place called Eden, a sanctuary of some sort located in North Dakota near the Canadian border. Logan reluctantly agrees but later returns to the hotel to find that Gabriela has been brutally murdered and Laura is missing. He drives back to the factory but it turns out that Laura has followed him. Unfortunately, so have Pierce and his team of mercenaries. A bloody battle ensues and Laura is exposed as a mutant with superhuman strength after she slaughters and dismembers several Reavers. Logan, Charles, and Laura manage to escape, but Caliban is captured by the Reavers and is forced to use his abilities to track the trio as they desperately search for shelter.
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Laura is revealed to be Logan’s daughter. I was relieved that the movie dispensed with this twist quickly, since the trailers made it totally obvious. Laura, also known as X-23, was part of a secret experiment by a shadowy corporation that attempted to use mutant DNA to create a group of child super-soldiers. The second half of the film chronicles Logan and Laura’s journey to Eden and the revelation of what they find there. After a gruesome and extremely violent final sequence, the saga of Wolverine comes to a suitably bittersweet conclusion.
Hugh Jackman has been playing Logan/Wolverine for 17 years. He slips back into the role easily, like someone putting on an old pair of well-worn boots. Although he has aged considerably, he is still convincing and believable in the fight scenes. Jackman is adept at playing every aspect of Logan’s personality, from his gruff exterior to his sensitive side.
Patrick Stewart puts a different spin on Charles Xavier. A former professor who lost everything after a tragic incident, Xavier is an angry and bitter man who seems to have lost all hope for the future until he meets Laura, who becomes his final pupil. After being portrayed as a gentle, fatherly intellectual in the previous films, Xavier is now an unhinged, mentally unstable 90 year old who swears like a sailor and has a love/hate relationship with Logan. Charles doesn’t want to hurt innocent people, but he no longer has full control of his mental faculties, and that makes him perhaps the most dangerous man alive. This is apparently Patrick Stewart’s last performance as Xavier and he goes out in blistering fashion, hilariously dropping f-bombs every change he gets.
Dafne Keen makes an impact as Laura/X-23. In any other movie, the idea of an 11 year old girl slaughtering weapon-toting soldiers would seem laughable and ridiculous. Keen’s charismatic performance makes it believable. The young actress, who is half British/half Spanish, speaks with an unusual accent that sometimes makes her difficult to understand and her dialogue is kept to minimum (in fact, she doesn’t speak at all in the first half of the film). She is remarkably effective in the action sequences, slightly less so in the emotional scenes, but for an 11 year old her performance is pretty damn good.
It’s remarkable that it took three tries to make a genuinely compelling film about Wolverine, who is arguably the most popular character in the X-men canon. After appearing in the original X-Men trilogy, Wolverine received his first spinoff, “X Men Origins: Wolverine”, in 2009. It was a miserable mess of a movie that received an overwhelmingly negative reception from critics and fans. Its 2013 follow-up, “The Wolverine”, ignored its predecessor and depicted Logan’s journey to Japan, where he reunites with an old friend, fights samurai warriors, and tries to cope with the death of Jean Grey (Famke Jansen), his love interest from the first three X-Men flicks. “The Wolverine” was a much better film than “Origins”, but was still rather mediocre and forgettable.
“Logan” is helmed by James Mangold, who directed “The Wolverine” and the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line”. Freed from the restraints of the PG-13 rating, Mangold crafts a relentlessly brutal film that substitutes the watered-down violence of most comic book movies with scenes of colossal carnage. He directs the movie in a style that is somewhat reminiscent of a spaghetti western. I appreciate that Mangold had the guts to make such an unconventional comic book movie and that 20th Century Fox had the courage to let him do it.
“Logan” is one of the best comic book movies I’ve seen, and I’ve watched many comic book movies. It’s somewhat predictable and it’s possible to nit-pick a few things here and there, but this movie is one hell of a ride and should please anyone who likes violent action flicks or dark westerns.