Never have I been happier to have been wrong. Logan is a masterpiece. Told in the fashion of a post apocalyptic western with more heart wrenching performances than one should be able to produce or endure, Logan is transcendent. Fox and James Mangold have produced a definitive finale, that as with Christian Bale’s turn as the Dark Knight, should be deemed a legacy and never again touched. Now – on to my review.
I went to see this final opus to long term legendary character, Wolverine, with lowered expectations. I expected it to be bleak, perhaps bordering on nihilistic. The notion that the template for the film was the Alan Ladd western classic “Shane” did not fill me with much hope. I came with lowered expectations after “The Wolverine” which still stands in my opinion as one of the worst superhero if not worst general movies of all time. That James Mangold who directed said film was heading this present run made me leery. Then something happened, the film titled simply “Logan” was something entirely different. In this case, different is good.
Hugh Jackman pours his heart and soul playing a shadow of the man who was once such a force of nature. Patrick Stewart’s performance as Charles Xavier was incredibly moving and downright heart breaking. The find in this film, however, is newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23. In her first big screen outing this young woman’s performance is so damn incredible that words simply fail. She is essentially presented as a feral child. She has to convey such a variety of emotions with nearly no dialogue. The range she demonstrates is fantastic and Ms. Keen’s future as an actress at her 11 years of age is filled with promise. Her physicality, raw hurt and soul shattering rage are mitigated by a subtle compassion and heart of a protector. She seamlessly covers Xavier when they are attacked by a group known as “The Reavers”. Her propensity for violence leaves no question as to her parentage. Xavier smilingly remarks “does she remind you of anyone Logan?” His later comparing her to a lioness complementing her variant of Logan’s enhancements with her equal alacrity at defense is apt.
This is an R rated film. It is a hard R. The violence in this venture is breath taking. Both Logan and Laura are warriors and the exhibiting of each mutant’s ferocity is something to behold. This is not standard Marvel fare and it did not purport to be. It needed to be an R rated film. Set in 2029 after the essential decline and imminent potential extinction of mutants, this is not a fun romp. It is definitively a dark turn. It is so much more though. “Logan” has grit, touches of humor and above all flourishes of what it is to be human. The notion of being a parent and all that comes with such a responsibility is aptly illustrated via the father son dynamic of Charles and Logan. The desire for a parent via Laura is so painful to watch but you simply can’t look away. There is a later scene in the film where Laura acknowledges Logan as her father that is soul crushingly beautiful.
Make no mistake, this is not the Wolverine of X-Men films past that some have grown up with. Logan is older, more down trodden. Two incidents inform his present state, the more traumatic of the two being the “Westchester incident” which indelibly links Xavier and Logan to the end. Some have criticized this segment not being presented in flashbacks, but there is no need. We can deduce what happened and this is horrible enough. Xavier’s later confession of remembering ‘what happened’ when he cites having had a “better day than he deserves” is a harsh enough reveal.
The film starts off as nigh apocalyptic with its dusty, subdued tones and desert locales. The place beyond the Mexican border where Logan ‘houses’ Xavier is bleak as hell. Stephen Merchant’s Caliban is his part time caretaker. Like Logan, he too has committed acts for which he must atone. The sight of Xavier in failing mental health and decline was something I thought I could not get past. One does however as he manages to. His resurgence into the real world as he finds a cause worth living for is exceptional performance on Stewart’s part though we should expect no less. Merchant’s role is well played with the actor known for predominantly comedic fare presenting a resonant, rich character one can easily feel empathy toward.
Boyd Holdbrook’s “Donald Pierce” is a stylish villain. He presents his character with an arrogant tone of menace belying a sly charm. He makes the role his own playing an unapologetic bastard who has the hubris to refer to himself as “one of the good guys”. The low key effects of his and his Reaver cohorts’ cybernetic enhancements were well done. This is a grounded movie and there is no need for heavy CGI or visuals. In that same vein, the illustration of Xavier’s “weapon of mass destruction” mind as he has physical incidents/seizures was astounding. The scene in which he attempts to protect Laura and instead basically “EMPs” an entire casino was a terrific sequence up to and including Logan attempting to reach him to help.
Richard E. Grant’s “Dr. Zander Rice” is a cruel extension of the man who both gifted and cursed Logan with his adamantium skeleton. His performance is nothing new but Logan’s dealing with him was unexpected and played exceedingly well. The notion of Logan and Xavier’s past informing their present is presented with a physical manifestation or personification of fate’s retribution via X-24. I’ll say no more on that subject.
Hugh Jackman proclaims he is done with this character and I believe him. My sincerest best wishes to whoever attempts to pick up the mantle of Wolverine. Their work is very much cut out for them. Hugh Jackman is Logan/Wolverine and this final film is a firm punctuation of the fact. I could continue to expound on the many successes and accomplishments of this character swan song. I’ll wrap it up by saying Logan is easily one Marvel’s best forays and despite a profound harshness still hearkens to a hopeful direction for future endeavors. Simply put, you must see this movie if you are a fan of the genre or if you simply want to see an incredible film. Logan is irrefutably, simply outstanding and well worth your time.