Logan and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by James Mangold
Dude has been playing this character since the turn of the millennium. It’s no wonder he looks so damn tired in this! For many people, the first X-Men (as well as Blade in 1998) can be pointed to as the start of the modern superhero genre as a mainstream endeavor instead of the one off success stories like Batman and Superman. Sure, Superheroes have ALWAYS been a part of the film industry (There only maybe a dozen or so fewer superhero movies made in the nineties as in the decade that followed) but with X-Men it proved that more modern and varied superheroes had a shot at connecting with a wider audience; especially with powerhouse actors like Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Hugh Jackman on hand to sell it to them. I mean say what you will for the X-Men film franchise in general, it’s managed to have a decent amount of staying power with a solid decade lead on the MCU. For all its ups and downs, it’s stayed pretty popular to this day and that’s double true for Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. However, all good things inevitably come to an end, and this movie is here to remind us all of that fact as Hugh Jackman swears this is the last time we will see him in this role. So is it a proper send off for the role that started a global phenomenon, or has all semblances of life and effort left his franchise a long time ago like it has to the main character in this movie? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Old Man Logan (Hugh Jackman) barely scraping by as a limo driver who ALWAYS seems to run into assholes wherever he goes. Maybe those Adamantium claws of his are magnetized to attract douche bags or maybe it’s because he parks his fancy ass car in gang territory. Either way, he’s living the Max Payne dream of self-loathing, self-medication, and self-assurance that nothing is going to get better no matter what. At the very least, he IS managing to take care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who’s stuck with him after some incident about a year ago that no one is too keen to bring up and to make matters worse he seems to have a degenerative brain disease that is making his powers unstable as well as his memories. With a stable job and the responsibilities of taking care of Charles, somewhat helped by a new friend of theirs named Caliban (Stephen Merchant), he’s at least managing to put off putting an Adamantium bullet in his head from the time being, though I’m pretty sure the OTHER X-Men movie confirmed it WOULDN’T kill him if he did that. However, if everyone else is still okay with pretending that one didn’t exist, then so am I. Of course, things can’t stay that way for long as a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) enters the mix and throws all their lives into chaos. See, apparently mutants stopped being born a few decades ago, and most of the ones who are still alive have died off for one reason or another. Laura though is herself a mutant, and not just any mutant to boot. Her powers are almost exactly that of Logan’s and there are a lot of people that want her dead. And so the chase is on with Logan reluctantly dragging both Laura and Xavier (Caliban isn’t so lucky) through the United States to find some sort of refuge in Canada from the evil organization hunting them down and to possibly find some shred of redemption for the life that he led. Can Logan complete this one last mission before finally finding the peace that has eluded him for so long? Where exactly did this girl come from, and how is she a mutant in a world where they are effectively extinct? Seriously, does every Dad FigureTM nowadays have to have those beards!?
This movie is so damn good that I’m a little worried about what it will wrought upon the world; not so much that no other superhero movie could possibly live up to it but that it’s going to be a benchmark that others will try (and fail) to reach or that some who will end up idolizing it will take away the wrong messages form it. I mean sure, you can’t really blame someone for making art that others ineptly imitate (unless that person is Frank Miller) and I have some ACTUAL criticisms of the movie lest you think I’m just knocking off points for that reason alone, but the circumstances surrounding this film are precisely why it works and I can’t imagine another film being able to earn the kind of emotional heft that this has given the damn near twenty years of history leading up to this. It’s damn near a triumph as far as the nominally passable X-Men series goes (though I seem to like them a bit more than most) in that it’s exactly the kind of Wolverine movie we wanted to see, while also being the one we really NEED to see. It’s fun, visceral, and is completely unrestricted with the R rating for everyone who wanted to hear Patrick Stewart tell Hugh Jackman to fuck off (and vice versa), but it’s also really meditative and dour; putting an uncomfortable light on not only the character’s own age but the age of the franchise itself. It’s not perfect, and there are aspects of this that feel a bit under cooked, but you know what? I’ll fucking take it. It’s the best X-Men movie the same way that Watchmen is the best comic book or The Dark Knight is the best Superhero movie. It might ultimately end up being a TAD overrated when we look back on it in a few years, but for now it’s everything that the final movie for this character SHOULD be.
Okay, so maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic to think that this is going to make as big of an impact as say The Dark Knight did when it came out in 2008, or even as big an impact as The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen had on the comic book industry. The fact is that we’ve already got the MCU on one end dominating the box office and setting the trends, we’ve got the DCCU on the other end trying desperately to prove how cool they are and fucking it up along the way, and we’ve got Fox in the middle just trying to survive by NOT being as bone headed as DC. Spoiler alert: they don’t always succeed at that. Chances are that the MCU is barely gonna take note of this movie’s success, and the DCCU is already hewing to some of the same ideas that are in this movie; albeit in the worst way possible. Sure, Fox is gonna push Deadpool as long as Ryan Reynolds is up for the job (and probably a few movies after that) and I figure they’re already putting out feelers for a new Wolverine, but we’re at a point where the genre is so big that no one film can set a trend for the entire industry. The last one to do that was The Avengers back in 2012 which is STILL the benchmark that everyone is striving for, so outside of Fox itself and probably a smattering of lesser known stuff from other studios and on television, I don’t think that brooding and contemplative meditations on manhood and violence (or the mishandling of such topics by only focusing on the sexy violence and gore of this movie) is gonna be the norm going forward. It’s absolutely a singular work; a definite piece of art that rarely exists in the modern cinematic landscape where every blockbuster has the specter of FRANCHISE MANAGEMENT looming over them. That’s precisely why this movie works so amazingly well and also why FOX SHOULD NEVER TRY TO MAKE A SEQUEL! Seriously, did that work out when Frank Miller made The Dark Knight Strikes Again or when DC made those prequels to Watchmen?
So ignoring all that stuff surrounding it, what is it about this movie that makes it so fantastic? Well, it gives us everything we’ve always wanted from a Wolverine story and in doing so gives us the one that no one expected. Well… that might be a bit unfair. Comic book fans aren’t idiots and can appreciate sophisticated works like the aforementioned Watchmen, but in a broader sense, it’s a deconstruction of what people tend to like about the character to the point of turning it into a gut wrenching tragedy. The level of violence and bloodshed (denied to fans for so long to keep the rating PG-13 in the other films) borders on the pornographic with every kill being both satisfying to watch and heartbreaking to experience. We’ve cheered Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine on since 2000 as he sliced his way through nameless goons and badass mutants, but this is the where the romanticism gets stripped away entirely so that each death that happens onscreen is not only a chore for our hero but a despicable act that comes from necessity of survival rather than a means to a greater end like saving the world. It’s clear that (at least in Logan’s eyes) that his powers can’t actually help anyone like Charles Xavier’s can, but can only cause harm. Lip service has always been paid to Logan’s ambivalence towards his gift going all the way back to the first movie where he told us that they hurt every time he has to take them out, but this is the one that really hones in on that aspect of his pathos and gives the movie so much of its power.
The thing is though that none of it NEEDS to be true. Even if his powers can only hurt, he still has the power to protect which is sorely needed by the few who are still around to care for him; including Stephen Merchant as Caliban whose role could have EASILY been a throwaway one manages to have some solid depth and gravitas to it. Patrick Stewart as the elderly and deteriorating Charles Xavier is phenomenal in the role, and not just because he tells Logan to fuck off several times throughout this. It’s similar to what his best buddy and fellow X-Men alumni Ian McKellen did in Mr. Holmes who was also playing someone with a sharp mind and great gifts, but was losing the abilities to simply function. It’s rough to watch as Charles keeps slipping further and further away while Logan is unable to do anything about this; yet another failure for the man who has always failed to protect those that he loved. It’s a rough performance as he’s doing everything he can to give Logan a sense of purpose for his life, but it’s always stymied by his dependence on him which makes it harder for Logan to find that fresh start he so desperately needs. Everyone else in the support cast, while quite up to Patrick Stewart’s level, is great in their parts. Dafne Keen as Laura doesn’t have a lot to DO in the plot for the first two thirds other than look sullen and kick ass, but she infuses so much emotion and depth into what little she is given that you almost forget that she’s mostly there as a plot device. Most of this is fixed by the third act though where she REALLY comes into her own and becomes a character of equal significance as Charles and Logan which is the only thing that is tempting me to ask for a sequel to this just so we can follow her and find out what she gets involved with after the end of the movie.
Now the movie does have a few flaws in here worth pointing out with the biggest one being the villains. They are the worst combination of blind idiocy and utter ineffectiveness that it’s barely worth even having them in here. It’s another example of a company just so gosh darn evil that they make pointlessly cruel mistakes that backfire on them instantaneously when showing just the SLIGHTEST smidgen of humanity would have solved pretty much all of their problems. On top of that, the collateral damage they rack up in their hunt for Laura is less a STEALTHY OPERATION TO APPREHEND STOLEN PROPERTY than it is ROVING GANG OF ARMORED TERRORISTS LEAVE A TRAIL OF BODIES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. I mean, credit to Boyd Holbrook for playing the EVIL HENCHMAN part well, but the movie never really knows what to do with him; especially when they disempower him so early into the movie. Once that happens which is at the twenty minute mark, it’s hard to take anything he does seriously ever again; especially when every move he makes turns out to be the worst possible one for any given situation! On top of the generic villains, the plot itself isn’t all that original as it follows a well-worn formula for western films (something the director is familiar with as he directed the 3:10 to Yuma remake), and the movie indulges in some overused tropes to the point telegraphed several plot twists. There’s even a scene in this that plays out almost exactly the same way as a scene in Origins Wolverine, and while it’s CERTAINLY better here, that’s hardly a comparison you’d want to be made!
Minor nitpicks aside and ignoring how certain fans can poison this in the same way they did The Dark Knight and Batman in general, this is a superb achievement for everyone involved and the best way to end this story in a philosophical sense if not COMPLETELY in terms of execution. If Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are truly done with this franchise, there’s no better note they could have gone out on and it’s going to be somewhat disappointing when the new McAvoy/Fassbender movie doesn’t live up to this. Then again, it’s so unique in terms of its place in this series and the circumstances of its existence, that I wouldn’t even WANT the next X-Men movie to try to recapture the magic of this. Go out and see this movie as soon as possible, and then afterwards beg Fox to not fuck this franchise up again!
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