Logan Sharpens the Character’s Claws
Review by Daniel Rester
Logan is the end of a certain movie era in ways, with both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart supposedly finished with their respective roles as Logan aka Wolverine and Charles Xavier after this. It’s crazy to think that the two have embodied the characters across multiple films in the X-Men franchise since 2000. The good news is that they have gifted audiences with some of their finest performances in Logan, leaving their impact on a high note.
The story of Logan — written by Scott Frank, Michael Green, and James Mangold — takes place in 2029, with mutants on the edge of extinction. The title character (Jackman) is hiding along the US-Mexican border, living with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and taking care of Xavier (Stewart) while also taking on a job as a limo driver.
When a mysterious man named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) shows up one day in search of a mutant, Logan and Xavier’s lives are turned upside down. They soon go on the run with a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen), who must get to North Dakota for certain reasons. This leads the three to travel there together, with Pierce on their heels.
After years of being placed into tame PG-13 movies, the tortured character of Logan is finally given the R-rated treatment this time around. And it’s a hard R at that, so parents be warned. Mangold, who also directed, doesn’t hold back at all in depicting the darkness and brutality that can enter the mutants’ lives. The film is bloody and features dismemberment and cussing, which takes a little to get used to given the material we’re accustomed to with these characters.
After a small adjustment period, the graphic R-rated atmosphere of Logan begins to feel right for the haunted character’s world. Mangold and his crew have crafted bold and exciting action sequences that feature striking images and character consequences. The violence does occasionally feel overboard in its depiction, but the scenes are always crafted with skill. One particular action sequence involving a hotel room is especially memorable and a highlight of the film.
I also enjoyed Mangold’s use of Western-like aesthetics in the Texas and Mexico scenes, and the screenwriters even make time to have some characters watch a particularly famous Western film; it’s a nice touch. The settings are often fittingly dirty and rugged, and the movie even includes scenes with trains, farms, and horses. It seems Mangold still had some exploring of the Western genre he wanted to do even after making the excellent 3:10 to Yuma (2007).
The blood spatters of the action aside, Logan is also mature in its treatment of its themes and characters. The X-Men franchise has always used the mutants’ stories as metaphors for minorities and social issues. Logan pushes those themes to some darker places while also filling the lead characters with layers of regret, sadness, and more. By making Logan a small-scale superhero road trip movie of sorts, Mangold and team have managed to focus the material and make it feel more personal and tragic than typical comic book films. The end result is one of the more adult comic book films ever made and one of the best films in the X-Men series (maybe second only to X2 (2003)).
Jackman and Stewart are both on their A-game here, not phoning it in for one minute. Even after all these years, the two manage to mine new depth and feeling for their characters. The young Keen is also impressive as Laura, with her thousand-yard stares sometimes saying more than any dialogue could; that’s very impressive for a child performer to pull off. Holbrook is also terrific as Pierce, though I do wish there was a bit more development given to his character and fellow bad guy Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant).
At 137 minutes, Logan feels long at times — mostly sagging a bit in its second act. But the film’s length and flaws aside, it’s still a treat to ride alongside this complex character on his journey. Jackman has made it a joy to watch him over the years, and the same can be said for Stewart as Xavier. The two actors will be sorely missed in this world. Logan represents a shining swan song from them.
My Grade: A- (on an F to A+ scale).
My Viewing Scale: Skip It, Wait for Cable, Wait for Blu-ray/VOD Rental, Worth Matinee Movie Ticket, Worth Full-Price Movie Ticket
MPAA Rating: R (for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity).