No Country for Old Mutants
A Film Review of Logan
Is this the Wolverine movie we all deserved, but not necessarily needed right now? Yes and no. After nine X-Men films (most of which featuring good old Logan as the main character) the audience has finally received a brutal, visceral and no holds barred depiction of the mutant designed to suffer all forms of physical deprivation while dolling it out at the same time. Unfortunately, Hugh Jackman is now 48 years old and has decided to hang up the claws in an effort to bring closure to the character he so aptly breathed life into for so many years. As such, Wolverine is now over the hill, Professor X’s wet nurse and simply waiting around to die; not the most flattering way to wrap up a legacy. Although this film features some of the best performances among actors depicting comic book characters in live action, it is a shame we had to wait for Logan to turn into a grumpy old man in order to get at least some of the nuanced R-rated behavior always attributed to the character in the comic books. Logan is a very good drama with pockets of intense action, but it has some issues as a cinematic adventure.
The movie wastes no time getting the audience used to the less campy feel of a Bryan Singer X-film due to the number of F-bombs dropped between Wolverine and Xavier within the first 15 minutes of runtime. As the film progresses, any dialogue sequence that features foul language tends to tack on excessive, duplicate cursing when certainly one well uttered “*uck” would have been more than sufficient. I understand the filmmakers finally got the go ahead for an R-rating (thank you Ryan Reynolds), and they want their money’s worth in pervasive language. Any audience can appreciate that even mutants can grow into crotchety old men whose general embitterment about life, mortality and the fact things just aren’t what they used to be would inspire such colorful language. However, when the frequency of the cursing approaches Wolf of Wall Street levels of absurdity, the harsh language becomes a distraction at best and silly at worst. It felt artificial, forced and a bit out of character even for Wolverine.
The pacing in this film could also use a bit more energy. In between some expertly captured and choreographed action sequences there are significant stretches of meandering exposition and dull plot setup that strings the audience along in an attempt to explain how these characters have gotten to this point in time. It would have been nice to experience these moments as building suspense because the story ultimately turns into a cross country chase anyway. What helps the overall flow even less is the fact that the back story is completely glazed over with obtuse generality such that the audience has absolutely zero detail how it has all boiled down to old man Logan and even older Xavier while the rest of the world has moved on somehow. If the character building moments of anger and frustration in the first half of the film would have referenced some specific moments or characters from the past, we would be able to appreciate the present more clearly. Unfortunately, these dramatic moments only really exist to emphasize the age and irrelevance of two of the most important X-Men.
The significance of various conflicts within this film is curiously prioritized. Ultimately, the real conflict is the internal one Wolverine has struggled with in just about every X-film which is executed quite well through his interplay with Xavier and Laura. However, the external conflict, the sole purpose for the existence of any action in this movie is confusing. The corporate/government conglomerate, represented by bad guys Donald Pierce and the Reavers, is merely pursuing the retrieval of Laura (X-23) and they could care less for anything else Logan is involved with. The coincidence of these characters crossing paths forces a shared fate, but the film establishes early on why Logan is Xavier’s personal care giver, the failure of which would be dire to say the least. It also establishes that Logan and Xavier’s situation isn’t exactly a secret, which instantly transforms this much more dangerous source of conflict into a Macguffin so as to sell the audience on the more “prominent” plot of Logan having to save mutant children. The presence and performance of Patrick Stewart as Xavier in and of itself is a huge selling point to this film, and I am thankful for it, but this subplot diminishes the conflict between Logan and Laura because, quite frankly, not as many lives are at stake regarding that relationship.
Right about now, you may believe that I despised this film, and while I cannot crown this as the king of all X-films, it redeems much of my nit-picking in the action department. Thankfully, director James Mangold gets plenty of run from his R-rating in the ways we all wanted to see Wolverine truly let loose. Combat is intense, the body count is high, plenty of appendages get sliced off, lots of wounds, scars, bleeding and bullets are highlighted and the camera never cuts away. This is the aspect of a Wolverine centric film that is both welcomed and expected, but I was impressed with how the film also featured Laura (X-23) as an equivalent dispatcher of feral rage. Seeing an 11-year-old girl jumping, flipping and eviscerating mercenaries like they were organ filled piñatas is an uncommon juxtaposition of violent imagery even for Hollywood. It somehow works incredibly well despite leaving an awkward sensation within the viewer’s mind. The confidence in the performance and physicality displayed by the young Dafne Keen stands up to the veteran charisma and demeanor of Hugh Jackman resulting in a satisfactory pairing of the oddest of couples.
Combat is gory and masterfully captured. Melee combat absolutely trounces all standard fare gunplay by the bad guys. Kill shots are thankfully unfiltered. There are a few vehicle sequences, but they aren’t too special.
The frame cheats in a bit for little Laura’s berserker rage, but gives much more variety for Logan’s combat in terms of perspective and neat tracking shots.
Without Hugh Jackman, the X-film franchise would not exist. Patrick Stewart remains classy, albeit somewhat reduced in capacity as Charles Xavier and Dafne Keen shows great promise as a rising child actress.
Stephen Merchant’s Caliban is charming, yet trite. Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce is about as average as disinterested antagonists get, and Richard Grant’s Dr. Rice is contrived. Where has Eriq La Salle been all this time? He is solid in a throwaway role as is his family played by Elise Neal and Quincy Fouse.
You won’t hear any familiar X-orchestrations from the past and will instead be privy to popular songs from the past to emote this adventure. The selection and application of these tracks are superior to anything heard from a Zach Snyder film.
The gore doesn’t have its full effect without all the slashing, stabbing and ripping sounds that help make it all happen. Xavier’s “condition” is also a neat effect to hear.
“Moving” = 27/33
Seeing Logan follow through with kill shots requires more extensive use of CG for close ups and it all pays off with glorious ultra violence. Healing effects and accumulating battle damage on Logan’s body is well presented. Robotic appendage animation could have been sharper and featured on more than just Donald Pierce.
All the gore effects gave the CG violence the anchor of realism necessary to sell the illusion. There’s enough blood and guts to bother even the moderately squeamish. Kudos to all of the stunt work especially in any scenes involving an aerial Laura slicing and dicing.
Still no yellow spandex and everyone is still trying to pass off as normal people in a fairly abnormal world. Average.
Hair & Makeup
Excellent application of makeup throughout to show how much of Wolverine’s body gets shredded through the course of this film. The scene to look out for is Logan on the doctor’s table. Yuck!
Road trip adventures feature mostly exterior shots and in this film are all but exclusively captured during the day showcasing a color gradient of browns and grays. Most locations are uninteresting arm pits in the middle of nowhere.
A series of motel rooms, rundown shacks and average homes are as dynamic as Groot’s lexicon in Guardians of the Galaxy.
“Picture” = 22/33
Logan and Xavier (and Caliban?) are old men with no other mutants around for which there is no explanation, but here’s a kid you have to save, so that’s a thing.
Logan has a love/hate relationship with the feels as in he’d love to have them, but when he gets close the net result is death and destruction. I am so tired of the Wolverine vs. nameless soldiers routine and don’t get me started on Logan’s “surprise” opposition towards the end.
The ending is quite satisfying in its drama and emotional charge, but is as surprising as the end of a film by the name of Titanic.
Ignoring the excessive cursing reveals nothing but absolute gold between Logan and Xavier jawing at each other from start to finish. Logan and Laura have some interesting “who’s the real adult” moments once she begins to speak. Drab exchanges between Logan and the bad guys.
Apparently all it takes is an R-rating to make characters we’ve come to know and love be seen in a completely different light. Xavier is the right kind of hilarious, Logan is appropriately gruff and Laura demonstrates some real personality when she finally begins to speak.
This aspect of the story really hits home for anyone out there who has been charged with some amount of care taking for either a parent/grandparent or a child. The frustrations are real and heartfelt. This allows the audience to forget that some of these characters are superhuman if only for an instant.
“Story” = 21/34
Overall MPS Rating: 70/100
Logan is not an adrenaline packed release of furious energy a warrior such as Wolverine was once capable of. It is, however, much more interesting as a dramatic exploration of individuals with extraordinary abilities running into the wall of inevitable mortality. These once, seemingly invincible X-Men are now vulnerable and weak and simply getting through the day is far more important than saving the world. A budget of $97 million dollars is by no means a pittance, but when the film is meant to be a special effect/action adventure in this day’s economy, the production would appear to be an independent film. Logan certainly feels like one from start to finish in all the right ways such as featuring performance over spectacle, but there’s still plenty of action to entertain those wanting to see some super-human effects. I wish nothing but the best for the X-franchise moving forward, but it won’t be the same without Mr. Hugh Jackman. 20th Century Fox would do well to not reboot within 5 years featuring a brand new Wolverine because in this reviewer’s opinion, there will only be one.