“Logan” Movie Review


     Believing they were on to something after the success of “Deadpool”, 20th Century Fox and Marvel have gone all in on the R-rated superhero film sub genre with director James Mangold’s  “Logan”, the tenth film in the “X-Men” franchise and the first to carry a non kid friendly rating normally coveted for a film’s mass box office appeal.  And presuming you have seen “Deadpool”, you already know the myriad of F-bombs, gore, nudity, and sex that carried that film to the heights of adult oriented glory, but given the comedic attributes of the character which made most of the raunchy stuff possible, where would they go with the super serious Wolverine character to achieve the same?  The answer comes quickly in the opening sequence, where we catch up with Logan (Hugh Jackman) in the year 2029 as he now appears to make his living driving a limousine near the Mexico border.  Obviously, some pretty bad things have happened within the mutant world for the situation to have come to this.

     Logan wakes up in the backseat of his limo, presumably having parked on the side of the road between pickups in order to get some much needed shut eye.  This Logan appears weathered and mentally drained, unlike the ferociously energetic version we have come to know the last 17 years when he first appeared in “X-Men” (2000).  When a gang of thugs attempt to steal the rims on his car, Logan confronts the group, but with a much different reaction from his adversaries.  As the metal claws pierce his knuckles, revealing who he is, the rim thieves don’t appear the least bit intimidated.  It would seem mutants are few and far between, and like Rey and Finn’s reaction to Han Solo’s description of the Jedi in “The Force Awakens”, it’s quite possible there are younger people in the world who have never known or seen a mutant in person, much less to have a reason to be frightened by one.  This is where the R-rated nature of the film presents itself, as the once sterile dialogue is now laced with hard core profanity from both sides, and the true result of Wolverine’s claws penetrating an attackers skull are now presented in all its bloody gooey goodness.  Enjoy.

     Ratings aside, “Logan” may also be the best of the franchise when you consider the commitment to both story and character exhibited by Mangold and his co-screenwriters, Michael Green and Scott Frank.  We don’t know exactly what happened that forced Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Logan into hiding, but the duo, along with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) have gone to great lengths in order to somehow remain anonymous and keep the Professor’s enormous power contained.  When we arrive in Mexico, plans are already underway in which Logan is stockpiling enough money to buy a boat and sail the ocean for the rest of their lives.  For Logan in particular, that doesn't seem to be a lot of time since he appears to be dying and his healing powers of the past are now non existent.  In the opening sequence fight scene I alluded to, Wolverine struggles immensely with foes he would have dispatched within seconds in the past.  Instead, he comes away with multiple wounds that remain open and require treatment.  Caliban warns him that the drugs he is taking won’t work for much longer.

     The film’s central plot unfolds when Logan is found by a mysterious woman who claims the little girl traveling with her is his daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen).  Certainly, this is all confirmed via her matching knuckle claws and superhuman abilities to both heal and fight multiple attackers with ease, but Logan is, at first, resistant to the notion he has a daughter and remains focused in getting himself and Professor X to safety before they are found.  Of course, the main antagonist eventually presents himself as well in the form of Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a security agent looking for Laura, backed with an army of soldiers at his disposal.  As the plot unfolds, it’s up to Logan to uncover the nefarious origins behind Laura’s existence, as well as tend to the ever looming threat of Professor X’s unstable sanity.  

     Mangold was a less obvious, but clearly the best choice to helm what Hugh Jackman has said will be his last appearance as the most famous of the X-Men, bringing to the table a high proficiency in character dissection having directed Joaquin Phoenix to an Oscar nomination and Reese Witherspoon to an Oscar win in “Walk the Line” (2005), as well as his familiarity with the material having directed the more action oriented “The Wolverine” (2013).  Mangold allows the audience to savor the performances, letting the plot eventually come a to boil via a slow burn.  In doing so, the characters, even many who are primarily in the background, are able to flesh out on screen.  This is particularly true of Jackman and Stewart, but also allows us to discover a brilliant child actress in Dafne Keen who effectively steals each and every scene she appears in.    And to me, the inclusion of grittier material ensures the proceedings will come across significantly more life like and works to raise the stakes even higher.  As the first hour goes by, you feel less like you’re watching a movie about superheroes, and more like you’re being entrenched into a story about people who actually matter.  GRADE: B+