AKA: Logan: The Wolverine
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Eriq La Salle, Elise Nea, Daniel Bernhardt
Running Time: 137 min.
By Zach Nix
James Mangold’s Logan is such an eventful film to someone as myself that I struggle to come up with an opening statement about it, as it marks the end of an unforgettable era in blockbuster and comic book superhero cinema that we should never forget, and it’s all thanks to one Hugh Jackman. Jackman has been playing the iconic X-Men character, Wolverine, for a whopping seventeen years now and across nine films. In Jackman’s lifetime as the character, we have been witness to two Batman’s, two Superman’s, two Fantastic Four teams, three Punisher’s, and three Spider-Man’s. And yet, Jackman has been that constant that we’ve all taken for granted, always appearing as the exact same character across a franchise that has recast other roles around him. Even though the X-Men franchise has seen its ups and downs, Wolverine has always been consistently great across all of them, even though the films that he occupied varied.
With Logan, Jackman finally bids his iconic character farewell and in a way that he has never been able to fully do before, through a hard R-rated and violent standalone adventure that doesn’t set up future films or sacrifice good storytelling for unnecessary universe building. It somewhat plays off the previous events of past X-Men films, but more so as if they were once told legends of a great hero, making Wolverine very much so a Clint Eastwood archetype along the lines of The Outlaw Josey Wales or Unforgiven, an aged gun blade-slinger with one last mission to complete. It also jumps far ahead into the damaged and nearly pre-apocalyptic future of 2029, very much so separating it from all preceding events of previous X-Men films. In today’s day and age of universe connecting/post-credits teasing/PG-13 comic book superhero films that all start to blend at one point or another, Logan is a unique breath of fresh air that reminds us of the old days when adult comic book adaptations like The Crow, Blade, The Punisher, and Watchmen treated audiences like adults and gave them stand alone stories that were films first and foremost, not products.
In this semi-standalone future, Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a wounded and beat down man who drives a limo around to make money and takes care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) on a secluded property on the border of Mexico. One day on the job, Logan is confronted by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a cyborg-like mercenary working for Transgien, a heavily financed research group in search of specific mutants. Pierce warns Logan that a woman in search of him is harboring a young girl, Lara (Dafne Keen), and that she possesses something of his. When Logan eventually comes into contact with Lara, he finds himself wrapped up in Transgien’s hunt for her and is forced into a situation where he must protect her and Xavier whilst throwing his own desires to the curb.
While I personally believe that every X-Men film has done a commendable job at portraying Wolverine whilst fleshing him out more and more with each installment, Logan is the definitive Wolverine film that fans have been clamoring for. Here, Logan is portrayed as a pessimistic and harsh superhuman who has let the cruel world around him finally get to him. While Logan has always been an easily agitated guy, the anti-mutant and unrelenting world of Logan shows his patience at a particularly low level, and to a somewhat comedic effect. He’s a frustrated guy who simply wants to look out for himself, but his penchant for helping the innocent forces him to do the morally righteous thing and sacrifice his own well-being for others. While I don’t want to dive into spoilers, I’ll leave it at kudos to Mangold for giving Logan a final arc to complete his character.
Logan is also next level in that it fully unleashes Wolverine as never seen before, slashing and dashing his way through enemies and foes in gory delight. Jackman has always showcased a full sense of dedication to the character, but he’s now more unhinged than ever before thanks to the R rating. Logan easily racks up his highest kill count to date, with the entire film rounding out as the most violent and death filled X-Men venture to date. Mangold sets the tone and level of violence in the picture with an opening scene where some hard looking Mexicans try to steal from Logan, resulting in a limb dismembering tussle. Another unique scene of action includes an incident in which Xavier’s powers freeze everyone in time whilst shaking the entire world around them, with only Logan able to work his way through the powerful mind attack, stabbing frozen henchmen along the way. And finally, a finale set in the woods goes all out, with Logan running towards mercenaries and gutting them left and right. In other words, this is the Wolverine rage mode that fans have been begging for, and Mangold delivers it in spades.
Much as Mangold did in The Wolverine, Logan draws heavily upon Western iconography, as well as other memorable genre efforts, for the character and look of the film. Besides the previously mentioned Eastwood similarities, the most obvious is Shane, as Mangold even shows the Western within the film, comparing Logan to the drifter himself. The film also draws from Mad Max, but not simply for its apocalyptic imagery, but also for its reluctant hero whom gets wrapped up in other people’s business because he’s morally righteous at heart, just like Max Rockatansky. There’s also a strong Sam Peckinpah influence on the picture with it’s over the top violence and Mexican border setting. Even flourishes of Sergio Leone seep into the picture, with groups of gunmen surrounding Logan before a burst of violence sets into effect. One can’t also help but notice the similarities between the Lone Wolf and Cub series and Logan’s road trip to protect the young Laura whom he acts as a surrogate father too. Plus, the guy uses blades, miniature swords essentially, as his signature weapon. What’s truly fantastic about all of these filmic influences is that Logan never feels like a rip-off of any of them, but more so a cinematic blender that ingests their influences and subtlely homages them along the way, proving itself to be a unique neo-western for the comic book superhero genre.
Supporting performances are also to be commended, although the film is mostly the Hugh Jackman show, and deservedly so. Patrick Stewart returns as his supposed final time as Charles Xavier, and gives a truly emotional and gut wrenching performance as a weakened Xavier, who like Logan, has seen better days. Newcomer Dafne Keen is absolutely fantastic as the young Laura, a.k.a. X-23, and gives one of the best child performances I have seen in a long time. She practically steals the show like Kick-Ass’s Hit Girl character, not only because she kicks a lot of ass, but also because she showcases immense vulnerability and pathos as a young kid conditioned by her violent surroundings. Comedian Stephen Merchant also does great work as a mutant detecting mutant whom is dragged along for the adventure as well. On the villain front, Holbrook is delightfully cheesy yet menacing as the film’s main villain, whom the audience will be begging to see die by the film’s end. The biggest surprise of all, especially for martial arts and COF fans, is an appearance by none other than Daniel Bernhardt (Bloodsport II, John Wick) as one of Holbrook’s mercenaries. He’s not in the film long, but a minor appearance by Bernhardt always makes any movie better.
As much as I enjoyed Logan, the film does succumb to a few minor flaws that prevent it from outright being the masterful Wolverine film it could have been, although it is very close. Although I enjoyed the increased level of violence from previous Wolverine films, Mangold sometimes goes overboard and creates a sense of exhaustion during some of the action sequences, pushing the violence to extremes in parts that I felt were a tad inappropriate. Also, there’s a midpoint twist where a new villain is introduced, and it really took me a back and instantly hurt the entire film as a whole in my opinion. I don’t want to spoil this twist for others, but I will simply state that it was an unnecessary and silly science fiction addition to an otherwise grounded and practical film that did not need it. Also, the death of some notable characters throughout felt poorly handled and quite rushed, from both an emotional stand point regarding characters you love and a satisfying standpoint regarding characters you love to hate. Overall, Logan is great stuff, but a few minor flaws hold it back from being the perfect film it could’ve been, although readers may disagree with my opinion regarding these minor points I made, as they are very subjective.
After 2009’s disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s ‘so-close but no cigar’ The Wolverine, Mangold and Jackman have finally given us the definitive Wolverine film with Logan, the ultimate farewell to the character. This blend of neo-western and post-apocalyptic sentiments results in the ultimate genre film that action fans will be talking about for years to come. I know it’s premature to call it, but I highly doubt that any comic book superhero film for the rest of the year, let alone the next few years, will be able to match the pure visceral thrills and emotional ride of Mangold’s latest, as its cinema at its purest. While a tad overlong, the film clocks in a little over two hours, Logan is otherwise a brisk and dramatic adventure that slashes its way through the rest of the comic book superhero competition to rousing effect. Here’s to hoping that Logan reminds all of the other studios out there that not every comic book superhero film has to be connected to others or set up further sequels, as a passionate and daring standalone, especially one for adults, can prove to be infinitely more satisfying than five safe and stale efforts combined. As for Jackman, let’s all pour one out for the entertainer, as he, much like Wolverine, deserves a long rest and retirement for all of the years that he has given too us.
Zach Nix’s Rating: 9/10