On occasion, there are too many movies out that fit to print in The Citizens’ Voice and Standard-Speaker. Today, Rebecca offers her take on “Logan.”
“Logan”: 5 stars. In theaters.
“Logan” is a superhero film, but it’s so much more than a superhero film. The gritty drama is the culmination of a journey for a conflicted antihero that started 17 years ago with “X-Men,” and an actor who will be forever identified with the role he created onscreen.
If this is the last time Hugh Jackman does play clawed mutant Wolverine, what a magnificent way to go out. “Logan” is a masterpiece of riveting storytelling, brutal action, in-depth characterization and powerful emotions. The film takes on the traits of a Western to address the themes of regret, family, and aging.
Set in the future in 2029, most of the world’s mutants have been wiped out. Logan/Wolverine is taking care of an aging Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in an isolated Mexican hideout.
The two are shadows of their former selves. At more than 200 years old, Wolverine is feeling the ravages of time, no longer healing as quickly as he once did. Charles, the brilliant mind behind Xavier’s School for Gifted Children, is now is in his 90s, suffering from debilitating, wave-inducing seizures.
Wolverine is reluctantly brought back into the hero fold when he encounters young mutant Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen). Sought after by a dangerous genetics company, Laura – also known as X-23 – has the same adamantium claws as the mutant antihero. With so few mutants left, Wolverine and Charles go on the run to protect Laura and get her to a safe haven across the Canadian border.
First and foremost, “Logan” knows its audience has a special relationship with the character of Wolverine, starting with 2000’s “X-Men” and forged through seven more films. The movie tells an emotional story that constantly keeps viewers engaged, and makes references to past events in the “X-Men” franchise. But the film also respects the intelligence of its audience, giving us enough pieces to let us figure out why these characters may be in their current circumstances.
Jackman gives his all in his best performance yet as Wolverine/Logan, the Marvel comic book character who made him a household name. Every time he has played the role, he has added more layers to the complicated mutant. In his ninth time wearing the claws in “Logan,” Jackman also dons graying hair, a limp and a nagging cough. The aging antihero becomes a caretaker to Charles, and a father figure to Laura. Reclusive and self-hating, Wolverine still has the rage of the Berserker, which comes out when he needs it.
With its R rating, “Logan” allows its titular character to go into full Berserker mode for the first time onscreen, slicing and dicing through bad guys. The no-holds-barred opening scene lets the audience know this is a different kind of Wolverine movie, with graphic violence and language. But the film smartly doles out its blood-soaked action, with compelling story and character-building moments in between. This isn’t violence for violence’s sake, but when it serves the story.
“Logan” is grounded in reality, exploring the human side of a fading superhero. “The Wolverine” director James Mangold returns to see through his vision for the character in the Neo-Western, transcending the superhero genre in the process.
Hiding in a deserted wasteland, Wolverine is one of the last X-Men, the “last gun in the valley.” The film references the classic Western “Shane” as Wolverine returns to something he’s good at but something that has always haunted him: killing. By getting Laura to the border, maybe he can find the one thing that’s eluded him most of his long life: redemption.
“Logan” follows through on threads established in other “X-Men” films. The theme of family among mutants has permeated the franchise since the beginning. Wolverine, Charles and Laura make up their own unconventional family in “Logan.” For someone who’s never been able to settle down and have a normal life, Wolverine finds some semblance of a family unit in Charles and Laura.
The scarred Logan must confront his mortality, first explored in “The Wolverine.” Aging is a reality that all of must experience someday, but what is it like for superheroes? For Wolverine, how does it feel to take the hits, but not recover as fast?
The film also looks at how Charles, one of the greatest minds in the world, falls victim to a degenerating brain disease he can’t control. Stewart, who is playing Professor X for the seventh and possibly last time, masterfully shows a side of Charles we have never seen before. Charles is at his most vulnerable, unable to take care of himself. He lets loose his potty mouth, yet still retains his signature compassion for others.
Wolverine must face his struggles with the animalistic parts of his nature, continued from “X2: X-Men United” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” When he sees the same nature in Laura, he is compelled to take her under his wing. It’s full-circle from when Wolverine helped the aimless mutant Rogue in the first “X-Men.”
The talented Keen is a revelation as X-23. The young actress doesn’t speak for most of the movie, conveying a feral quality. It’s unsettling as she mercilessly uses her claws. But her bright eyes take in what’s going on around her. She more than holds her own against the grizzled Jackman.
The end of “Logan” is a powerful conclusion to the journey we have taken with Wolverine and Jackman. It’s a more than a fitting sendoff to Jackman’s time in the role, the longest run for an actor to play a superhero onscreen.
“Logan” is not just a great superhero movie, but an excellent film in its own right. It’s one of the best movies of 2017. The film’s legacy will not only affect the X-Men franchise, but shows the great heights superhero films can achieve through the passion of their stars, a willingness to break boundaries, and the connections they make with the audience over time.