I am not a man who cries at movies. I don’t cry reading books or listening to music. I Just don’t get emotionally impacted by works of art yet Logan drained me in a way that few things have ever before and I must admit that I welled up. This movie is much more than just a tug on your heartstrings. I laughed, I (almost) cried, I awed in wonder at throats being ripped out. It’s the whole package. This film is the culmination of 17 years of berserker fury, emotional despair, and amnesiatic turmoil rolled into two and a half hours. By Odin’s beard does it deliver.
Wolverine in film, much like his on page counterpart, has been the subject of amazing moments but has also been subjected to some truly terrible stories. There are those who would argue that X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the worst comic book ever. After a promising but ultimately disappointing film in The Wolverine, it was feared that Hugh Jackman’s Logan would never get the movie he deserves. Yet here we are after 17 years and more than just a few bad films later looking at one of the best X-Men movies we’ve ever had.
James Mangold’s Logan follows a beaten and battered James “Logan” Howlett as he cares for the ailing Professor Xavier and is thrust into a dangerous situation with a young mutant that is very much like himself. The film provides plenty of action as the trio is pursued across the country by malicious militaristic forces. Mangold delivers on the promise of action that The Wolverine teased us with. This is a spoiler free review but I feel safe letting you know that the film doesn’t end with a giant silver samurai transformer.
It was always a big concern for Wolverine fans that across seven films we’ve never gotten the berserker fury we so desired. There have been flashes of it in X2 and The Wolverine but Logan is the true masterpiece that embodies Canada’s favorite mutant. However, Hugh Jackman isn’t the only one to bare his claws in this film; Dafne Keen’s Laura gets in on the action. It’s a little jarring but nonetheless delightful to see this little girl share the violent Wolverine-esque moments with Hugh Jackman.
The aforementioned Dafne Keen is perfect in her portrayal as the feral mini-Wolverine. There is a certain physicality required in a role like this; something Jackman didn’t possess till his second X-film. Young Dafne learned well from her costar; she was a revelation in only her second credit in film or television. Child actors are often dull and unable to capture the audience but Keen’s performance really pulls you into her character. There have been talks of a X-23 film and I’m pulling for that as hard as any film in comic book lore. The other supporting role in this film is Geek Royalty member Patrick Stewart. His final performance as the Professor is his finest yet. There is an emotional weight to this role that was never present in any previous X-men film. In a just world, Stewart’s performance as Xavier would be considered for an Oscar nomination.
Hugh Jackman has never given us any doubt on his portrayal of Wolverine and in his swan song he delivers an amazing performance. Like with Stewart’s Xavier, there is a weight behind Logan in this film that holds him down like never before. Logan in this film is tired and broken; something we’re not used to seeing in this character. Jackman’s performance makes us believe that this was the most dangerous man in the world and that he was reduced to nothing; from myth to mortal.
One of the most notable aspects of this movie is that it’s deliberately not a blockbuster. Regardless of how much money it makes, Logan has the weight and tone of an indie movie. At it’s end James Mangold tried making The Wolverine more color-by-numbers and the film suffered for it. In this movie, there are no bombastic moments, no transformers and no blue light shooting into the sky. At times, Logan could have used a little more heroism and traditionalism but I get the feeling that this is exactly the movie he was trying to make This film is grounded and patient yet paced well enough that the audience never gets impatient. The characters and scenes are given time to breathe. Shots are allowed to linger and camera cuts aren’t noticeably quick. As it’s marketing suggested, the film’s setting and plot give the feel of a western. Like all the other best comic book films, this is a genre film in a comic book setting. Credit must go to Ryan Reynolds and the Deadpool filmmakers for paving the way for a movie like this to be made. When a studio is rewarded for allowing it’s artists to make art the world is a better place.
Despite his status as one of the five most popular superheroes in the world, Wolverine has suffered from a lack of defining pieces of fiction. Batman alone has a handful of good films, dozens of classic stories, and an unparalleled animated series. Yet, through the years his Marvel counterpart has suffered. James Mangold and Hugh Jackman have teamed up to give Wolverine his moment; to create the work of art that defines both the actor’s longtime performance and the character himself. A movie that embodies not just the violence and fury but also the pain, vulnerability, and compassion that exists in the Wolverine. Years from now we can look back at this film and say with certainty that “This is Logan”.