Logan is a welcome rarity in the ever increasing pantheon of superhero movies; it's one that has emotional weight. This third Wolverine solo outing and 10th X-Men film overall is atypical of both the genre and it's own franchise, and it's one that longtime fans of the character will love thanks to how closely it hews to the most iconic, brutal imagining of its title character. But even for those who have never been fans of the X-Men films, Logan is still an eminently worthwhile movie, skipping as it does the fantastical trappings of its peers to instead present a grim, violent, emotional, and altogether worthwhile experience.
Logan makes its intentions to buck superhero conventions clear from its opening scene. When we first see Logan (also known as Wolverine, or James Howlett, or Hugh Jackman in real life), he's asleep in a car, but is soon woken by a gang trying to steal the tires from his ride. The ensuing fight is neither pretty or flashy; Logan is slow, groggy, and limping, and when he finally does rouse the strength to dispense of his foes, it's brutal, bloody, and hard to watch. Afterwards, he stumbles to a roadside gas station bathroom to clean himself, and we see his scars, his wounds, his aging frame. This is not the ripped, impossibly quick to heal Wolverine of old. This is a broken man.
The world set up in previous X-Men movies is broken, too. Set in 2029, Logan's world is one where mutants are all but extinct, where Charles Xavier's school is no more, and one where both he and Logan are eking out a meager existence along the US border near Mexico. Logan drives a limousine for a living, while Xavier's deteriorating mental condition forces him to be under sedation for long periods of time, lest his immense psychic powers go beyond the control of his now feeble mind. This is far from the glory days of the X-Men.
Into this mix a new element is introduced: a young girl with abilities and claws similar to Logan's, and one who's being pursued by a mercenary group led by Donald Pierce (played with a laconic Southern menace by Boyd Holbrook). Logan reluctantly agrees to help the girl (named Laura, better known as X-23 in the comics, and played by Dafne Keen), which pulls both he and Xavier back into a world of violence they had been trying to escape from. People don't really change, Pierce says at one point in the film, and it seems that despite Logan's best efforts, the Wolverine hasn't changed at all.
What is different, though, is Logan's approach to the superhero genre. This is a serious, grim world, both in its tone and its approach to on-screen violence. Wolverine's claws have never been so sharp and deadly as they are here, with his adamantium appendages severing limbs, impaling skulls, and perforating rib cages with bloody abandon. The film's R-rating is well-deserved, with the graphic nature of the battles in Logan often wince-inducing. And while the action in the movie stays relatively grounded, each of the fights are staged excitingly, with each of Logan's and X-23's stabs and slashes feeling impactful. There's even an outstanding action scene with Xavier, a stunning reminder of how dangerous the world's most powerful mind can be when it goes off the rails.
But over and above its brutality, Logan excels because of its commitment to its characters, and the wonderful, resonant arcs they go through in this painful yet affecting story. The full weight of the previous nine films of the franchise makes seeing two beloved characters like Professor X and Wolverine at their lowest even more affecting. Xavier (played wonderfully by Patrick Stewart)--no longer the calm, caring father figure--is barely coherent, swears like a sailor, and calls Logan a disappointment. Logan (in another outstanding turn by Jackman), for his part, just wants to escape, whether that's through the money he's trying to scrounge up to buy a boat, or through the adamantium bullet he carries with him everywhere. X-23 is on the verge of being irrevocably damaged in the same way Logan is. These three characters, in their relationships and in the way they become a family, forms the emotional core of the film, and their rough journey is one filled with surprising emotional depth.
Logan continually subverts your expectations, but in its impactful ending, it still somehow feels like the only way the movie--and Wolverine's long journey--could end. This is a film that elevates its genre, succeeding precisely because it's different, and because it strives to be the Wolverine movie fans have always wanted to see. Logan is a must-watch, and is not only a wonderful superhero movie, but a wonderful movie in its own right.
|The Good||The Bad|
Brutal and grim
|A little too long|
|Outstanding performances from Jackman and Stewart|
|Emotional and genuinely affecting|