At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Logan

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Superhero Drama/ Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Elizabeth Rodriguez/ Runtime: 137 minutes

I feel it is not comic-book sacrilege to say that ever since Hugh Jackman popped up on our screens for the first time as Wolverine in 2000 everyone has been waiting for one thing. That would be a Wolverine solo film that not only honored this celebrated comic-book character, but also nailed just who exactly this iconic character was and why he is so beloved. So it was with this dream in our hearts that we as audiences have sat through both the good (X2, The Wolverine, Days of Future Past), and the ugly (The Last Stand and X-Men Origins) in our quest. Thankfully I can now say that the quest is officially over. I say this because with Logan our patience has paid off. Indeed is Logan a perfect movie? No, but that’s ok; few movies truly are. Is it a great comic book movie? Put it this way: this, at long last, is the version of Wolverine that fans all over have been waiting with undisguised anticipation and glee to see. Indeed it was very sad to hear that Jackman was sheathing the claws after this go-around, but boy does he give us one hell of an exit stage right to his cinematic legacy as the iconic mutant in the process!

The plot is as follows: Set in the grim near-future year of 2029 where very few mutants are still alive, we find ourselves meeting a version of our favorite enclawed superhero that is absolutely unthinkable. That is because this is not the near-immortal Wolverine we remember from the earlier films, but is instead now a broken, and far older man who feels the weight of every wound inflicted upon him and whose once- formidable body seems at long last to finally be failing. Indeed if there is anything that is keeping our favorite clawed mutant alive, it would be a mixture of booze, painkillers, and a dogged determination to keep an also ailing, and vastly aged, Xavier safe and alive until such a time that he can get them to a place where they can both die in peace. It isn’t long however before fate intervenes in the form of a close-to-feral young girl who brandishes claws and a sense of fury as fierce and lethal as Logan’s named Laura. Laura, surprise surprise, happens to be on the run from the usual dark and sinister forces and thus it isn’t long before Logan and Xavier are forced to go on the run with her and not only protect her, but also get her somewhere where she can truly be safe.

Now In effect, director James Mangold has managed to actually place with great success an intimate drama at the heart of a superhero film. Indeed you could strip all the characters of their superpowers and I feel this movie would still pulse with plenty of heartbreak and humanity. This is because throughout this film’s runtime we really see that all 3 of the major characters are flawed and really grappling with their own unique demons. For Logan it’s not only the enemy of time, and so even though he keeps dragging himself weary through this world, it’s not wrong to suspect that all Logan wishes he could do is finally die like everyone else. For Xavier, it’s the constant-grapple with his own frailty and mortality as we see that his once-sharp mind has finally become his own worst enemy as it manages to again and again cause him and Logan plenty of problems. Finally, we get to Laura and she truly is a tough, yet tender mess of contradictions. This is because she may be a victim of horrific abuse, but she is also a true warrior in the making and not really used to leaning on people in her times of need. Thus it is that I can honestly say that when you sit back and watch these characters truly interact with one another be it fighting, screaming, arguing, and, once in a while, forgiving you will quite often find yourself both will laughing and crying (a lot of crying), in a way that few other superhero films, Avengers: Endgame being an exception, to date have really managed to pull off with audiences.

Yet I feel it should be said that this doesn’t mean, however, that the film is an entirely joyless, and somber affair. Far from it. Indeed from an ornery, old Xavier refusing to take his pills to a casual shoplifting experience gone wrong, the film’s director and cast actually manage to thread some genuine moments of comicness into the dark and dire proceedings quite well. A feat which also proves, I might add, that even if a film in this genre chooses to immerse themselves in the darkest of psychological depths possible for a film it is still possible for moments of genuine levity to be inserted into the proceedings (are you reading this DC?)

Now I feel it should also be said that the fast and furious action moments in the film are also quite delightful to witness. This is because although the violence is dark and horrible, and that it’s not only appropriate for a Wolverine film, but it’s also fitting for this very-adult film to showcase the very-adult concept that there really are consequences for battles that you choose to fight regardless of it you win or lose. It’s also only when you see Logan’s claws plunging into human flesh, and shearing cleanly through meat and bone that you come to realize just how neutered and family-friendly his earlier outings, both solo and amongst the ensemble really were. Not only that, but there’s a slow-motion sequence halfway through the film, as Logan struggles to get to an embattled Xavier, that’s absolutely gritty and beautiful to watch and when you watch Laura gracefully spin and slice her way through oncoming attackers it really manages to be simultaneously terribly wrong yet wonderfully right at the same time. Ultimately though, the best thing about the violence and the action beats in this film aren’t just that they’re appropriate to the character, but also that they are extremely well placed throughout the film to allow the narrative to move forward more on the characters and their interactions with each other rather than just a constant and seemingly never-ending slicing and dicing of various henchmen.

To be quite frank however, I feel that absolutely none of the magic on display would work even remotely without the incredible cast that are all doing award-quality work yet because they are playing “comic book characters” they were sadly overlooked. This magnetism of course starts with Patrick Stewart in his swan song performance of Charles Xavier and this is a truly heartbreaking yet monumental performance from the gifted thespian. Indeed it really truly is unsettling for as an audience to watch Stewart dig beneath the natural gravitas we’ve come to associate with this role in order to find a more shaken and broken Professor X who’s horrifically starting to semi-consciously lose grip of his mind and the abilities that it can do which has resulted in this once-valuable mutant leader now being seen more as a dangerously malfunctioning weapon. Indeed it may not be showy, but I guarantee you that it is an emotionally potent one and Stewart really does give us a performance here that only a truly great performer could ever hope to provide. Also I feel it should be said, but newcomer Dafne Keen is a true revelation in this. Indeed this young actress manages to recognize just how crucial her performance is to the finished product and chooses to grab this breakout role by the throat and make it very much her own with an absolutely astounding degree of success. Indeed this is a performance where not only do we get a sense of Laura’s childish fragility and overpowering strength, often in the same breath, but by utilizing actions and emotions over dialogue, we also get a character that is more fleshed out by what she does rather than what she says, and Keen manages to knock this completely out of the park. Indeed I think when the X-Men are finally integrated into the MCU, Kevin Feige should really strongly consider bringing her back as her character and continuity be damned. Trust me when I say she is THAT impressive, and I can’t wait to see where her career goes from here.

All of this however just simply brings us back to Hugh Jackman. Yet although he had been playing the role that catapulted him to global stardom for 17 years up until this point, I feel that in Logan Jackman is finally able to bring not only everything he has to this final outing, but is able to give what is the truly definitive Wolverine performance. This is because not only does he nail the physical tics of the character, and well he should after 17 years in the role, but Jackman also manages to really relish the ability to unearth the dark sadness that is at the heart of a once invincible, yet now vulnerable, man. Indeed it may not only show due to always cracking wise to some degree, but there is a hope and purity to Logan and Jackman within this film manages to have it shine the brightest it has ever been in his 17-year tenure as the tortured X-Man. Indeed this is just simply a man finally being allowed to play an iconic character the way he has always wanted to play him from the very beginning. Plain and simply impressive.

That being said I do feel that there are a handful of things about the film don’t work quite so well. Sadly they all have to do with the film’s main antagonists, played herein by Richard E. Grant and Boyd Holbrook, and it’s not the fact that their performances are terrible. Far from it; in fact I would go so far as to say that Grant and Holbrook actually do a good job with what they are given. At the same time however, I will say that their antagonists are, to quite the extent, not only largely forgettable, but that there is also really not much that truly defines these characters in this universe outside of their nefarious goals. Thus I feel that this film missed an opportunity to really feature some truly three-dimensional villains to complement the already-strong character work done in favor of the protagonists.

All in all though, despite a few setbacks, Logan is still a remarkable cinematic achievement. This is not only because it’s a well-acted and well-directed film. Rather, it’s also because this is a film which manages to seamlessly combine bruising and graphically violent action, tender family drama, and an intimate character study of a man having to confront the one enemy that everyone, be they mutant or not, has to deal with all in one well-designed cinematic experience. Indeed I know I already said it before near the beginning of this review, but if Jackman really is hanging up his claws for good and we never do get to see him play Wolverine ever again, then I feel that at the very least he gave us one of the best farewells ever assembled to one of the most enduring and appealing Marvel comic book characters ever. Be warned anyone who takes on this role next: these are some pretty big shoes you are about to try and fill. Good luck. You’re truly going to need it. On a scale of 1-5 I give Logan a solid 4.5 out of 5.