A vulnerable ‘Logan’ delivers an indestructible Wolverine movie
Directed by: James Mangold
Written by: James Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen
“Logan” – “Not okay!”
Logan (Hugh Jackman) directs these words to an uber-aggressive mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen), who is roughly 11 years-old. She was about to make mincemeat of an unsuspecting convenience store clerk, because he caught her stealing a pair of sunglasses and a box of Pringles. Thankfully, in a life-or-death teaching moment, Logan stopped Laura from turning this random 20-something into a 180-pound slushie.
Logan performed admirably in that instant, but he is not physically well. Not at all. In the year 2029, his healing powers have dramatically slowed, and he looks sickly and old. Not 90 years-old, but his face has noticeably aged, seemingly weathered by some bizarre, accelerated cancer eating away at his insides.
Logan is not okay.
On the other hand, “Logan”, the movie, is a wonderfully constructed and executed comic book picture. A small, character-driven film, and one which bathes in sooty, dark and solitary territory. Director James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma” (2007), “Walk the Line” (2005)) also directed the ultimately silly, second Wolverine picture, ”The Wolverine” (2013), but he strikes all of the right notes here, during the presumed last appearance of Jackman donning the famous metallic claws.
Mangold’s film takes place in world void of heroes, and void of mutants as well. Logan’s only companions – when he is not working as a limousine driver and hauling corporate execs and bachelorette parties across economically depressed communities - are an albino caretaker named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart). While Logan may have physically aged, the years have not blessed the professor in other – and vastly more hazardous – ways. The three are in seclusion for a very important reason, but fate – in the form of an 11-year-old girl - brings them out of hiding, and Logan, Professor X and Laura find themselves on the run from a little-known enemy.
The first two Wolverine solo films attempted to balance moments of Logan’s isolation and bloody, violent pulp. Neither movie, however, successfully captured the appropriate cinematic calibrations. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009) felt uneven and scattered, and “The Wolverine” (2013) struck more isolationist tones but fell apart during a cartoonish third act.
This Wolverine picture, however, seems to have dialed in the right combination of Logan’s tendencies for seclusion and brutal graphic violence. The MPAA appropriately gave “Logan” an R-rating, because yes, the violence at times can be brutally graphic, especially during some choice scenes that - indeed - showcase how Logan’s claws can rip and skewer flesh and bones.
Oh, the vicious carnage that Logan can unleash.
Simply “ask” a two-bit gang of ruffians who attempt to tinker with Logan’s limo and shoot him for it.
This gang, however, is not the main group of villains. Instead, an unknown parade of corporate baddies aims to hunt down Laura, and Logan and Professor X become her protectors in a cat-and-mouse road picture.
Even though Logan probably owns the copyright to the term “primal violence” and Professor X is arguably the most powerful mutant, they do not presently stand at the pinnacle of their powers, so tensions remain high. A sense of danger always exists onscreen, even though Mangold offers plenty of quiet spaces during the 2-hour 17-minute runtime to explore Logan’s humanity, and along with it, his relationship with the professor and this wondrous new find, Laura. (Actually, the young Miss Keen is a wondrous new find as well.)
Although this road trip movie certainly dips into cliché, the three are a pleasure to watch. Stewart delivers an added dimension to Professor X, and while witnessing this three-mutant journey, X-Men fans might truly feel the need to soak up every precious moment. You see, the indestructible Logan’s best and most intriguing solo movie is the one in which he isn’t physically okay.
Jeff – a member of the Phoenix Critics Circle – has penned film reviews since 2008 and graduated from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Follow Jeff and the Phoenix Film Festival on Twitter @MitchFilmCritic and @PhoenixFilmFest, respectively.