Logan (2017)

“His Time Has Come”

Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen

As always, there will be spoilers in this review.

In the not-too-distant future, Logan (Jackman) is living on the (unwalled) Texas/Mexico border, working as a limo driver in order to support Charles Xavier (Stewart), who now suffers from an unspecified degenerative brain condition that causes him to suffer seizures with terrible effects on those around him. The mutant tracker Caliban (Merchant) acts as Charles’s nurse and struggles to be a conscience to Logan in a world where most mutants have been exterminated. This arrangement is upset when a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) finds Logan and asks him to transport her and a young girl, Laura (Keen) to Dakota.

Gabriela is killed by sinister, metal-handed security specialist Pierce (Holbrook), who hounds Logan, Charles and Laura – who turns out to have been created from Logan’s DNA – as they struggle to reach a probably imaginary safe-haven in North Dakota. Pursued by Pierce, his chummily malignant boss Dr Zander Rice (Grant) and brutal Wolverine clone X-24, with Logan sickening from adamantium poisoning and succumbing to years of physical punishment, and with Charles dogged by dark memories as his drugs wear off, our tortured heroes struggle towards a rendezvous with the rest of the X-23 children and the future hope of mutantkind.

What’s wrong with it?

“Wait! Attack him one at a time. If we all go at once we’ll get in each other’s way. It’ll be confusing.”
(I joke, but actually they tend to rush him in threes and kick him in the head a lot.)

Logan dropping f-bombs all over the place is almost expected. From McAvoy Xavier it was less so, but Stewart Xavier turning the air blue is… just weird, and one of a number of ways – others include flesh-rending tyke bomb Laura and all the graphic head stabbing – in which this R-rated curtain call for the Classic Cinematic X-Men sits ill-at-ease with the earlier entries in the continuity.

There is a lack of sympathy for the family whose hospitality is repaid with slaughter which in turn makes it harder to feel for our protagonists. Yes, Xavier’s death has more impact than in the intolerably meh The Last Stand, but I’m sure I’d care more if he didn’t cash out after discussing how blissful an evening he’d got to spend with the people who were about to die because of his insistence that Logan not drive them to a motel. Then in the aftermath, Logan is focused on getting Laura to safety, but the camera focuses on Xavier’s body to the exclusion of all else.

Laura’s eulogy for Logan, drawn from the final scenes of Shane, is moving in its way, but by analogy is an acceptance of an inescapable role as a killer, for her and all the X-23 kids, in stark contrast to Logan’s dying wish that she become something better than the weapon she was built to be.

The fact that the rest of the X-Men – and most of the rest of mutantkind – have been killed by an exploding Professor offscreen feels like a bit of a disservice, although at least it is less of a naked toyline reboot than the similar purge in Age of Extinction.

Logan is, even by the standards of superhero movies, desperately short of female characters.

What’s right with it?

“…and the left turn at Albuquerque.”

The muted earth tones and clear influences from the western genre provide the film with a strong and distinctive aesthetic.

There are lots of little callbacks to earlier films in the series – such as the samurai sword on Logan’s wall – but nothing is overplayed.

Jackman puts his all into his final run as the Wolverine, and is magnificently broken as Old Man Logan. The contrast to the younger and more vicious X-24 is extreme. I don’t know how much body-doubling or CG was used to create X-24, but they are only just recognisable as the same man.

The rest of the cast is equally impressive, especially Keen. Kudos also to the filmmakers for choosing to introduce Laura as a child, instead of the more usual sexy teenage appearance from the comics. That works when she’s primarily placed alongside other sexy teenage mutants, but for this storyline to work she really had to be a child, so props for ditching the temptation to make the only real female character into Ms Fanservice. Keen instead plays the character with a complex mix of innocence, desire for affection and really, horribly savage brutality.

Dafne Keen doesn’t really look like anyone else on screen at the moment, which adds to her feral, outcast air.

There’s a lot in the film that is beautifully understated, like Laura’s nearly-obsessive retention of her backpack. No-one even comments on it and it barely contains anything of import to the plot, but she hangs onto it as if it contains her very soul, even after the one plot-relevant item is gone from it.

Two moments highlight the film’s eccentric take on daddy-daughter bonding. Laura takes Logan’s hand as they bury Xavier and he pulls away.  When she tries to talk to him, he rebuffs her. When he kills a Reaver and bears the guy to the ground, Laura runs up Logan’s back to leap into battle as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

How bad is it really?

Somebody’s going to get fucked up.

Oh, dear god this film is brutal. Emotionally raw, graphically violent and you really need to be able to brace yourself to see a ten year old administer a series of savage laceratings or this won’t be the movie for you. If you’ve the stomach for all that, however, this is a powerful and unexpected close to the CCXM continuity.

Best bit (if such there is)?

There’s actually a lot to like, but the bit that made me choke up was of course the moment when Laura calls the dying Logan ‘Daddy’ and he encourages her to be more than she was made to be. We’ve established that I’m a total sucker for the father-daughter bond, right?

I also liked the last moment, when she takes the rough cross from his grave and turns it to form an X.

What’s up with…? 

80% more sympathetic than in Apocalypse; 95% less Richard O’Brien.
  • Caliban turning into Stephen Merchant? Merchant is good, but it’s a strange aging process from Apocalypse. Maybe Apocalypse turned him into Stephen Merchant for sassing him.
  • The Reavers’ inability to shoot the X-23 mutants despite a relatively slow build-up to most of their powers?
  • I’d ask when they got hold of Logan’s blood, but then again he was in a lab for years and must have bled on a substantial subset of the surface area of North America.

Ratings

Production values – Logan has the dusty, melancholic beauty of the Western, coupled with the brutal violence of Deadpool. Visually and emotionally, it is very much the Unforgiven of superhero movies. 3
Dialogue and performances – As unexpected as Xavier’s f-bombs may be, the film is well-written and powerfully acted, with even the occasional bit of expository dialogue or laughable doggerel about engineering rage delivered with the essential conviction. 9
Plot and execution Logan keeps it simple. There are no double crosses or weird twists; it’s not that kind of movie. It’s a road movie about an aging warrior’s final ride. There’s a reason why this one doesn’t have anything in or after the credits. 5
Randomness – The film is tight. It throws in that Rice’s dad was one of the Weapon X scientists that Logan killed, but that’s about it. 4
Waste of potential – As the follow up to The Wolverine, this is pretty good. As the capper on the CCXM continuity, it’s solid, but lacks a little in the series’ trademark fundamental respect for human life. As the third in a trilogy beginning with X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which, surprisingly, I haven’t yet reviewed,) it’s fucking gold. 4

Overall 25%

 

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