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Logan is the Rare Superhero Film that Deals with Finality

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*Warning: This article contains full spoilers for the film Logan*

There is a famous line in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen that could be used to describe the world of superhero comics as well as the Disney golden goose/juggernaut that is “Nothing ever ends.” As long as the books are selling, the TV shows are getting decent ratings, and the movies make back their budgets, there will always be stories about Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, whatever mediocre white male Marvel Studios decides to make a movie about, and yes, the X-Men. But whether it’s due to Hugh Jackman or Patrick Stewart’s contracts, a burst of creativity on the part of writers Scott Frank, Michael Green, and co-writer/director James MangoldLogan decides to end the character of Wolverine on its own terms with no reboot or recasting in sight.

In its plot, influences, and setting, Logan is a departure from X-Men and superhero films. The story follows Logan, who reluctantly agrees to drive Charles Xavier and a new mutant Laura aka X-23 (Dafne Keen) to Eden, a place in North Dakota where the last mutants are supposedly hiding out. Logan is skeptical about this land’s existence. In a bit of a family twist, it’s revealed that Laura was created from Logan’s DNA and has his claws, healing factor, and rage. Logan is a dystopian western/road trip movie as Logan a beautiful combination of Cormac McCarthy’s novels The Road and No Country for Old Men if Sheriff Bell (Played by Tommy Lee Jones in the Coen Bros film adaptation.) was the one taking the road trip with a child that he had a strained relationship with. And the Reavers definitely fall into the Anton Chigurh school of villainy driven on by relentless evil and a desire to hinder Logan at every turn even when he’s just minding his own business and being a chauffeur.

From its tense cold open where Logan fights some Latino men on the Texas/Mexico border, Mangold, Jackman, and cinematographer John Mathieson give us a front seat to his mortality. There are the hacks and slashes that are his signature, but it comes after he gets his ass kicked a few times and takes some wounds to his chest. Logan is still a skilled fighter, but you can see him wince in pain as he takes shotgun shells to the chest, and throughout the film, it’s obvious that he’s trying to avoid getting shot using throws and holds instead of just charging at his foes berserker style. (Although, Logan does give into his animal nature several times in the film, especially when fighting his conscience-less clone X-24.)

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Unlike The Wolverine where Logan losing his healing factor was a plot device to be reset at the end so he could go on more adventures with the X-Men, it’s a terminal condition as the adamantium on his bones is beginning to poison him. Jackman’s body is a canvas of pain and suffering, and there are many shots of him turning to whiskey, pills, and later a kind of superhuman steroids to get his deteriorating body to function. He, Charles Xavier, and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are living in the physical equivalent of death’s door in an old smelting plant in Mexico where Logan works as basically Uber driver and hauls around hard partying, jingoistic young people to have enough money to get pills to suppress Xavier’s telepathy. As it’s revealed later in the film,  the former Professor X has a degenerative brain disorder that leads to seizures and can kill both humans and mutants. Logan doesn’t want him to hurt anyone else so he has him in isolation, and a very honest Xavier remarks that he’s just waiting for him to die. The dream is dead, there are no X-Men or superheroes, and he and Logan are just trying to save enough of money so they can float away on a boat and be free. They are the living dead and only spoken of in hushed tones like urban myths, or in the colorful, nostalgic pages of in-universe X-Men comics.

Yes, Logan is the cinematic equivalent of staring into the abyss for two and a half hours as Mangold comes to terms with the lives that Logan has taken and mirrors his violence and savagery in the young girl Laura. Laura’s big introduction is when she takes out a group of Reavers, who have attacked Logan and Xavier’s compound. Most of the action takes place off camera and is signified by her walking out carrying a man’s head before a whip quick pan shows her launching an attack on the remaining Reavers. Unlike Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, this and countless other instances of violence involving Laura aren’t played for dark humor, but for tragedy.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed about Logan compared to a lot of superhero films was that it gave its characters a chance to breathe, emote, and interact instead of rushing through the equivalent of trailers for other films or using big gestures like kisses or near death experiences to “develop” characters. So, its best sequence isn’t an epic desert/barb wire fence car chase that is even cooler than the one in Batman Begins, but Xavier, Laura, and Logan sharing a family meal with the Munsons, a family that they helped out on their way to Eden. Xavier confesses to X-24 (Who he thinks is Logan) that this is the best night he’s had in a while and a vision of what a normal family life is like before he is brutally gutted by a man, who he thought was his friend. There have been scenes where Xavier is trying to acclimate Laura to because this is an incredibly depressing film.

Instead of bringing back Sabretooth, William Stryker, or another villain from the Wolverine comics, Mangold has Logan fight himself (Or technically his soulless clone) in the film. Evil clones are kind of a gimmick, but through the sheer brutality of the combat and Jackman’s unhinged performance as X-24, their fights come across as a world-weary man trying to exorcise demons, murder the savage part of himself, and find some peace before he dies. Logan truly goes through some Passion of the Christ worthy physical torment, and Mangold and the visual effects don’t hold back from showing his gaping wounds as he struggles to drive the last few miles to Eden, and medical experts say he’s dying. To draw a connection to the Hebrew Bible, Logan, like Moses, could see the Promised Land, but he can’t live in it.

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Other than the incredibly sad funeral sequence where one of the kids holds a Wolverine action figure and Laura turns the wooden cross on his grave sideways to make an “X”, the scene where Laura pushes a semi-comatose Logan to the side and drives both of them to Eden is real moment where Logan comes to terms with its finality. It parallels a scene early in X-Men where Logan is the one driving a young mutant named Rogue to safety except now the young mutant, Laura, has his life in her hands. It’s a really passing of the baton moment, and Laura even becomes the badass loner with the dark past of the group of new mutants brooding off to the side while her new friends eat by the camp fire. This is very much like Wolverine’s role in the first X-Men movie.

Logan is dead, and the Wolverine with him as he passes the torch of hope and heroism despite great odds and a messed up past to Laura and the young mutants of Eden. And along the way James Mangold redeems the adamantium bullet that made everyone snicker in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Early, in the film, it’s the symbol of Logan’s suicidal ideation when Laura finds out that he carries it an and a single shot revolver to kill himself when the time comes. However, Laura ends up using the bullet to kill X-24 defeating the murderous animal inside Wolverine and only leaving the noble, flawed man Logan to die a mortal death from his wounds. Mangold, Jackman, and Keen create something beautiful from the carcass of a terrible film and let Logan find a small measure of redemption before he passes away.

And this is why Logan is such a fantastic film. It has real life and death stakes and not in the Iron Man passes out for five seconds after going into space before being okay way. James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green aren’t afraid to grapple with the pain of taking a life and the bitter tang of morality, and it does it all in the thrilling, poetic skin of a Western cyborg film. It’s the sad, savage, and soulful superhero film that I’ve been waiting for.

Movie Review: Logan is a Brutal and Emotional Send Off

logan-posterLogan is everything fans of the popular X-Man have been waiting for in an unflinching, brutally violent, send off that’s easily the best Wolverine film and one of the best in the “X” franchise. Taking place in the year 2029, the layered, and at times meta, film features a riff on the “Old Man Logan” comic character made popular by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven and currently starring in numerous comic series from Marvel.

Set in the near future, the film presents a hero no longer wanting that role, instead, he’s trying to retire and run away while not fully coming to grips with his past and deeds. The opening of the film lays out everything you need to know about this Wolverine, played for a possible final time by Hugh Jackman. He has a slight limp, he’s covered in scars, he’s drinking, he just wants to make enough money to run away with his “family,” and he’s going by the name James Howlett. This is a not quite dystopian world where the X-Men are no more and an event has decimated the mutant population.

Directed by James Mangold with a screenplay by Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green, this is the western that The Wolverine thought it was, a genre that fits this lone character like a spandex costume. It’s clear Mangold and the team were going for exactly that with numerous references to Shane the classic novel turned Oscar-winning film then tv series.

Like the weary gunfighter Shane, Howlett wants to settle down, caring for an ailing Professor X (played brilliantly by Patrick Stewart) with the help of fellow mutant Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant). All three have sins in their past and the film is an exploration of that. There’s a focus on character and accepting, or at least coping, with those sins while trying to forge an unknown future. And just like in that classic western, these warriors are forced to act and get involved in a conflict after a mysterious girl Laura (played by newcomer Dafne Keen) comes into their lives. From there the film becomes part road trip, part western, part horror, but what it’s not is a superhero film.

logan-posterFrom the first moments of the film it’s clear that this isn’t your typical X-Men or Wolverine film with swear words thrown around, limbs flying (at times literally), and blood splattering. The bodies, and body parts, pile up in a finale that doesn’t hold back and is let loose with an “R” rating.

It’s a departure from what we’ve previously seen and that departure becomes meta at times where the film debates X-Men comics, their fantasy aspects, their disconnect from the reality of violence, but also recognizing the comics represent hope to many of those who read them. As seen in trailers and ads, X-Men comics are brandished around becoming a discussion within the larger film. Logan having “lived it” sees them as fantasy that glosses over the real violence and death that happened, while some (in this case Laura) latch on to them representing freedom from oppression. That debate rages in the real world today. Some embrace the comic series’ “political” core that’s been present since the characters debuted in 1963 and its not so veiled parallels to the Civil Rights to today’s allegories on LGBTQ+ rights. Others want an escapist fantasy without the message and even others who celebrate the violence. It’s a debate that plays out within the film by its lead characters. That debate is about as “X-Men” as the film gets though there’s plenty of winks and nods for longtime fans. There are numerous references to previous films and comics.

At its core, the movie is a Western, where our hero takes a stand against the evil corporation looking to roll over the average person. This is manifested in a few instances such as a defense of a family farm (with no more mutants, the X-Man takes a stand for an average human family) from corporate farming (with some commentary about corn syrup) to the main plot concerning Laura.

The film is a chase/road trip as Logan attempts to get Laura to safety as she’s pursued by a government-backed genetics corporation called Transigen who is attempting to make Mutants of their own and wield them as weapons. Laura, who comic fans will know as X-23, is one of those experiments broken free with a goal of escaping to freedom. That aspect of the film is interesting in itself as the chase takes place from Mexico to Canada, a cross-country trip that you can’t help but think of today’s debates on immigration and border security (and also something about Wolverine heading back to Canada, the land where he was birthed for what is Jackman’s final film as the character). Other real world issues are touched upon such as copyright and intellectual property over genetics, a topic that ties into corporate farming as well. This helps flesh out the film to be more than fantastical characters.

loganWhile the story has action and flash in the various action sequences, mostly involving Transigen’s bounty hunters the Reavers (classic X-villains and includes Pierce, Bone Breaker, Pretty Boy, and more), there’s so much to it under the surface and the film challenges viewers to piece some of it together. We learn what’s wrong with Professor X over time and his sins, in particular the “Westchester Incident.” But, even that isn’t fully laid out leaving the imaginations of the audience to fill in the gaps and by doing so creating horrors that the director and writers couldn’t begin to come up with.

Even with that layered meta and meaning some things are a bit looser. Transigen’s motivations evolve from capturing Laura to capturing Professor X and/or Wolverine giving viewers a bad guy with loose goals. This could be explained by the overreaching evil corporation who wants nothing but profit and how to obtain that changes over time. But, this isn’t as clear cut as bad guys we’ve seen in the past. And it’s not as black and white either when it comes to good and evil. No Mutants have been born for 25 years at this point and Professor X ailing has been labeled a weapon of mass destruction by the United States government and is a wanted man. Even in Transigen’s evil, there’s still some good intentions masked by their clearly evil goals.

As a chapter ends a new one begins with the introduction of Laura/X-23 played by Dafne Keen a newcomer whose only other work was The Refugees. Her introduction is a punch in the gut and gives viewers no doubt about the character. Mostly mute for the film much of her acting is through body language and grunts. And that’s not easy to do. Due to that Keen is a bit mixed in her role. At times she’s excellent and other moments just so-so. That’s also due to who she’s acting against.

professorxPatrick Stewart delivers a performance we have not seen in an X film. As an ailing Professor X his mind is failing him and through the power of make-up he’s aged to a level I haven’t seen. You believe this is a man seeing his last few years with his mind wandering and not working as it once was. Having witnessed people in this condition first hand, the performance is damn near perfect and full of emotion not just for him, but the audience too. The simplest needs such as his needing help to use a restroom are noted and beautifully shot for the audience to absorb. This is also no longer the loving teacher, but age has given him an edge that comes out over the years. Take note, this is supporting actor level territory.

Hugh Jackman gives us a Wolverine we haven’t seen and his aging is more than some gray hair and scars. A limp, some drinking, squinting, Jackman’s performance is grizzled, worn, and weary. It’s been 17 years since he stepped into the role and this is easily his best performance. He’s able to let loose emotionally and physically. Through his interactions with Laura, even just simple looks, Jackman makes us believe this is a man who is struggling with the concept of family no matter how strange this one is. It’s a trope we’ve seen before in many films, but this is the first time we’ve seen it on the screen for Wolverine to this extent and in a way that makes it believable.

Logan is a finale to Jackman’s take on the character that has spanned 17 years, 9 films, and two video games. To the last moments of the film, this is a movie that reflects on the character’s actions, history, violence, and what that all means. But, the film itself is a departure from the preceding films, until those final moments where we’re reminded of it all. I went into the film with some expectations as to what to what I’d be watching, but from the beginning moments, those expectations were shattered. Logan defies it all and delivered a layered modern western that’s a worthy finale.

Overall Rating: 9.15

Graphic Policy was provided a FREE screening

Movie Review: Logan is a Brutal and Emotional Send Off

logan-posterLogan is everything fans of the popular X-Man have been waiting for in an unflinching, brutally violent, send off that’s easily the best Wolverine film and one of the best in the “X” franchise. Taking place in the year 2029, the layered, and at times meta, film features a riff on the “Old Man Logan” comic character made popular by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven and currently starring in numerous comic series from Marvel.

Set in the near future, the film presents a hero no longer wanting that role, instead, he’s trying to retire and run away while not fully coming to grips with his past and deeds. The opening of the film lays out everything you need to know about this Wolverine, played for a possible final time by Hugh Jackman. He has a slight limp, he’s covered in scars, he’s drinking, he just wants to make enough money to run away with his “family,” and he’s going by the name James Howlett. This is a not quite dystopian world where the X-Men are no more and an event has decimated the mutant population.

Directed by James Mangold with a screenplay by Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green, this is the western that The Wolverine thought it was, a genre that fits this lone character like a spandex costume. It’s clear Mangold and the team were going for exactly that with numerous references to Shane the classic novel turned Oscar-winning film then tv series.

Like the weary gunfighter Shane, Howlett wants to settle down, caring for an ailing Professor X (played brilliantly by Patrick Stewart) with the help of fellow mutant Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant). All three have sins in their past and the film is an exploration of that. There’s a focus on character and accepting, or at least coping, with those sins while trying to forge an unknown future. And just like in that classic western, these warriors are forced to act and get involved in a conflict after a mysterious girl Laura (played by newcomer Dafne Keen) comes into their lives. From there the film becomes part road trip, part western, part horror, but what it’s not is a superhero film.

logan-posterFrom the first moments of the film it’s clear that this isn’t your typical X-Men or Wolverine film with swear words thrown around, limbs flying (at times literally), and blood splattering. The bodies, and body parts, pile up in a finale that doesn’t hold back and is let loose with an “R” rating.

It’s a departure from what we’ve previously seen and that departure becomes meta at times where the film debates X-Men comics, their fantasy aspects, their disconnect from the reality of violence, but also recognizing the comics represent hope to many of those who read them. As seen in trailers and ads, X-Men comics are brandished around becoming a discussion within the larger film. Logan having “lived it” sees them as fantasy that glosses over the real violence and death that happened, while some (in this case Laura) latch on to them representing freedom from oppression. That debate rages in the real world today. Some embrace the comic series’ “political” core that’s been present since the characters debuted in 1963 and its not so veiled parallels to the Civil Rights to today’s allegories on LGBTQ+ rights. Others want an escapist fantasy without the message and even others who celebrate the violence. It’s a debate that plays out within the film by its lead characters. That debate is about as “X-Men” as the film gets though there’s plenty of winks and nods for longtime fans. There are numerous references to previous films and comics.

At its core, the movie is a Western, where our hero takes a stand against the evil corporation looking to roll over the average person. This is manifested in a few instances such as a defense of a family farm (with no more mutants, the X-Man takes a stand for an average human family) from corporate farming (with some commentary about corn syrup) to the main plot concerning Laura.

The film is a chase/road trip as Logan attempts to get Laura to safety as she’s pursued by a government-backed genetics corporation called Transigen who is attempting to make Mutants of their own and wield them as weapons. Laura, who comic fans will know as X-23, is one of those experiments broken free with a goal of escaping to freedom. That aspect of the film is interesting in itself as the chase takes place from Mexico to Canada, a cross-country trip that you can’t help but think of today’s debates on immigration and border security (and also something about Wolverine heading back to Canada, the land where he was birthed for what is Jackman’s final film as the character). Other real world issues are touched upon such as copyright and intellectual property over genetics, a topic that ties into corporate farming as well. This helps flesh out the film to be more than fantastical characters.

loganWhile the story has action and flash in the various action sequences, mostly involving Transigen’s bounty hunters the Reavers (classic X-villains and includes Pierce, Bone Breaker, Pretty Boy, and more), there’s so much to it under the surface and the film challenges viewers to piece some of it together. We learn what’s wrong with Professor X over time and his sins, in particular the “Westchester Incident.” But, even that isn’t fully laid out leaving the imaginations of the audience to fill in the gaps and by doing so creating horrors that the director and writers couldn’t begin to come up with.

Even with that layered meta and meaning some things are a bit looser. Transigen’s motivations evolve from capturing Laura to capturing Professor X and/or Wolverine giving viewers a bad guy with loose goals. This could be explained by the overreaching evil corporation who wants nothing but profit and how to obtain that changes over time. But, this isn’t as clear cut as bad guys we’ve seen in the past. And it’s not as black and white either when it comes to good and evil. No Mutants have been born for 25 years at this point and Professor X ailing has been labeled a weapon of mass destruction by the United States government and is a wanted man. Even in Transigen’s evil, there’s still some good intentions masked by their clearly evil goals.

As a chapter ends a new one begins with the introduction of Laura/X-23 played by Dafne Keen a newcomer whose only other work was The Refugees. Her introduction is a punch in the gut and gives viewers no doubt about the character. Mostly mute for the film much of her acting is through body language and grunts. And that’s not easy to do. Due to that Keen is a bit mixed in her role. At times she’s excellent and other moments just so-so. That’s also due to who she’s acting against.

professorxPatrick Stewart delivers a performance we have not seen in an X film. As an ailing Professor X his mind is failing him and through the power of make-up he’s aged to a level I haven’t seen. You believe this is a man seeing his last few years with his mind wandering and not working as it once was. Having witnessed people in this condition first hand, the performance is damn near perfect and full of emotion not just for him, but the audience too. The simplest needs such as his needing help to use a restroom are noted and beautifully shot for the audience to absorb. This is also no longer the loving teacher, but age has given him an edge that comes out over the years. Take note, this is supporting actor level territory.

Hugh Jackman gives us a Wolverine we haven’t seen and his aging is more than some gray hair and scars. A limp, some drinking, squinting, Jackman’s performance is grizzled, worn, and weary. It’s been 17 years since he stepped into the role and this is easily his best performance. He’s able to let loose emotionally and physically. Through his interactions with Laura, even just simple looks, Jackman makes us believe this is a man who is struggling with the concept of family no matter how strange this one is. It’s a trope we’ve seen before in many films, but this is the first time we’ve seen it on the screen for Wolverine to this extent and in a way that makes it believable.

Logan is a finale to Jackman’s take on the character that has spanned 17 years, 9 films, and two video games. To the last moments of the film, this is a movie that reflects on the character’s actions, history, violence, and what that all means. But, the film itself is a departure from the preceding films, until those final moments where we’re reminded of it all. I went into the film with some expectations as to what to what I’d be watching, but from the beginning moments, those expectations were shattered. Logan defies it all and delivered a layered modern western that’s a worthy finale.

Overall Rating: 9.15

Graphic Policy was provided a FREE screening