****THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW!!!!THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****
Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 01 seconds
My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars
My Recommendation : SEE IT IN THE THEATRE.
Logan, written and directed by James Mangold, is the story of the iconic member of the X-Men, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) also known as Logan, set in the near future when the cigar chomping, metal-clawed, tough guy is the decline of middle-age and is seemingly alone in a world without mutants. The film stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, who are both allegedly making their final appearances as their X-Men characters.
I have been consistently disappointed with the X-Men films through the years. Some have been better than others, but they have all been less than they should have been. Last year Fox, which owns the X-Men franchise and has terribly mismanaged it, released X-Men : Apocalypse, which was simply dreadful. The franchise seemed to be at its nadir, well beyond its last creative breath, with an artistic rigor mortis setting in.
In addition, I have never been a fan of Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. Wolverine is a phenomenal character and I always felt Jackman lacked the gravitas needed to adequately flesh out a character of such depth and savagery. Jackman certainly has the body to play the role, but like a gymnast or a figure skater, an impeccable body does not always translate into a menacing persona. In my opinion, Jackman's toned physique radiates a more feminine energy than is acceptable to be the ferocious Wolverine. I always wanted an actor like Russell Crowe to play Wolverine, as Crowe, at least back in his heyday, has an energy about him that can be...unsettling, just like Wolverine. But Jackman has played the role now for 17 years and we've all had to live with it.
With all of that in mind, I wasn't overly excited to see Logan. I assumed it would be another run of the mill, cookie cutter, X-Men film that left me underwhelmed. Boy…was I spectacularly wrong. Logan is a real film, not just some super hero movie intent to separate dopes like me from their money. It tells an actual, real story, with fully formed and three dimensional characters and even in its narrative and sub-text touches upon the political and psychological. It is undoubtedly head and shoulders above all of the other X-Men films in intent, story, character and execution.
Director James Mangold is a gifted guy, as evidenced by his previous work Heavy, Copland and Walk the Line. He brings his particular talents to bear in Logan by fleshing out the humanity deep at the core of the mutant Wolverine. While Mangold's visual style is a little flat for my tastes, it is serviceable enough to propel the narrative nicely forward in Logan.
Mangold works on multiple levels in Logan. He layers the story with symbolism and metaphors that are fascinating if you are able to notice them just beneath the surface. For instance, keep an eye open for borders, be they national, or metal, or wooden or natural…and watch how difficult it can be for some characters to break out of the boundaries that contain them. I love stuff like that and Mangold fills Logan with enough tasty cinematic and mythic tidbits like that to keep me captivated for the whole ride.
And much to my surprise, Hugh Jackman, for the first time in his 17 year run as the character, finally nails Wolverine. This is not just the best Wolverine performance for Jackman, it is his best acting performance of his entire career, and it isn't even close. There is a quiet scene where Logan looks out over a lake and gives a little speech that is the best acting Jackman has ever done. It is a very, very impressive display by Hugh Jackman. You can feel Wolverine's entire life being shaken to its core during that speech.
Part of what gives such resonance to Jackman's performance is that Wolverine is aging, decaying and intensely human. Jackman makes Wolverine grounded and vulnerable by giving him a slight limp. You can feel Wolverine's (and Jackman's) knees ache with every step he takes. His body is betraying him and it makes him all the more relatable. Wolverine's body is littered with scars that tell the story of the wounds he carries with him deep in his heart. The acts of violence Wolverine has committed through his career have left their mark on him, and his soul, and he cannot escape them no matter how far he wanders.
Jackman also lowers his vocal register in portraying the middle-aged mutant, which was a wise choice as it heightened the sense of Wolverine being past his prime with a history that continuously haunts him.
Patrick Stewart gives a standout performance as Professor X as well. Stewart uses his considerable skill to craft a masterful performance as the geriatric founder of the X-Men. Stewart imbues Professor X with a tangible yearning for normalcy and such a suffocating, deep-seated regret, that it is truly heartbreaking.
Logan is not a perfect film by any stretch, there are some messy sequences of exposition that ring phony and hollow, like a fully edited and unrealistically shot documentary that tells the backstory of a little girl Logan is compelled to take to safety, and a fight scene where grass is used as a lethal weapon, but besides that I found the film to be engrossing and at times very moving.
My only wish is that Mangold had been the man in charge of the X-Men franchise from the beginning, as his deft and subtle story telling bring out the very best of what the wonderfully complicated X-Men characters have to offer.
If you are into the X-Men, you should see this movie right away. It is a top-notch piece of super hero cinema. If you are a luke warm fan of super hero movies, I would still recommend you see it in the theatre, it is worth the effort. Be forewarned though, this film is rated R, and it has dutifully earned the rating as it is ultra and realistically-violent, and is not for the feint of heart. Thankfully the violence is not cartoonish and is grounded in a reality where that violence has consequences, both physical, mental and spiritual, which make the film all the more compelling. As I said, Logan is a real movie, not just a vehicle by which to separate you from your hard earned money, which is a good reason for you to go out and reward it with your hard earned money.