To the naysayers who complain about superhero movies being “all the same,” I offer a counterpoint: Logan. There’s minimal franchise cross-promotion. No one-off cameos and no post-credits tease (at least in press screenings). James Mangold honors Hugh Jackman’s final contracted Wolverine performance like a sympathetic hangman, and what a sendoff it is. Jackman rides into the sunset, chewing a smokey cigar while reflecting on his longstanding relationship with Hollywood’s most prolific X-Men renegade. If Logan is indeed Jackman’s final unsheathing of those iconic adamantium claws, it’ll stand as a pitch-perfect goodbye. It’s not just “good for a comic book movie.” Logan is a heartbreaking love-letter to fans, cast and crew, but also a bloodthirsty outlaw tale that blazes with chiseled unrest.
Mangold introduces old-man Logan during his darkest days. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is sick with a deteriorating brain disease, Logan is growing weaker thanks to his poisonous metal bones and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is his only friend. The deserted hero drives a limo by day, just to score enough medication to keep Xavier from having seizures that emit crippling brainwaves. All is not well in the world of mutants, most of whom have been erased over the last 25 years.
Logan’s life changes when he meets Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), and her “daughter” Laura (Dafne Keen). Gabriela begs him for a ride up North, since her “boyfriend” is currently in aggravated pursuit. After some monetary convincing Logan agrees, but his actions come too late. Gabriela is murdered before they can embark, but that’s just the beginning of Logan’s quest to keep Laura alive. Well, we meet her as Laura, but comic book fans might know her better as X-23.
Thus sparks one of the more affecting, brutally-fucking-honest superhero movies to grace modern cinema. From frame one – where a cholo-stabbing Logan asserts his alcoholic, live-or-let-die attitude – Mangold unveils the broken state of his subject. This isn’t a bad thing, mind you. Heavens no. This is tragic and refreshing, considering how superhero movies are all rainbows and sunshine these days.
Logan reflects such base human qualities as emotional abandon and suffocating PTSD, through someone who has experienced more atrocities than any man should. So much rage, angst and punishment has fuelled Logan all these years. Jackman’s performance burns with agonizing torment (emotional and physical), as most scenes depict Logan wavering in and out of consciousness. He’s no longer a leader. Logan is fighting to stay alive, and his vulnerability is appreciated in today’s franchise-age mentality where heroes seem to escape any real danger.
Logan is a movie-lover’s comic book adaptation, where reality and fantasy mix with a dusty blend of Western influences. Jackman’s protagonist is the drunken gunslinger; a rebel with little cause. He’s pushed to the brink and just wants out, tainted by years of hardship – yet he’s still admired by mini-mutants like Laura. She’s read all the X-Men issues, and now gets to meet Wolverine in the flesh. Better not to meet your idols, they say.
Comics serve a purpose in Mangold’s cinematic universe, where Logan openly mocks the goofy latex suits he’s shown parading around in. They’re just colorful pieces of pop-culture propaganda, ignoring the blood Logan wipes from his claws in real life. It’s a staggering contrast between perception and reality. Mangold delivers a true Logan, whose care for anyone is a death sentence. The Logan who’s provoked into battle, and treated like a freakish test subject. Jackman accepts the challenge of sending Wolverine’s life into a disparaging nosedive, living in a blur of empty Fireball bottles, open wounds and stone-faced coldness. A man who must literally face the demons from his past in the form of an X-24 model, transcending metaphor into personified retribution.
Then, there are moments of on-the-road buddy comedics that paint Logan, Xavier and Laura as a family – the wholesome life Logan avoided (for fears of only more heartbreak). Think National Lampoon’s Vacation, but with severed heads and Boyd Holbrook as a metal-armed militant.
Seeing Patrick Stewart as this senile grandpa-type both stings and soothes, as Xavier is able to embrace the simplicity of a home-cooked meal and make jokes like a cranky senior citizen. Jackman and Stewart are dynamic together, pushing the relationship between Wolverine and Xavier into uncomfortable, human realms. Logan is very much a changing of the guard, where veteran characters are forced to cope in ways that future generations never should. The equivalent of two grey-haired vets sitting on a porch, just gazing into the sunset and self-medicating while flashbacks remind of terrible, nasty times.
It’s X-23 who receives the torch from Logan, thanks to a backstory I’ll leave vague for those readers who might not already know certain connections. A shady organization, Transigen, created her to mirror Wolverine’s abilities (birthed from a real mother), but her Mexico-based program is terminated thanks to the “perfection” of X-24 (Logan 2.0). This makes her a product at large, and what a feral little mini-assassin she is.
Young Dafne Keen thunders into the X-Men universe, acting not only as a sidekick for Logan, but a dangerous portrait of untamed innocence. Keen keeps up with Wolverine’s energized fighting tactics, ripping into Holbrook’s cronies with equally vicious intent. Laura has never known a life outside Transigen, and her first experiences with humanity are soldiers, weapons and death squads. Imagine your perspective on society given the scenario. Not too pleasant, right? Even so, Keen still keeps a child-like whimsy alive as X-23 smiles at bright casino lights and wears flashy sunglasses – then it’s back to a life of running, hiding and ending lives.
Those worrying about unnecessary R-rated antics, understand that Logan utilizes abusive gore and crass language in the necessary ways that Deadpool uniquely manipulated obscenity. When Jason Mewes references “Wolvie berserker style” in Mallrats, this is the brutality he’s mimicking. Multiple decapitations, impaled heads, pierced flesh and muscles (those armpit stabs, UGH) – action instills the tragic hurt that tortures Logan. Until now, Wolverine’s attacks have been PG-13 and tightly reigned. This is why Mangold’s latest vision ensures that we fully understand just HOW blood-soaked Wolverine’s past is.
If that sounds dark, it is. You’ll get your laughs – especially when X-23 rolls a detached head at Donald Pierce’s feet – but goddamn is Logan savage. Like, a-gasp-per-minute whenever brandished claws separate limbs and leak fluids everywhere. Highlights include Logan’s self-smackdown with X-24, a slow-motion hotel scene where Wolverine’s claws slice through skulls with ease and X-23’s first display of skills – and there’s so much more where that came from.
It feels like a disservice to do a spoiler-free review of Logan, given how much there is to discuss. Mangold’s Wolverine masterpiece is a new dawn for superhero movies. A dark, flaw-embracing dawn that doesn’t shy away from genre grit. We’re talking about a movie where the most dramatic scenes echo dialogue from Wild West classics (verbatim), and where Logan’s mutton chops are a cruel joke.
The last shot of Logan will be one of the heaviest cinematic moments of 2017, complete with a child clutching his Wolverine action figure. This is a courageous comic book movie that dares to defy mainstream conventions, as even the opening title cards remind of some hard-boiled Antoine Fuqua flick. Wolverine is pushed to his breaking point, and we watch as his world burns – but not without simultaneous hope in the form of X-23.
Logan isn’t just a final goodbye (again, if this really IS Jackman’s last rodeo), it’s a steely bullet to the head of a reluctant hero we’ve loved for years. All the pain, remorse and despair inside Logan has long bubbled over, and Jackman’s performance goes out on raw, sharpened terms. A relentless, jaw-dropping last hurrah like a raised middle claw to the universe. It’s not just one of the best superhero movies ever – it’s a damn-fine cinematic representation of the human condition in all its agonizing forms. Bravo, Mr. Mangold. You’ve just redefined how we’ll look at superhero movies forever. And if this really is goodbye, Mr. Jackman – what a hell of a way to go out on top.
Logan is a searing, claws-out action drama that hits hard, chews grit and leaves an everlasting impression.