This is the Wolverine that every X-Men fan has been waiting to see on the big screen. That’s a bold statement, but 20th Century Fox’s “Logan” stands as the definitive take on a character that has appeared in nine previous films. “Logan” is the third stand-alone Wolverine film and the tenth film in the X-Men series, but it is undeniably the best film in the X-Men catalog.
The story is loosely inspired by the Marvel comic titled “Old Man Logan,” written by Mark Millar, yet the film makes so many deviations from the original story that it might as well be considered an original take. Normally, when a film strays this far from the source material, it results in a final product rebuffed by fans of the original work. In the case of “Logan,” however, the changes only enhance the character, plot, emotion and tone of the film.
“Logan” tells the story of the titular character, Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a former member of the X-Men living his life in Texas as a limousine driver. Most of the world’s mutants are long gone and Logan, like the rest of the mutants, is doing his best to stay in the shadows of society.
Logan sees his body rapidly aging with a less effective healing factor. The story takes place in 2029 (roughly five to 10 years after “X-Men: Days of Future Past”), and the world has long moved on from the tales of the X-Men.
Logan and a dementia stricken Charles Xaiver/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) stumble upon Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), an 11-year-old girl being pursued by the Transigen Company. After a bit of reluctance from Logan, he and Xavier eventually take the child under their care and flee from Transigen’s top bounty hunter, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
Let me start off by saying that this film is not your ordinary superhero film. It is rated R, and it definitely lives up to that rating. “Logan” is full of swearing, slashing and dismembering, but I assure you that it all plays into the plot of the film. No piece of violence is misplaced, and every instance of cursing is interwoven and germane to the plot.
“Logan” does something only “The Dark Knight” has done: it transcends the superhero genre. Logan is more than your traditional hero flick. It delves deeply into themes of parenthood, aging, love and fear. It is actually pretty misplaced to call “Logan” a superhero film because it more closely aligns to a Western. “Logan’s” association to Westerns is not lost on the film, as many references to the genre are left for the audience to decipher for themselves.
The film seeks to tell a more grounded and personal story that doesn’t necessitate that you’ve seen the previous entries in the franchise. That is what makes “Logan” special. The narrative makes itself open for anyone to view without worrying she might be missing out on some context. That said, if you have seen the previous films, many nuggets of information are expertly woven into the story to firmly set the film within the X-Men film canon.
The pacing and editing in the film are nothing short of masterful. During action scenes, the tracking of the action provides minimal movement, so the audience doesn’t have to find the action with their eyes. The editors moved the people and action on screen in such a way that your eye naturally follows them.
As for the pacing, the film features about three large, action set pieces, and the time in between slows down considerably. While this would routinely lead to the film becoming boring, director and writer James Mangold packed the slower scenes with compelling story, drama and background that at times outperform the action sequences in enjoyment.
This combination of fascinating action sequences and enthralling emotional scenes leads to truly amazing acting by the main cast. Hugh Jackman gives his best performance on film in “Logan.” His portrayal of Wolverine provides more depth to a superhero character than has ever been presented on screen.
He plays a broken down, depressed, former hero with 10 lifetimes of regrets, and Jackman does this masterfully. Every facial movement is nuanced and layered, and his rage while attacking his adversaries leads to a duality of character — a character who is at the lowest point of his life but still with enough in the tank to keep fighting on.
Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier is probably the most emotionally driven character in the film. The world’s most powerful telepath suffering from dementia provides many of the emotionally tense moments of the film. Stewart is able to capture the essence of dementia, and it should resonate with those who have cared for someone with the disease.
With all of that, Xavier remains the lifeblood of the film. He remains Logan’s moral compass and mentor. Hope and joy are sourced from Xavier, and it is Stewart’s performance that allows the character to be the most resonant with me even as I’m writing this review.
The most commanding performance of the film belongs to Dafne Keen and her character, Laura Kinney. For reasons that would lead to spoilers, I’ll keep this brief but during the last one-third of the film, whenever Keen is on the screen, she steals the show. The script provided for an 11-year-old child to be the most strong, fearless and important character in the film.
This is usually the point where I would discuss my negative criticisms about the film, but there is one problem: I don’t have any. Is this a perfect film? That’s wholly subjective, but I can tell you that from my perspective, “Logan” is a perfect film for the story it was trying to tell.
As I said earlier, the only comic book film that I believe truly transcends its genre is “The Dark Knight.” Both that film and “Logan” effectively tell stories that, when stripped of their superhero flavorings, are emotional, important and resonant. If you can get past the violence and the fact that Logan is based on a superhero, I think you’ll find that it is truly one of the best films of recent memory.
Now I realize that the Academy Awards just concluded, and we have 12 months until the next show, but I will have a hard time believing that 10 films will end up rating better than “Logan” (and that includes “Oscar Bait”). This film right now is the frontrunner for Best Picture in my opinion. If we have 10 more films better than “Logan” at year’s end, we’ll have truly had a great year in cinema.
I give “Logan” 10/10.