Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal (at least, for as long as Fox owns the character) of the beloved Wolverine was released this week. Logan is written and directed by James Mangold, and is only the 2nd movie based on the Marvel Comic Book series to receive an R rating (the first being Deadpool). This was a gutsy move on Fox’s part, even when accounting for the huge success that Deadpool comfortably enjoyed. Movie adaptations of comic books try to keep their ratings low, because executives seem to think that the bulk of their money is made from parents taking children to see these movies, even when my generation drools over these films like Homer Simpson watching a donut commercial whenever a trailer hits the screen. And why shouldn’t we? Just like the Harry Potter books and movies, we have been raised by them. The first X-Men was released 17 years ago and propelled Hugh Jackman’s career into cinematic legend. Jackman has now played Wolverine in 9 different films, which is the most that an actor has appeared as the same character throughout multiple films since the end of the studio era (unless you count Stan Lee as himself, who actually DOES NOT appear in this film).
But enough about Jackman; you know who he is, and you know that he’s more than capable to play the part. What about Mangold? Mangold’s last project was actually 2013’s The Wolverine, which was sub-par at best, but thousands of times better than the trailer-trash-produced X-Men: Origins. Before that, the only notable big budget films that Mangold directed were Knight and Day, which I did not see, but looked like a sad excuse to overpay Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise, and Walk the Line, the excellent Johnny Cash biopic that should have won Joaquin Phoenix an Oscar (but the academy will never forgive him for saying they were pointless). So, while his visuals have not quite undergone a proper stress test, he is a director that has shown some flash of potential. With the heavy advertising and hype leading up to the release date of Logan, it was clear that this would be Mangold’s make-it-or-break-it chance.
So, did Logan make it, or did it disappoint and recycle everything you’ve come to expect from the copy and paste formula that has plagued not only the X-Men franchise, but the Super-Hero genre as a whole?
Logan is easily the best on-paper story that has graced the X-Men franchise. There is no world-ending event, there is no overly evil antagonist, there is no destruction porn. In other words, this is not your average Super-Hero movie. The story is emotional, dark, has stakes and motivations that feel real, and – most importantly – it knows that dedication to its characters is the most important element in storytelling. I have heard and read that a lot of people feel weird about this film’s story, and I think I know why…
It’s because they’ve put comic book characters and their films in a box, and if they ever break out of the box, it becomes too “unfamiliar” to them. This box says that a character is only allowed to follow the same arc and plotline in every film that they appear in. I talked about this specifically in reference to the X-Men franchise in my review of X-Men: Apocalypse (click here to read). What I then saw as the downfall of the franchise was actually the reason that I am not a fan of most Super-Hero movies in the first place. The characters are boxed in and not allowed to do any real exploration; they are merely along for whatever ride the plot presents to them. After all, what is there to explore inside of a box? What Logan represents is a terrific breaking out of this box for more than just Wolverine himself, and hopefully we will start to see more of the genre follow suite.
The biggest reason that Hugh Jackman has become the “real life embodiment of Wolverine” is not because he has portrayed him so many times, it’s because he is a great actor that has been able to show the potential of the character countless times, no matter how shitty the script might be. Logan not only continues this trend, but actually enables Jackman to give one of his best performances through its character driven script.
Patrick Stewart also gives his best performance as Charles Xavier, which can also be attributed to the script allowing the characters to actually be characters. Never before would I have thought that it would sound natural for Professor X to drop F-bombs or make wise-cracks before this film, but it works great and actually gives him a range of emotion.
The most surprising part of this film was the excellent performance given by Dafne Keen. Keen is only 11 years old but plays a huge part in the film despite her young age and small frame. This was one of the best performances by a young actor/actress that I have seen (which seems to be a growing trend).
In case you haven’t realized by now, I’ll go ahead and say it; James Mangold made it with this film. From visual queues alone, you can see how much thought and care went into the making of this film. Mangold wanted this to be more like a Western than a Super-Hero flick, and you can tell that he did his homework. For example: there are big landscape shots contrasted by emotional close-ups, Wolverine wears a white tank top while his opponent wears a black one, the film Shane is referenced throughout the movie, and Wolverine definitely resembles a lone-wolf type in both appearance and character.
But, by far the best part of the visuals are the action sequences. As stated before, this film is rated R, and for good reason. Every action sequence was met with various winces and gasps in the audience, because the film does not shy away from the brutality that comes from the nature of Wolverine. It doesn’t cut too fast and makes every fight seem very real and very savage. There’s even one fight scene where [WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILER] Hugh Jackman is fighting Hugh Jackman and I didn’t even stop to think “is this a double or overlapping footage?” because I was so immersed in the fight itself [END SPOILER].
X-Factor: 6/10, Self-Driving Trucks
If you think that shipping companies aren’t going to face HUGE backlash for even suggesting the large-scale implementation of Self-Driving trucks then you’re crazy. There are almost 4 million truck drivers in the US alone that also form one of the biggest Unions that still hold power. For the film to even suggest that this is a possibility for the next 12 years turns it into a horror film for a lot of people. I will not be moved by subtle propaganda in movies, I will not fail to stand with my fellow Americans when their right to work is infringed upon! JOIN ME BROTHERS! JOIN ME SISTERS! TOGETHER WE WILL OVERCOME OUR METAL OPPRESSORS! #killallrobots
The original X-Men film may have birthed the Super-Hero era of cinema, but I truly believe (or hope… whichever) that Logan will birth a much needed revolution for the genre. This film featured a very character centric story, and I hope that executives have picked up on the love that this film is receiving from critics (it currently sits at a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes). I can only pray that audiences follow suite and go see this film in theaters, otherwise the trend will die and we will continue to see more of the same… which I realize might not be a bad thing for some of you, but its torture for some of us that feel like they have to see all the big most popular movies. I’ll end this review by sharing the last lines from my review of X-Men: Apocalypse:
"I'm not excited for whatever sequel the studio has planned (especially since it appears that it's going to be another Wolverine-centric story), but I really hope that they'll be able to pull their stuff together and get back to making good X-Men movies."
They have, indeed, gone back to making good X-Men movies. In fact, this is probably the best one yet. I highly recommend seeing it while it is theaters, especially if you have expressed similar critiques of the present state of the “Super-Hero genre” in the past.