Mar-24-2017

Reel Snippet – Logan

Summary: The near future is a rather bleak one; society continues to function, but mutantkind is all but extinct and no new ones have been born for a while. Three remain: Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and of course, the Wolverine himself, Logan (Hugh Jackman), who is far from the picture of immortal health he once was. Their safe hermitage is thrown into a talespin when they stumble on a girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant with nearly identical powers to Wolverine. Logan and Xavier make it their mission to get Laura to the Canadian border where there’s an alleged mutant haven, but they are being pursued by the cyborg Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and other militants from the compound where Laura was raised. Dark times are ahead and it may be time for Logan to unsheathe his claws again… perhaps for the last time.

Review: Logan is a very good movie, though it may leave the audience hollow and depressed. Then again, that’s what they were going for. It’s a very different kind of superhero movie that focuses on the burdens of a life of bloodshed and wanton rage rather than reveling in the awesomeness of superpowers, though we do get a bit of that too. It’s essentially a superhero spaghetti western, complete with the dark themes and brutal standoffs.

Some people have compared this movie to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns with similarites of tone and the weight it gives the characters and scenarios. This comparison makes sense since this movie was heavily based on the graphic novel Old Man Logan by Mark Millar. A direct adaptation would be impossible because it would require rights to Marvel characters that Fox doesn’t have, but it still manages to be faithful in other ways like the overall cross-country journey theme or Donald’s initial outfit being identical to Hawkeye’s in the comic. It’s a fun easter egg and best of all, it doesn’t distract from the overall film.

The acting is superb, making Logan and Xavier more identifiable than ever before with a brilliant dynamic between them. Charles is no longer the reserved man he once was, now senile, frail, and abrasive, which breaks our hearts throughout the trip. Logan is also a lot wearier, having outlived most of his friends and burdened with a life of bloodshed that’s taking its toll on him. As good as these veterans are, I really have to give props to Dafne Keen for her excellent portrayal of Laura (though comic fans will know her as X-23), especially because this is her first movie acting job. Good stories mean nothing if you don’t care about the characters and these actors do a brilliant job of making them three-dimensional.

I only really have two gripes with this movie. The first is that while the R-rating allows for language and violence that is more befitting to the story, there are times where it felt a bit gratuitous. It wasn’t a turnoff, there were just some moments where I thought, “That kinda distracts from the scene and you probably could have cut that.” Secondly, it kinda felt hollow seeing that everything the X-Men fought for over the past several movies culminates in this: the failure of their mission and the near-extinction of mutantkind. This isn’t a spoiler either, it’s right in the trailer. Iceman, Storm, Mystique, Cyclops, Jean, Rogue, Beast… all dead or living broken half-lives somewhere. For this movie, it works, but it’s a real downer when you consider the overall franchise.

The violence and slow pacing might be a turnoff for some, but for me, it’s gratifying that after two tries they finally got a Wolverine movie right. A pure action movie would never have suited the character; as Roger Ebert pointed out, it’s hard to care about what happens to a character that’s effectively invincible and can’t die. But focusing on his struggles in a broken world that may have passed him by puts him in a great light. Like Deadpool, this isn’t your traditional superhero movie, but it focuses on drama and the hard questions rather than over the top action and comedy. In other words, it perfectly fits the legend of the Wolverine. Long live Logan.

Fun Tidbit: Some people may have noticed the name Caliban and remembered his role in X-Men: Apocalypse (if you don’t remember X-Men: Apocalypse, I don’t blame you). Those people may also notice that his actor and characterization in this movie are totally different from the previous one, where he was portrayed by Tómas Lemarquis. What happened here is a case of the right and left hand not communicating; writer-director James Mangold had already written Caliban into his script with Stephen Merchant in mind before finding out that the creators of X-Men: Apocalypse had written him into their script wildly differently. When push came to shove, Margold refused to back down and thus we have our two very different versions of Caliban in the franchise.


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