For now, we close off this blogathon with Logan, although as long as this blog continues, I’ll likely write a review for every X-Men movie as they release. Same will probably go for the Disney Animation Studios movies. Anyway, Logan is significant in a number of ways. First, Hugh Jackman has been portraying Wolverine’s character since the original X-Men movie, released as far back as 2000. He would have been added to the movie at some point in 1999 at the latest, meaning he’s been portraying the character for 18 years now. This also marks the last movie where he’ll be portraying Logan, and possibly the last movie that Patrick Stewart portrays Charles Xavier as well.
Released in March of 2017 (the year of this writing), Logan received near universal praise from critics and audiences alike. Several went as far to say it’s the greatest superhero film of all time. It’s even one of the few Superhero movies deserving of the “film” title (along with The Dark Knight). Which of those movies you prefer may at least partially depend on which characters you prefer, but they’re both very good. Even though Wonder Woman is also very well received this year and deservedly so, I would argue that Logan and The Dark Knight are better. There’s also a lot of Oscar buzz surrounding Logan. 20th Century Fox has even began their Oscar campaign.
Logan broke the record for the widest R-rated movie release of all time (previous record held by American Sniper), and the widest R-rated IMAX release. It ended up earning $616 million on a $97 million budget, making it the second highest grossing R-rated movie of 2017 (behind It), the third highest grossing movie in the franchise (behind Deadpool and Days of Future Past) and as far as I can tell, the third highest grossing R-rated movie of all-time (behind Deadpool and It). For a while it outpaced every X-Men movie besides Deadpool, and even enjoyed the biggest X-men movie opening in several territories, including India. Of course it was only a couple weeks later that the live action Beauty and the Beast released, which could have very well cut into Logan’s final numbers.
Even though I’m not a fan of the Beauty and the Beast remake, I’m not all that broken up over it. $616 million is a great number for a dark, depressing and very dramatic R-rated movie by any standards, whereas Deadpool is the more entertaining movie.
Directed by James Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine, Logan is like a classic western movie in a lot of ways. The soundtrack by Marco Beltrami (who also scored The Wolverine) feels like a Western, with occasional techno beats to remind us that the movie takes place in the future. This is most blatantly clear at the end of the movie. And for a character like Wolverine who grew up in 1980’s Alberta, the western angle makes perfect sense. He takes on one last mission so that he can buy a boat and eventually pass on in a peaceful setting.
The mission involves a little girl who turns out to be his daughter. She’s very much bases on his genetics, in a way making her more of a clone or a genetic twin, but the movie only describes her as Logan’s daughter. Over the course of the movie, Logan learns to love again. He learns to let the girl in. He learns to care about something again. It doesn’t really feel like a Superhero movie. It’s just a Western that happens to take place in the future and happens to star former superheroes.
Over the years, it’s been made perfectly clear that Jackman cares about the Wolverine character. He apologized deeply for how X-Men Origins: Wolverine turned out. He pushed hard to get The Wolverine an R rating, even if it didn’t quite work out. It at least helped them come out with the Unleashed Extended cut, which I’d recommend anyone who enjoyed The Wolverine even mildly should check out. He even helped Ryan Reynolds get Deadpool green lit.
It’s also clear that Jackman deeply understands Wolverine as a character. In Logan, he puts forward his best portrayal of the character yet. He’s a broken bitter man who’s only reason for living is taking care of the ailing Charles Xavier, but every now and then, his berserker side still breaks out. You see that in the opening fight scene, where he starts off very hesitant, and he’s clearly not moving around as well as he used to. After a shotgun blasts his limousine, he gets very brutal, highlighting how violent and gory this movie will get.
And if you’re worried that Wolverine doesn’t get to properly unleash himself in his final performance, worry not. Not only do we see a proper berserker rage Wolverine at the end of the movie thanks to a serum that temporarily boosts his healing factor, but we also get X-24, a direct clone of Wolverine. At first this felt like an odd villain, and that Sabretooth would have been more interesting (they even considered him for a time). But in the end, not only does X-24 work as a villain in a movie that already features clones, but it’s thematically the best way to go. The only thing that can truly kill Wolverine is himself. It’s like a nightmare, staring into the worst side of yourself. A version of yourself that’s always in a berserker rage. A version of yourself that doesn’t have a conscience.
Even better than Jackman’s performance is Patrick Stewart as Xavier. He expertly portrays a frail old man who’s starting to lose his mind. He’s showing signs of an Alzheimer’s-like illness, not always aware of where he is or what’s going on. He lacks the filter that once made him a sophisticated member of society and a great teacher. At times he even acts like a kid. However, he shows signs of his deep wisdom every now and then. My cousin’s uncle died of Alzheimer’s related complications a few years ago, and while I never knew him that well, I got to say that Stewart’s portrayal here feels very realistic for those kinds of conditions. If Stewart doesn’t at least get an Oscar nomination for this performance, it’ll be a travesty.
Oh, and considering Xavier is still a very powerful telepath, losing control of his mind and by extension, his powers, makes him very dangerous. In case you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil what that means.
As marvelous as Jackman and Stewart’s performances are though, the most impressive performance comes from then 11-year-old Dafne Keen, portraying Laura/X-23 in her cinematic debut. That’s especially important for a character who doesn’t speak for two thirds of the movie. She shows the dynamic range of a very experienced actress. When she’s supposed to look curious, she nails it. When she’s supposed to look annoyed, she nails it. When she’s observing things, she looks genuinely curious. As an already well-trained clone of Wolverine, there’s a lot of physicality to her role, and it’s tough to find a good stunt person for an 11-year-old girl. Good thing Keen has been studying both gymnastics and martial arts, because she clearly enjoys that part of the movie. Keen is a remarkable find for the casting director, and it’s almost like she was born to play the role.
As for the character Laura, she’s different than her comic counterpart but faithful nonetheless. She shows a more blatant animal side than the cold and calculating killing machine that X-23 started as in the comics, but there are a number of traits that still match quite well. She’s generally a quiet, observant character who is smarter than she first appears. When she does speak, it always means something. It’s always pointed, and she’s often harsh. And even though Wolverine doesn’t treat her the greatest (also true in the comics), she still looks up to him.
You could argue that Keen deserves a best supporting actress nomination as well. In fact you could say all three of the actors I’ve discussed deserve nominations. There are other praiseworthy performances in this movie, but this post is getting long enough as it is.
The violence in this movie is very brutal, but it never feels over the top like it does in Deadpool (which to be fair, is part of the reason that movie is so entertaining). The violence in this movie feels necessary to properly explore the themes of violence and consequence, in ways that The Wolverine’s PG-13 rating didn’t allow it to. Every time Logan snaps and does something violent, even if it’s just to punch someone in the face and break his shotgun on his leg, it leads to something brutal down the line. Every time he gets into a fight, his own ailing body that can’t heal as well as it used to suffers for it. And of course, the only reason Laura exists in the first place is because of Wolverine’s reputation. He is, whether directly or not, responsible for her tortured past.
Without spoiling too much in case you still haven’t seen this movie, Logan has a tragic ending that still feels right. I’ll admit that I often tear up during powerful emotional moments in movies that I really like. It’s kind of my test for a movie I genuinely love instead of merely enjoying. But even a lot of people who normally don’t tear up found it hard not to at the end of this movie. They decided against putting anything after the credits, to ensure that they didn’t reduce the emotional impact of the ending. Good choice.
Logan is easily my favourite of the X-Men movies and arguably the best movie in the franchise by a noticeable margin. I can’t think of a better way to possibly wrap up Hugh Jackman’s run on the character. It features just the right level of violence. It’s got a lot of heart behind the brutal story. The dark, depressing tone is balance out with a great sense of humour. And of course, it introduces my favourite X-Men character (Laura) in a faithful manner, without stealing the spotlight away from Wolverine too much. Sure, there may be some minor pacing issues in the middle of the movie, but even those moments help develop the characters further, eventually leading to rather brutal fight scene. The intense nature of the movie might be too much for some, but if you can handle the R-rating, you should make sure to see this movie.
Like I said with Stewart’s performance, if this movie doesn’t receive a director nomination or a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, it’ll be a travesty. It would be enough for me to forever give up on the Academy Awards.
I’m going to take a week off from these posts before I post a list of all the movies organized in my personal preference. And I’ll likely start my next movie blogathon sometime next year. At this point I’m thinking it’ll be Pixar, and then Star Wars, hoping to reach The Last Jedi around the time of its Blu-Ray release.