LOGAN Film Review: MFR Calls It The Best Modern Day Superhero Movie!
Yeah, I know, you think I’m crazy. You read that headline and you thought, “Surely this man must be insane! Hasn’t he seen The Dark Knight?!” And yes, I have seen that film. But, y’know what? This is my Logan Film Review, and I think this movie trumps anything we’ve seen during this modern Superhero Boom in Hollywood.
Last night, I sat in a packed theater in Times Square and I had an experience that’s hard to describe, but I’m going to give it a shot.
What director James Mangold and star Hugh Jackman have crafted with Logan is something truly special. The film is not your typical “standalone” or “spinoff” movie. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover that the movie is actually a sequel to the entire X-Men franchise- especially the first two films in the series. It’s littered with callbacks and Easter Eggs designed to remind us of how our hero’s journey began, as it prepares us for the tragic beauty of how it all ends.
Part of your enjoyment of Logan will hinge on how you felt about those first two movies. The film acts as the ultimate payoff to the story arc created by directed Bryan Singer and the writers of those first two X-Men movies and, as such, if those films hold any kind of special place in your heart then you are in for a massive treat when you go see Logan.
With that said, Mangold pulls off the amazing feat of referencing the franchise’s past without being hamstrung by it or relying too heavily on nostalgia. In fact, there are no visual or auditory callbacks to those films. What there are, though, are subtle references here and there, but more than anything what you can see and feel is that the history of the X franchise is deeply embedded in the DNA of Logan. You can feel it every time Logan (Jackman) and Xavier (Patrick Stewart) interact. The lineage of their relationship is evident in every knowing glance, every snide remark, every begrudgingly affectionate moment these two men share with one another.
Jackman and Stewart give bravura performances in Logan, with a chemistry that can best be described as a kind of magic. Halfway into the movie I realized, “These two guys need to make another movie together!” While Jackman will likely get the bulk of the attention for his work in the film, since he is the titular protagonist, Stewart’s performance is one worthy of every kind of recognition there is. That’s not to say he overshadows Jackman at all, because the man who’s inhabited the role of Wolverine for 17 years has never been better than he is here. Jackman brings such raw power, emotion, vulnerability, and complexity that it’s hard to fathom that he’s finished with the role. But hey, if this really is the end of his journey as Logan, he couldn’t have asked for a better sendoff.
The story is tense, stripped down of Hollywood fluff, and surprisingly relevant. When you consider that the X-Men comics debuted in the 60s and were something of a metaphor for the civil rights issues that were dominating the national conversation, Mangold very wisely used Logan to make his own comments about the current geopolitical climate we find ourselves in. The beauty of it, though, is that he doesn’t hit you over the head with any of it. The film is filled with allegorical ideas, yet somehow manages to avoid being didactic or preachy. It gently touches on issues like “The Wall” that will one day exist between the United States and Mexico, the idea of GMOs invading our food supply, and other hot-button issues without getting on a soapbox.
Mangold, and the several writers credited with working on the film, also deserve a ton of credit for keeping the scale of the story as intimate as they did. In an age where these kinds of movies often get some “big” that they end up collapsing in on themselves- with plots that center of “saving the world” or fighting off some outlandishly over-the-top villain- Logan chose to instead focus on making the personal stakes high for the characters, while placing little no emphasis on what the ramifications to the rest of the world are if everything goes wrong. The result is a climax that is jaw-droppingly emotional and psychologically harrowing, without being so over-the-top that you can’t relate to the drama.
Speaking of personal stakes, they’ve never been higher for Jackman’s Wolverine. The X-23 character, played note-perfectly by newcomer Dafne Keen, creates a very interesting conundrum for Logan. Their relationship is fantastic to watch, and what these two characters do for one another as the story wears on is the kind of thing you don’t usually see in modern day superhero movies. The writing, across the board, is thoughtful, layered, textured, and psychologically complex- without forgetting to pepper in a well-earned laugh from time to time.
If there’s any issue with the film, it comes in the form of two or three moments in the script that are incredibly ham-fisted. There’s a moment early on, for example, where we’re introduced to a character that literally speaks the subtext of the scene. She says out loud what the film itself was already doing a magnificent job setting up on its own, and that happens a couple of more times throughout the movie. These moments stand out because they’re essentially spoon-feeding the audience information that is already so plain to see.
Outside of that, Logan is fairly flawless.
Another notable mention? Boyd Holbrook has a star-making turn in this film, as the villainous Pierce.
If Logan and Deadpool are the kinds of movies Fox is going to start making, and if they are the indication of where the X-Men franchise is going, we are in quite a ride these next few years.
In the meantime: Mr. Jackman, Mr. Stewart, and Mr. Mangold….Thank you.