Logan (2017)

Logan (2017)

The X-Men series has been showing signs of franchise fatigue for quite some time now. Fox had a go at reviving the property in 2011 (when superhero fever was at an all time high) with the quasi-reboot X-Men: First Class, and then again in 2014 with the less than stellar X-Men: Days of Future Past, the aforementioned (while critically acclaimed) essentially produced just to write-off the previous entries, this ‘reset’ causing a slew of gaping plot holes and inconsistencies in the X-Verse.

The latest inconsistency is the Western-infused Logan, the third and final installment in the solo Wolverine saga, which sees Hugh Jackman reprise his role as the adamantium-clawed hero for the very last time (his final gallop in the saddle, if you will). With a dramatic change in tone and tempo, Logan strays far away from its core foundations, the flick delivering a different kind of superhero story, one that’s more post-apocalyptic Western than Marvel-esque. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? A bit of both really.

Hugh Jackman or Mel Gibson?

Hugh Jackman or Mel Gibson?

First thing’s first, let’s look at the X-Men timeline. Logan takes place in 2029, where the world is depicted as a mutantless realm, with Logan — who now goes by the name of James Howlett — residing somewhere near the Mexican border. The retired X-Man is but a shadow of his former self, having become an aging, grizzled drunk who works as an El Paso limousine driver and wears old-man reading glasses. Problem is, Days of Future Past ends in the year 2023, after Wolverine successfully alters the timeline and saves all of mutantkind. What could’ve happened in those six years to cause such an extreme change? Who knows? With that said, there are a few clues suggesting that Logan doesn’t even take place in the same universe as the other films — but more on this later. If you want to believe that Logan is set in a different timeline, then the character has very little depth or history, and viewers, no insight into his past or how things used to be (with nothing to compare this bleak era to). If you opt for the alternative, the whole narrative makes absolutely no sense! Does Logan work as a stand-alone flick? Sure, but, if it’s supposed to be a solo venture, why are Fox advertising it as the ‘final’ Wolverine movie — wouldn’t that make it the first?

In this future world, Logan takes care of an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whom he pumps with illegal prescription drugs to stop him from going into wild seizures that’ll paralyze every living thing in a thousand-mile radius. Xavier’s deteriorating brain, however, isn’t Logan’s only concern. You see, Ol’ Canucklehead has his own health issues, too — he’s falling apart at the seams, literally and figuratively, his regenerative healing powers slowly diminishing. Logan also shares his makeshift home with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant with tracking abilities, who helps in nursing the frail, cranky Xavier.

... carrying the team.

… carrying the team.

Bitter, cynical and tormented, Logan’s grim existence is disrupted when a Mexican nurse, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), learns of his true identity and begs him to accept a hefty amount of cash to courier her, and her daughter Laura (Dafne Keen), to a place called Eden (in Canada). Initially refusing the job, Logan reconsiders after he learns that Laura possesses the same healing powers and razor sharp blades that he does. The claws come out (quite literally) when a flamboyant baddie named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his paramilitary part-cyborg Reavers come to snatch the girl. Working on behalf of Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) — the head of a bioengineering company named Transigen — the goons plan on taking Laura out, the young girl one of their unwanted ‘experiments,’ which Transigen had been conducting on countless children and their mothers in Mexico. Now, as the newly formed trio (Logan, Charles and Laura) trek from the Texas desert, through Middle America, they must evade capture from the merciless Reavers if they wish to make it to the Promised Land.

Partly inspired by Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan eight-issue comic, Logan follows a proverbial arc of redemption, one we’ve seen a dozen times before, where a lone soldier finds one last reason to care. Here it’s the nearly mute Laura (or, as fans might know her, X-23) who warms his heart, even if she feels more like an overcooked plot device then an actual person, her sole function, to create that handy father-daughter dynamic that Logan will eventually warm to. Directed and co-written by James Mangold, the guy who helmed 2013’s The Wolverine, Logan also borrows from George Stevens’ classic Western Shane (1953) — which is blatantly referenced throughout — with its archetypal themes of masculinity, dignity and sacrifice, Logan depicted as an waning gunslinger, ready for his final draw. There’s also an unnecessary detour at around the midway point that sees our protagonists stop-off at a Great Plains farmhouse, where Logan settles a land dispute (lol) and the ‘gang’ share a meal with the ranch family.

'Yeah, we're into Heavy Metal. Who's askin'?'

‘Yeah, we’re into Heavy Metal. Who’s askin’?’

With coarse, brownish-grey cinematography by John Mathieson, X-Men: First Class (2011), and a gritty dystopian production design by François Audouy, The Wolverine (2013), Logan can feel slightly refreshing if taken as a singular journey, something that it sorta is and sorta isn’t. There’s no sequel to connect it to, no crossover set-up, no Easter eggs, which is all good and well if Fox weren’t advertising the film with the hashtag ‘One Last Time’ and using quotes such as ‘Prepare for one last ride’ in their promos — because if this is, in fact, the ‘last’ ride/time, where are the other ‘rides?’ Throughout the movie we see the young, observant Laura read X-Men comics, which Logan discards as ‘made-up stuff,’ his dismissal basically rejecting everything that came before, Logan marking the second time that Fox execs have decided to ignore their past blunders. Again, if this was supposed to be a stand-alone film, why cast Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart as Wolverine and Professor X? The answer is simple. It rhymes with the word funny!

Logan does have a couple of redeeming qualities. The first is its stark, brutal, bloodthirsty violence, filmmakers staging some of the most burly, vicious action sequences ever seen in a superhero flick — yep, this one’s even more violent than Deadpool (2016). Severed limbs. Check. Beheadings. Check. Impalements. Quadruple check. The second is its opening quarrel, which sees the Reavers close in on Wolvie at his sooty industrial abode, where he escapes in a bulky ’24 Chrysler limo, ripping through the sand and the bad guys in equal measure, this onslaught of gusty action a rip-roaring way to start things off. It’s unfortunate, then, that the climactic clash, while still violent, lacks the gripping impact of the opener, this due, part and parcel, to an overload of mutants and powers that viewers have little (or no) investment in.

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

In terms of its performances, Logan is quite vicious. Hugh Jackman delivers his most nuanced rendering of the titular mutant to date, a character he’s made his own, his final turn as the brutish ‘wolf’ (who drinks, swears and kills), standing as his very best, hands down — heck, after playing the Wolverine for 17 long years, it’s a dang shame that we never get to see Jackman don the iconic yellow getup. Patrick Stewart is good as the once-powerful leader of the X-Men, Professor Charles Xavier, even if his arbitrary profanity grates against his established nature, the 76-year-old painting a dour portrait of a fallen chief on the verge of death. Alas, Stewart’s depiction is not as hard-hitting as it ought to be, mainly due to Fox’s elasticity — for instance, viewers saw Xavier being reduced to ash in X-Men: The Last Stand (2009), before being revived without explanation in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Moreover, it’s also rumored that this isn’t the last time that Stewart will portray the telepathic headmaster, meaning that Fox may very well choose resurrect the guy at any given moment. Newcomer Dafne Keen is shrug worthy as the ‘tiny tiger’ Laura, the character given very little to do bar stare blankly out into the open distance, this tyke lacking the gravitas of various comparable roles, think Natalie Portman’s Mathilda from Léon: The Professional (1994) and even Dakota Fanning’s Lupita from Man on Fire (2004).

Oozing with menace, Boyd Holbrook, Gone Girl (2014), is ace as the leader of the Reavers, Donald Pierce, who makes his heinous intentions clear from the get-go, Holbrook’s grounded baddie a nice change of pace from all those omnipotent world-destroying foes. Richard E. Grant, Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), on the other hand, is ho-hum as the one-dimensional geneticist Dr. Zander Rice, who’s introduced rather late in the game, while the ‘secret’ villain of the piece underwhelms, his unveiling lacking the kind of punch that filmmakers might’ve hoped for.

When all else fails, take a nap.

When all else fails, take a nap.

With an excessive run time of 137 minutes, Logan is way too long and generic to be regarded as the genre-defying comic-book movie that Fox are claiming it to be, the flick saved by its intense bloodshed and sombre tone. At the end of the day, Logan suffers from the same flaws as its predecessors, with those in charge failing to deliver a story that’s worthy of its ever-conflicted, indestructible hero. Just like the film’s title, which strips away Logan’s guise, it’s best to enter this one with a clean slate — that way, it’s possible to enjoy most of carnage without having to think too deeply. One final thing, if someone can tell me what happened to Wolverine’s retractable bone-claws, that’d be greatly appreciated!

3 / 5 – Good

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Logan is released through 20th Century Fox Australia