Logan is a Bittersweet Swan Song for Hugh Jackman
The X-Men series has been one of the most varied film franchises in cinema history, in terms of quality. For every X-Men: First Class, there’s an X-Men 3: The Last Stand. For every Deadpool, there’s an X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Of the ten films in the series so far, Logan has made its way into my top three, and maybe top two. It’s a compelling drama with a couple of excellent action set pieces. But it’s definitely NOT for kids.
Logan is the most “adult” of the X-Men movies, and not just because it’s a hard R movie. Themes of family, loss, drugs, pain, and death are all explored in this comic book movie, and it’s well done. While I think the praise the movie is getting is a bit too high, it does deserve praise and is a well-made, enjoyable film.
- The action. X-Men fans finally get to see the extent of the damage that Wolverine can do in a fight, thanks to the R rating. Logan is very bloody with a high body count. The kills are very graphic, too, which is why Logan is not for kids. (That and the liberal use of a certain four letter word that begins with “F-” and ends with “-uck.”) The violence is over the top, but it serves a purpose to the story, so it’s not (just) gratuitous. The fighting is not the only action in the film. There’s an excellent car chase at the thirty minute mark, which keeps the audience guessing. You know the protagonists are going to escape, but every setback makes you question just how they’re going to manage it.
- The acting. Much has already been written about Jackman’s performance, so I’ll just confirm that he is spectacular in this film. This is the best he’s ever been as Wolverine, and he’s always good, even if the movie isn’t. In Logan, he’s the grizzled, reluctant hero and the audience can see the pain and fatigue on every line on Jackman’s face. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. He’s playing a telepathic mutant whose brain is degenerating. His portrayal is both funny at times and heartbreaking at others. The breakout star, of course, is Dafne Keen, the twelve year old actress who plays Laura. Child actors are always a mixed bag, but the filmmakers got it right when they cast Keen. Her character is in just as much pain as Logan’s, and her performance reflects it.
- The setting. This is not a post-apocalyptic movie, but it explores some of the same themes. The film smartly keeps it out of major metropolitan areas, and the post-apocalyptic tone is reflected in the sparse desert settings.
- The themes. As I mentioned, the film deals with many adult themes, such as loss, pain, and death. The main theme of Logan, however, is family. We live in a time when the nuclear family is very broken, and the film comments on how to cope with that tragic fact in constructive ways by showing us several examples of how familial ties can be forged even with people who are not blood relatives. It’s creative and quite often very touching.
Logan is a good movie, but even good movies have flaws. Here are a couple I’ve identified. None of these flaws ruined the film for me, but they were noticeable.
- The villains. There are two major villains in this movie, which isn’t a problem in itself. The actors are fine and the motivations are believable. One of the villains even calls his side “the good guys,” which I really appreciated. The best villains think that they are on the right side. The problem comes in the introduction of the second villain, as the focus shifts to him and the first established (and frankly more interesting) villain is almost completely neglected until the end of the movie. I don’t know how this issue could have been fixed; maybe a scene or two of their relationship? Or get rid of the second villain completely? The shift of focus was a bit jarring and breaks some of the tension.
- The ambiguity. Logan has a “Terminator 2” ending. By that, I meant that the final destination is unclear. While this ambiguity works for T2 since it’s a movie about changing the future and embracing uncertainty (spoilers, I guess), I don’t think it works for Logan. I can’t really explain why without giving major spoilers about the movie, so I’ll just say that the trajectory and purpose of the movie required a more concrete resolution to be more fulfilling.
- The duration. Logan is over two hours, and it feels a bit long. Again, I don’t know how this issue could be fixed, as every scene feels crucial to the plot. Maybe I’m just nitpicking.
Logan is a character piece first, and a comic book action movie second. What it does well it does really well. The flaws are there, but they don’t ruin the film. I’ll parrot other reviews by saying it’s the first movie I’ve seen this year that I really enjoyed. You don’t even need to be an X-Men fan to appreciate Logan, just don’t bring the young kids.
Story: ★★★½ of 5
Action: ★★★★★ of 5
Drama: ★★★★½ of 5
Overall: ★★★★ of 5
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