Logan (2017)

MV5BMjI1MjkzMjczMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDk4NjYyMTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Logan (2017): written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green; based on characters and situations created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, John Romita, Roy Thomas, Len Wein, Herb Trimpe, Christopher Yost, Craig Kyle, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Marc Silvestri, and many others; directed by James Mangold; starring Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier), Dafne Keen (Laura/X-23), Boyd Holbrook (Pierce), Richard E. Grant (Dr. Rice), and Stephen Merchant (Caliban):

The third and probably final Wolverine movie, Logan, is an enjoyable, 2-hour+ trip fueled by nostalgia and rage. My on-going existential crisis as related to the popularity of superhero movies helped me appreciate Logan, which aspires to be something other than a superhero movie. It aspires to be a late-period Western, and mostly succeeds.

Logan explicitly refers to the Alan Ladd Western Shane at least twice. Three times if you include the fact that Logan‘s title, like Shane‘s, is the chosen name of its battle-weary hero. It’s an interesting choice, given that Logan‘s violence level is more on the Spaghetti Western side of things. Thematically, Logan hews closer to The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and its famous line (“When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”) than Shane at certain points, never moreso than when Logan/Wolverine explains to his young charge that the X-Men comic books she’s read are only about 10% true and that he’s no hero.

Yes, just as in the original Marvel Universe of Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, and others, there are comic books within the Logan Universe that are devoted to the comic-book heroes we’re reading about in our universe. Nice work by the screenwriters on this point.

One welcoming thing about the Wolverine movies (and perhaps the fractured Cinematic  X-Men Universe in general) is that continuity has never been maintained the way it is over in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Logan doesn’t even seem to take place in the same universe as the first two Wolverine movies (and of those two movies, neither Wolverine: Origins nor The Wolverine relates well to each other or to the X-Men movies). It definitely doesn’t seem to coordinate well with last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse — the Calibans of those two movies really don’t seem the same, to cite just one example.

The hard-R of Logan gives us bloody hand-to-hand combat and a whole lot of swearing, both of which make this feel like the first ‘real’ Wolverine movie.

The plot basically involves Wolverine, a dementia-addled Professor Xavier, and a young mutant refugee attempting to drive from Mexico to Canada in the depressing future of 2029. Yes, it’s a road movie. And a pretty good one.

Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have been paradoxically rejuvenated by the need to play exhausted, dying versions of their famous characters. Comparisons to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns are apt; apter, though, is a back-up comic series from DC in the 1980’s with the series title “Whatever Happened To…?” The last stand of Professor X and Wolverine has some of the hopeful, mournful spirit of a terrific short piece entitled “Whatever Happened to the Crimson Avenger?”.

There are many fine moments in Logan. The fight scenes stay close to the ground and mostly eschew fast-editing tricks, thus making choreography important — and the fight choreography works. Dafne Keen, the young actress who plays child-mutant Laura, is a fine addition to the mutant ranks. Her performance reminds me of the young vampire in Let the Right One In, spanning the feral and the tender and the curious and the furious throughout.

Logan‘s villains aren’t all that enthralling, but I don’t think they were ever meant to be — they’re the occasionally smarmy, smirking agents of an all-conquering Corporate America. And their secret weapon is… genetically modified high-fructose corn syrup? Wait, what? Recommended.

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