Directed by James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant and Dafne Keen
Just over a year ago, “Deadpool” changed the comic book landscape in Hollywood by being as obscene, visceral and over-the-top as possible in perfect harmony with its titular character.
It was arguably the most super “hero” accurate comic book film to date and fans loved it.
(Seriously, take a bow Mr. Pool.)
However, studios appeared to latch more on to its R-rating as its source for its victory at the box office rather than why it needed to have one, thus just weeks after the success of “Deadpool” it was announced that James Mangold’s next Wolverine flick, “Logan,” would also be rocking the R-rating.
The whole thing felt reactionary, and though the comic books have always been inherently more violent than their movie counterparts, it was hard not to think about if this was all being done just to get in line with the hip “new” R-rated hotness.
(Remember, this shit is for kids according to Hollywood…)
Well with “Logan” the answer appears to be yes and no. Mangold’s newest Wolverine flick is both excessively violent while also being quite poignant at times and the result is a mixed bag of moody themes and mostly over-the-top violent fan service.
“Logan” takes place in the not too distant future where mutants have suddenly stopped being born. The X-Men are gone, Logan is a depressed alcoholic, Professor Xavier is a senile old man prone to deadly psychic seizures and things are generally speaking just shitty (or maybe it’s just Texas). When Logan runs into a woman looking for his help to protect a child from dangerous men looking for her, he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a great conspiracy to create new mutants as weapons for the government and must now protect this child who shares more in common with him than he realizes.
Before I move on, it’ll be kind of impossible to properly review this film without giving away some plot points so if you rather not be SPOILED now’s the time to turn back and go watch the movie yourself.
(No complaining, you’ve been warned…)
As many friends already know about me, I am an apologist for the Fox X-Men franchise. Other than the obvious blunders (“X-Men 3,” “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” and most recently “X-Men: Apocalypse”) I would say I’ve for the most part enjoyed the X-Men franchise. I think more so than the MCU they have touched on strong themes about prejudice, guilt, pain and just general acceptance really well, whereas most comic book films tend to be just straight popcorn flicks.
James Mangold’s “The Wolverine” was one of them for me. It was a strong film about mental anguish, learning to forgive yourself and finding redemption. Granted it does get schlocky at times, it was an emotional entry into the X-Men cannon and one of it’s strongest features (at least not until the third act) was its grounded approach to the character and emphasis on developing Logan as a person rather than just shoving him into the next action scene.
(You know, character development…)
The action played second to the story (What a concept!) and the result is a pretty strong movie…and this is why “Logan” is in some ways disappointing because it’s the story that plays second this time around.
In what can only be described as 20th Century Fox releasing 17 years worth of blue balls from its PG-13 rated X-Men franchise, “Logan” is one of the most over the top violent films in recent memory.
Logan does more than simply kill some goons as he has done in previous films; he maims, dismembers, decapitates and rips dudes apart and after a while it does feel like “Ok, we get it, its rated-R now…”
(Fox studio execs after being given the green light on an R-rated Wolverine flick)
For those who have seen the film you might be thinking “Well, the comic books are really violent, that’s what Wolverine is all about.”
Firstly, if this is what Wolverine is all about for you then the story of Batman is all about ninja moves and crazy gadgets apparently…
Secondly, if we’re going to review this film from a pure action standpoint there is a huge difference between excessive and effective action.
For instance, “John Wick: Chapter 2” is a great example of effective action; director Chad Stahelski puts the character of Wick in a multitude of varying violet scenarios where his tactics must change each time. The art direction from switching up the lighting, shooting different angles and using slow motion also add to the film’s effectiveness as a vehicle for action film-making.
(If you haven’t already, go watch both John Wick films btw. You’re welcome…)
In “Logan” it’s just one hackey, slashy scene after another that resemble more “Mortal Kombat” fatalities than a fluid string of action sequences. Yes, Wolverine fights much more like an animal than Wick’s more polished hitman demeanor but there’s no sense of directorial style to each scene; it’s just violent for the sake of violence.
The story is the film’s strongest point, however (albeit imperfect as well), when it’s not playing second fiddle to the violence, as we see both Logan and Professor Xavier at their lowest point in the series.
Logan’s anguish is visually very clear on screen and Xavier is downtrodden from the obvious loss of the X-Men (which is never fully explained). They both effectively play lost heroes and it’s both tragic and a joy to watch. There’s a great chemistry between the two actors, as there always has been, with Patrick Stewart playing a much more guttural, senile old grandpa version of Xavier and Hugh Jackman playing his reluctant caretaker in Logan. There’s a nice familial love between the two characters as they both represent to each other the last pockets of what they once were in their happier days. In this way the film makes a very strong point about family and always sticking with them through thick and thin.
(Family is not being ashamed to ask “Who farted?”)
Newcomers Boyd Holbrook and Dafne Keen are nice additions to the franchise too as Texas bad guy and violent 11-year-old super weapon respectively. Boyd is appropriately menacing and an easy to hate villain and while Keen is left to mostly scream in the first half, which bordered on irritating, in the second half she begins to show her range as an actress as more is learned about Laura (X-23 for you nerds out there) on a personal level.
What’s not properly executed about the story, however, is the source of Logan’s anguish.
Wolverine is sad because everything is shit in this somewhat apocalyptic future. The X-Men are gone, Xavier is senile and it appears the adamantium is starting to kill him on the inside. Because of this he has a death wish… buuuuuut “The Wolverine,” Mangold’s last film, already addressed this theme.
In that story Logan wants to die too because in this case he feels guilt for the death of Jean Grey and he goes and gets a procedure done to remove his healing ability so that he can finally die. But at the end of the movie he chooses to live and keep his healing because he accepts what happened and who he is and redeems himself through saving the character Mariko from the bad guys (In this case ninja and a giant robot Silver Samurai).
(Remember, Mangold? It was in the last fucking movie!)
So SPOILER at the climax of this film, knowing that if he injects himself with this super serum that was used on A FUCKING CLONE OF HIMSELF (seriously, super cheesy, almost took me out of the film) it’ll probably kill him but he can save the mutant kids from the evil G-men. Granted this is a heroic sacrifice he makes but it’s a sacrifice he wants to make; understand the difference?
It’s not that people should expect an uplifting ending going into this film but having Logan start the film wanting to die and just giving him his wish, felt cheap especially after the events of “The Wolverine” and felt like a weak fill-in for real catharsis because we’re all supposed to be sad if Logan dies (he does btw).
The film attempts to create a catharsis between him and X-23 at the very end but since they spend most of the film bickering at each other it feels as hollow as Anakin and Obi Wan pretending they were friends in the Star Wars Prequels.
(Obi Wan had enough of Anakin’s shit after a while…)
The film could have done more to play on perhaps the fact that Logan is extremely old and has grown tired of seeing people he loves die while he lives on (its touched on but once again, not effectively directed) and then maybe giving him his death wish would’ve better. Once again though, is it that great of a heroic sacrifice if he wanted to die anyway?
The point of any good story is that our hero changes from the start to end. Logan doesn’t change in this film; he is still sad and depressed with a very real death wish and he gets it granted at the end. There’s no real catharsis. The only thing that changes is that he’s dead.
(Don’t get mad at me, I just call it like I see’s it, bub…)
Anyways, overall despite my grievances “Logan” is a decent entry into the franchise but not quite what I may have wanted. It certainly has poignant moments with great character acting between its primary heroes but overall feels like more of an inordinately, violent action film than the moving drama it appeared to be.
If all you get out of Wolverine comic books is that he stabs, slashes and hacks people up then I’m sure you will enjoy this flick but if you’re looking for a strong humanistic story to play over that you might want to dial back your expectations.
3 out of 5
Vaya con dios, Wolverine…