Reviews: LOGAN 'Is a Love Letter To a Character & an Archetype That Has Stood For a Long Time'

"Logan" image
Credit: 20th Century Fox

Press screenings for 20th Century Fox's Logan began this week ahead of the film's wide release on March 3, and for the occasion Newsarama sent two reviewers to seperate screenings (one in Los Angeles, and one in New York City if you must know), and they came away with different - but both positive - impressions of the film.

While avoiding spoilers, Best Shots Reviews Editor David Pepose and Newsarama writer Pierce Lydon each unpacked the film and their thoughts on it in two reviews.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Logan
Directed by James Mangold
Screenplay by Michael Green, Scott Frank and James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keene
Produced by Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Donners’ Company, Kinberg Genre and TSG Entertainment
Review by
David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

He was once an X-Man. He was once the Wolverine.

But now he is tired, beaten down, and broken. Worn away by pain and scars and the weight of age, he is only Logan - and Fox’s latest outing with Hugh Jackman feels like a much more intimate and personal affair than previous X-films.

Seeing the twisted and often bleak world of Logan shows just how far the X-Men franchise has come since it almost single-handedly ushered in superhero movies as a blockbuster genre, as James Mangold infuses much of his narrative with a stylishness and beauty that sometimes feels even more than we comic book fans might deserve. It’s these strengths that will allow many viewers to overlook Logan’s faults, as underneath its moody and deliberate visuals, there are still some structural flaws hidden in this film’s sometimes rickety adamantium bones.

Yet as Logan begins, you’d be hard-pressed to consider this movie to be anything other than perfect. From the jump, Hugh Jackman plays Logan as a shadow of his former self - whereas the Wolverine could cut through an entire battalion of soldiers with ease, in the year 2029, this one-time X-Man can barely hold his own against a gang of carjackers. Unlike the weathered but hearty Old Man Logan, Hugh Jackman’s character is feeling the ravages of time - his healing factor has slowed to a crawl, his once-heightened senses now require him to wear readers, and even his claws have become infected and stuck with pus.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

It’s a gnarly picture, but it’s one that fits the character perfectly - and it’s a role that Jackman dives into with gusto. Rather than allowing his rippling musculature steal the show as in previous X-films, here Jackman seems to radiate pain and anguish, his face often contorting into shifting maps of red and purple scars. This angsty Wolverine also fits the world he resides in - unlike the in-your-face dystopia of X-Men: Days of Future Past, there’s a much quieter, but much more oppressive future in Logan, one where militarization, nationalist and anti-mutant sentiment have taken over society. At times, Logan’s world often feels even scarier - we live in a world where Sentinels might be considered outlandish, but hatred and bigotry, as evidenced in headlines around the world, never seems to go out of style.

As Mangold’s story smartly focuses on long-standing themes of Logan being a reluctant hero who is more often than not pushed into duty rather than rushing into it head-on, the film also soars with Wolverine’s relationships with his supporting cast. Patrick Stewart’s chemistry with Jackman still carries the film, even as his Charles Xavier is now muddled and confused, battling a neurological condition that results in profane outbursts as well as debilitating psychic seizures (one of which sets the scene for Logan’s best action sequence), and Stephen Merchant steals every scene that he’s in as Logan’s sardonic roommate Caliban.

Meanwhile, Dafne Keene, making her film debut as X-23, plays much of her role with a stoic silence, conveying aggression, compassion and even sassiness with a quiet stare - her precociousness with violence in particular makes her a fun foil for Logan. Even Boyd Holbrook’s Donald Pierce is an inspired villain, an arrogant young buck who enjoys toying with the aging and demoralized Wolverine.

Credit: James Mangold

Yet with a first half that blows much of the rest of the X-Men films out of the water, these tremendous highs make Logan’s flaws that much more apparent in the film’s second half. After building up such a strong momentum with some beautiful characterization, Logan makes a grave misstep at its midpoint, which the rest of the film then hobbles trying to walk off. By attempting to introduce a new villain and to shake up the supporting cast, Mangold and company wind up backing the rest of his characters into some corners they can’t easily escape - Logan’s sluggish healing factor starts to turn into almost a form of low-grade narcolepsy, requiring an easy MacGuffin to temporarily fix, while his relationship with X-23 winds up getting rushed during the film’s obligatory action sequence (which feels set in the same forest as X-Men: The Last Stand).

It’s Logan’s conclusion which winds up feeling keenly disappointing, given how promising the film was at the outset. Given what we know about the not-so-far future of 2029, we know the X-Men are dead, that mutants are largely extinct, and that somehow, Logan and Charles Xavier are the sole survivors of the once-fabled mutant super-team. Unfortunately, Mangold never really gives any satisfactory answers to this brave new world he’s envisioned - there is a throwaway line here and there that careful viewers might be able to use to infer what’s happened over the years, but these omissions wind up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Old Man Logan, the story which Logan borrows from spiritually, was the story of what happened to the X-Men, and how Logan finally came to terms with it. Without that kind of emotional revelation and catharsis, the conclusion of Logan the film doesn’t just feel unsatisfying, but incomplete.

Beginning his cinematic journey as a relentless cage fighter, it feels almost too appropriate that Hugh Jackman’s run as Logan concludes as a burned-out and exhausted man, fighting to his last breath. Logan starts off with more energy and style than the vast majority of its predecessors, and it certainly leaps and bounds ahead of the two standalone Wolverine films that came before it. This is a film that I wanted to love - and at times, I often did - but even with its tremendous production values, Logan trips up a little too often to be the swan song of Hugh Jackman or his legendary character.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

 

Credit: Fox Films Perú

Logan
Directed by James Mangold
Screenplay by Michael Green, Scott Frank and James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keene
Produced by Twentieth Century Fox, Marvel Entertainment, Donners’ Company, Kinberg Genre and TSG Entertainment
Review by
Pierce Lydon
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10

“Joey, there's no living with... with a killing. There's no going back from one. Right or wrong, it's a brand. A brand sticks. There's no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her... tell her everything's all right. And there aren't any more guns in the valley.”

That’s a quote from 1953’s Shane and essentially it stands as the heart of James Mangold’s Logan, the first R-rated film in the Wolverine saga.

Logan is a love letter to a character and an archetype that has stood for a long time. Wolverine has always been compared to Clint Eastwood’s various characters; a lone gunman with a mysterious past; a hero who will do the right thing even if the right thing isn’t very nice. There’s a lot to love in Logan.

The plot is straightforward enough for an X-Men film. In the not-so-distant future, mutants have been regulated and the X-Men are (mostly) dead. Wolverine is a limo driver taking care of an ailing Charles Xavier prone to seizures that threaten the safety of those around him. A shadowy organization is hunting Logan, Charles and a batch of child mutants that escaped from a lab. Inevitably, the two senior X-Men cross paths with a claw wielding 10-year-old named Laura and promise to bring her to Eden, a safe haven she’s read about in X-Men comic books.

Some things are left fairly vague for most of the movie which will frustrate some viewers. What actually happened to the X-Men? Why aren’t there any new mutants? How much of the original X-Men trilogy actually happened?

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The first half of the movie presents these questions and never really makes much of an attempt to answer them. And that’s fine. Like the characters, the filmmaker’s are less concerned with how the world got to be the way it is. They’re more concerned with what’s happening right now. That works for this story. If you’re going to suspend disbelief enough that a man has giant blades that come out of his arms, you can forgive glossing over small details.

It’s an important to note that while Logan is an old man in this story, this isn’t “Old Man Logan.” The filmmaker’s definitely trade in some of that imagery and tone but there’s no symbiote-powered T-Rex or redneck Hulk family. Those things don’t have a place here. Instead what we’re treated to is an examination of Wolverine’s humanity and his struggle with mortality.

Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. The two are linked forever. And if this is indeed his last stand as Ol’ Canucklehead, it’s a hell of a way to go out. At this point, Logan is almost 200 years old and he’s dying. Jackman portrays him with a world-weariness that is earned. After all, we’ve seen Wolverine through more than a few incredible adventures; it’s only natural that he might have a little less patience for the world.

But with the introduction of young Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), we begin to see Wolverine’s reluctance melt away. Sure, he didn’t ask for any of this but over time he realizes that his lot in life is to make things better for these kids, for these new mutants. That self-sacrifice is essential to Wolverine.

So far it sounds like this film is a dour affair but Mangold definitely eases up on the heaviness by deliver some action scenes that we just haven’t seen before from an X-Men related film. This is full-on brutal, bloody berserker rage from Logan and X-23. And even when Mangold holds back, opting for close-ups on characters rather than the damage they're doing, there’s no doubt about the savagery they’re inflicting.

Credit: 20th Century Fox

The film does suffer from a bit of convolution around the center of the film. The introduction of a Richard E. Grant’s Zander Rice and his perfect weapon undercuts Boyd Holbrook’s stellar portrayal as Donald Pierce. Rice isn’t a bad villain per se but we’ve seen the mad scientist trope used again and again in X-Men films especially with regards to Wolverine. There’s an attempt to underline a connection between the two but it feels little bit shoehorned in. It’s clear that the inclusion of Rice only serves to give us a big final battle but there’s a superfluity to all of it.

In the end, Logan stands as one of the best films in the X-Men franchise. It avoids most of the pitfalls of previous entries in Wolverine’s trilogy while embracing the pathos that made X-Men: First Class sing. It’s a very serious and heavy movie but it’s not without it’s moments of levity and that crucial in a film that is fairly unabashed about the level of violence it’s willing to portray.

Logan is a film about family and about coming to terms with who you are even though it feels like that changes all the time. Try as he might, Wolverine can’t resist his heroic nature. He can’t resist trying to leave the world in a better place than he had known it.

“A man has to be what he is, Joey. Can't break the mould. I tried it and it didn't work for me.”

That’s another line from Shane. And it’s true. Logan makes it clear: Wolverine is and always will be a hero.

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