Logan – A (mostly) Spoiler-Free Review

The latest film in the X-Men Cinematic Universe, Logan, is a major departure from the genre of movies we usually associate with mutant superheros. Indeed, it’s not a superhero movie at all — and in many ways, that’s why its one of the best superhero movies yet. The film focuses on one single character, on a journey of discovery; and no matter how predictable the ending, by the time we get there, the emotional investment is so powerful that you feel it anyway.

In this review, I won’t spoil the ending, and will keep the spoilers to an minimum. If you’ve never seen another X-Men movie, though, expect those to be spoiled at will. (I’m looking square at you, Age of Apocalypse). And, since the question has come up more than once: no, you don’t need to watch any previous movies to enjoy Logan, but you will probably enjoy it more if you’ve invested in the characters already; that means watching at least X-Men, The WolverineDays of Future Past, and Age of Apocalypse (mostly for the ending) first.

Overall, I give this movie a 9/10; to see why, and why you really want to see it for yourself, keep reading. (Also, in case you didn’t know, the movie is rated R — there’s tons of violence and tons of swearing. No kids, please).

Logan is, first and foremost, not a superhero movie. At best, you might classify it as a road-trip movie with lots of violence; a mutant Thelma and Louise. In fact, the similarities between Logan and Children of Men have been remarked on in a couple of places: a bleak future where the birth rate has dropped to near-zero, where suddenly a special child appears and our hero has to take her on a cross-country trip to safety. Of course, Children of Men itself was a great movie, so there’s no shame in borrowing from greatness. And Logan certainly does the story well.

In this case, we start out in 2029, about 5 years after the “future” scene at the end of Days of Future Past. Some time in the interim, mutants have become all but extinct; one caller on a talk radio show asks “why are we still talking about mutants?” It seems, though, that their extinction may be overstated a bit, as we quickly meet four of them in short order.

Logan, the former X-Man Wolverine, has taken up a job driving a limo in and around Las Vegas; we soon learn that he’s saving up money to buy a boat. As Logan heads south of the border to his hideout, we find Charles Xavier there with him, but in his old age (he would be upwards of 90 by now) he appears to be suffering from dementia. And when a powerful telepath starts to lose his mind, it’s not good. Logan’s plan is to buy a boat, and take himself and Charles out to sea where no one will bother them. Rounding out this motley group is Caliban, a mutant who made a cursory appearance in Age of Apocalypse, and who possesses the power to find other mutants. He’s acts as a live-in nurse/housekeeper for Xavier while Logan is away.

Unfortunately for Logan, his simple, calm world is soon shattered by the introduction of the mysterious young Laura, seemingly mute, but who has a powerful healing factor and adamantium claws. If you stuck around for the post-credit scene of Age of Apocalypse, you’ll know that after Wolverine was broken out of the Weapon X program by young Jean Grey and friends, people from Essex Corp arrived to clean up the mess. If so, you’ve likely already figured out where Laura (also known as X-23) came from, but her existence throws Logan’s life into turmoil. Even more so when her previous captors show up at Logan’s crib looking for her, led by the mechanically-enhanced Reavers, and the inevitable fight breaks out.

From here, Logan, Xavier and Laura journey north across the United States, seeking a destination that Laura believes will be safe. Along the way, Logan slowly starts to come out of his shell, mostly at the prompting of Xavier, and bond with Laura. We get a glimpse of what everyday life before the X-Men must have been like for someone who can’t get hurt, but also can’t keep his smart mouth shut, and it’s pretty cool. We also start to learn more about this bleak future: why all the mutants are gone, why Xavier is in hiding, and how much worse things might get.

As most people are aware, Logan is the last appearance of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and the movie neatly ties up both Logan and Xavier’s character arcs in emotional but satisfying fashion. And while much of the movie is bleak and depressing, we’re still left with a glimmer of hope for the future (and maybe a sequel?), proving that no matter how bad things get, stabbing enough bad guys in the face always has the chance to fix it.

And it is, no question, the best X-Men movie ever made. You should absolutely drop whatever you’re doing and buy tickets to see this movie.

To be honest, there’s not much to this movie that deserves criticism. Jackman and Patrick Stewart play their future selves exactly as you might expect: Logan is more gruff, less friendly, less social, and more angry; Xavier wavers from blissfully unaware of his own deteriorating condition, to recognizing that his time is coming to an end, to despairing over what he’s done because of it. Dafne Keen, the newcomer that plays Laura, doesn’t say a single word for the bulk of the movie, and manages to convey so much emotion you don’t even notice. (Watch her when she gets interrupted while eating a bowl of cereal.) Some of the secondary characters are a bit more one-dimensional — the main protagonist, Zander Rice, isn’t on screen enough to really get a grip on his personality, and there’s some cookie cutter rednecks — but they are mostly there to be foils for Logan and Laura’s interactions, so it doesn’t really detract too much.

And while the core movie is a character-driven one, when the action does pick up, it’s satisfying. Watching X-23 unleash herself on the bad guys is amazing, and seeing Logan get back into fighting shape has a very Rocky-esque feel to it. There’s very little in the way of special effects, other than the claws, because the movie doesn’t need it.  And in the calmer periods, the banter between Logan, Laura, and Xavier in the car runs the gamut from funny to serious to depressing and back quite naturally.

As far as what kept me from giving this movie a 10/10, there are a few nitpicky things that bothered me about it in hindsight. First, the movie does a terrible job of trying to fit itself into the existing timeline (either of them). The writers of the movie have gone on record as saying they ignore continuity when they need to, and that’s part of why they were able to make such a compelling movie. But there were other times when they seemed to go out of their way to screw up continuity, even when it didn’t buy them anything. Particularly frustrating is placing the movie in 2029, and specifically telling us there have been no mutants born in 23 years, despite the fact that we saw 2024 in Days of Future Past and there were young kids at Xavier’s mansion. It never explains what happened to the X-Men (again, thriving 5 years earlier) — probably the most blatant elephant in the room of the entire movie. The movie makes a half-hearted attempt to craft an explanation about the evil corporation (Alkali, not Essex, despite Age of Apocalypse) and its plan to rid the world of mutants, but it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.  The easy answer, of course, is not to scrutinize the movie in the first place, and you will enjoy it immensely, but if you’re a die-hard XCU fan, you’ll eventually find yourself struggling to make sense of it.

Also, as mentioned, the plot is a bit derivative and predictable. There were a few surprises, mostly in execution more than intent, but overall, I think going in to the movie we all knew how it was going to end for most of the characters. And, while this movie is about Logan — the person — the studio was also well aware they were making a Wolverine movie, so they made sure to give Wolverine plenty of excuses to stab people. Mostly these scenes appear organically, but there was at least one minor side-plot that seemed to serve no purpose other than to give Logan a chance to be a bad-ass, no matter how dumb it made his character appear.

Lastly, the writers seemed almost afraid they weren’t going to get their desired R rating, so they made sure to guarantee it with language. Having Deadpool cuss like a sailor is funny because that’s his character; having Logan go off on profanity laced tirades against a 12 year old is frankly, a bit uncomfortable. There does come a point where you wonder if he really needs to swear quite so much. (Xavier, on the other hand, is the master of the precision curse word.)

But these things only really detract from the movie in hindsight, when you try to analyze what you’ve seen and decide how well it worked. As your seeing it, the movie it highly engaging, never feels rushed or plodding, and never does anything to take you out of the moment. And it is, no question, the best X-Men movie ever made. You should absolutely drop whatever you’re doing and buy tickets to see this movie.

Review

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