To say that the Logan/Wolverine and Professor X characters have been as important a part of my comic book superhero upbringing as Christopher Reeve’s Superman was an understatement. The beauty of the ‘X-Men’ film franchise is that their stories have been nuanced in such a way that meanings are hidden within meanings, a strong suit of Bryan Singer. James Mangold takes it to the next level in “Logan”.
Set in the near-future, an aging Logan is scraping an existence, staying off the radar. With his wit and intellect, he is as razor sharp as ever: in the opening scene, his futuristic looking Chrysler 300C limo is being jacked by a street gang when he warns them to stop, with violent consequences. One doesn’t mind the violence, as it seems natural for the character. It is not over the top. Reminiscent of Martin Riggs, it was obvious that Hugh Jackman relished in his final opportunity to play the role; a gruff, aged version of the character.
A now-senile Charles Xavier, played with stunning brilliance by Patrick Stewart, is tended to by Caliban, one of the last mutants. Stephen Merchant plays Caliban with a twinkle in the eye, giving a sense of humility, grounding both Logan and Xavier.
The screenplay by Scott Frank (“The Wolverine”), Mangold, based on his screen story and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”) is well-paced, stopping for a breath every once in a while. The introduction of Elizabeth Rodriguez as Gabriela is a welcomed bit of mystery as she tries to get Logan to help her with her daughter, Laura, offering to pay him to take her to safety. Although there is a sense of urgency in her actions, Gabriela’s motivations are not immediately raised, increasing the tension. When an encounter with Gabriela goes wrong, Logan is forced to take Laura in and back to the compound, drawing the attention of Boyd Holbrook’s tatted-up Pierce. Reminiscent of Robert Patrick’s T-1000, Pierce is a simple character: relentless. Here there is more emotion in his interaction with all of our heroes. Yet, like Logan, Pierce is a pawn in a game.
Making her feature film debut, Dafne Keen is a more than capable actress, conveying a sense of emotion through her eye movements. Her interactions with Pierce’s goons at the compound are fluid and deadly. Mangold captures the essence of a child-adult relationship between Logan, who isn’t fully grown up and Laura, who has had to grow up much sooner than most realize. Throughout all of this, Xavier is still a key figure trying to make sense of his decaying world, a triumph for Stewart
All throughout the film, references are made to classic westerns, including Mangold’s own “3:10 to Yuma” remake from a few years back. Each of the characters is a desperado in their own way. And, much like Cameron’s “T:2,” “Logan” is equally as violent. A key to the references is in John Mathieson’s stunning cinematography. A glowing example of this is the shelter we find Xavier living in. Round, metallic and rusting, Mathieson is able to capture glimpses of dusty light from the rusted-out holes, while still maintaining the depth of the rotund ceiling. His nighttime work is equally as impressive. Aided by the rapid fire editing team of Michael McCusker and Dirk Westervelt, an ambush on a farm home and the ensuing chase through a corn field are all deftly handled, never muddling the characters or the action. McCusker and Westervelt make mince-meat out of the 137-minute running time, giving us time to catch up with the characters, but never losing sight of each of their importance.
“Logan” is every bit as operatic as last year’s “Deadpool”. There are some minor quibbles, not enough to dissuade or detract from the narrative.
James Mangold’s “Logan” is stunning in its violence and breathtaking in its depth; it
holds no punches. Yet, it remains introspective and retrospective and is as well-nuanced as the likes of Singer’s narratives from 17-years ago. If this is Jackman’s last turn as the character, he is going out on a very high note.
See this Highly Recommended film on as big a screen with the loudest audio you possibly can. You won’t regret it.