Saturday, April 1, 2017


Nature made me a freak.  Man made me a weapon.  And God made it last too long.

Hard as I find it to admit, I did not enjoy major aspects of Logan, a film which uses Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character in tremendously effective ways, takes chances that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could never afford to, and features outstanding acting, production design, and writing.   But this is not my X-Men movie.  Maybe I don't agree with the story's aggressive nihilism.  I could be annoyed with how it undoes the satisfying ending to Days of Future Past.  I might hate the way it throws away the other mutants in the franchise that I know, including the prominently featured Professor Xavior (Patrick Stewart).  It all culminates into an experience of constant and relentless disappointment, and that is exactly what it was going for.  The characters are disappointed in the world and each other, and we feel every bit of that.

Bad shit happens to people I care about.

In stark contrast to last year's X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan scales everything way back.  In the near future, mutants are something of an endangered species.  The exploits of the real life X-Men (many of whom are "gone") have been popularized through a series of comic books, and have turned some like Logan/Wolverine (Jackman) pseudo-celebrities.  He doesn't live like a celebrity though; he's busy driving a cab at night and taking care of the ailing Professor Xavior (Stewart) in a dirty shack in New Mexico.  It's proving to be a miserable existence, to say the least.  Things get shaken up when a nurse from a Mexican mutant research lab called Transigen comes to Logan with her daughter, eleven-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen), begging for help.  Quick to tell her off and proclaim he's not a hero, Logan inevitably ends up with the responsibility of keeping Laura safe from the agents of Transigen, led by a cybernetically-enhanced man named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).  All the while, the adamantium in Wolverine's body is starting to take its toll, stifling his healing ability and quickly aging him.

I'm a fan, by the way.

Director James Mangold also helmed 2013's The Wolverine, which too often felt like it had its focus in the wrong place.  It was caught between being a schlocky action movie and a melancholy character drama, and neither resonated they way they should have.  Logan contains no such problem, going full force with its bleak tone, abrasive content, and its adhesion to raw realism (in it's style anyway.  This is still a science-fiction story, complete with science-fictiony twists).  The sights and sounds of the vast deserts and empty roads are reminiscent of a Western; a fact that the filmmakers are keenly aware of (and even make direct references to Shane).  Logan himself fits the lone cowboy archetype perfectly, a reluctant hero who can never settle down and have a normal life.  It's by no means a sweeping epic in that way (which is part of its intentional lack of fun), but instead features more of a Coen brothers-like hardness and grit.

I have nightmares. People hurt me.

Something to be appreciated are the many setups and payoffs throughout the movie, which do their best to feel organic to the story.   Bonus points for being explained visually rather than through dialogue; Professor X's mental relapses are probably the best example.  To develop Alzheimer's a sad fate for a character that did so much good for the world.  Such as it is in the real world.  While we're on the subject, Patrick Stewart gives a heartbreakingly great performance in this movie.  The whole cast is excellent, and Hugh Jackman has been getting immense praise, but Stewart is acting his heart out here.  Dafne Keen makes an impressive film debut here too, which is especially impressive given her limited dialogue.  Have I mentioned that I love how the real life X-Men comics are incorporated into the X-Men film universe?  That was a really nice touch.

It didn't happen like this...

Ok, we're about to get into some big spoiler territory here.  Remember in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and it's alright if you don't, when Logan goes to that farmhouse with the happy couple who take him in, feed him, and give him a reprieve from his insane life?  Remember how contrived and predictable it was when they were killed?  Well, the exact same thing happens here.  I don't get much pleasure out of seeing a nice, happy family get stabbed to death, especially when it's practically telegraphed from the beginning.  It does reinforce the idea that Logan can never have a normal life, and that all the people he cares for ultimately suffer just for knowing him, but it also comes off like it's there for shock value.  For a film series that makes strives to treat its characters with genuine humanity, the choice to kill these characters came across a bit cruel.

I always know who you are, I just sometimes don't recognize you.

Speaking of which, preceding senseless the killing of a nice teenager and his mother, we get the untimely and remarkably unearned killing of Professor Xavier.  While I had the feeling he would die at some point, I never imagined it would be so senseless and unfit for his character.  The man has come almost completely undone by this point, spouting swear words like a child (which also didn't really sit right with me) and making terrible decisions throughout the story.  We've had too much investment in this series (which all feature the character in one form or another) for his ultimate death to be so flippant.  Wolverine gets the much better end here, and as a fan of his character, I'm very happy with it.   I'm just ridiculously unhappy with everyone else's ending.

Don't be what they made you.

What really bothers me most is that I feel with some tweaking, it didn't have to be this way.  Why couldn't Logan and Xavier have been on their own running from the authorities, and leave the other X-Men out of it?  Did we really have to trample all over Future Past's ending (which was already an apology for The Last Stand), just to add some hopelessness to this movie?  On its own, Logan is a great film, even amazing at times.  I love most of it, especially the relationship that forms between Logan and Laura, which avoids sentimentality at all costs and allows for some gripping drama, comedy, and action.  Oh, that's right, this movie has some brutal fight scenes and solid laughs, all of which add a little life into the otherwise self-serious narrative.  It's a bittersweet farewell to Hugh Jackman in this role.  Jackman's Wolverine will stand with the likes of Christopher Reeve's Superman as the definitive version of the character, and certainly one of the best superhero actors of all time (and there are a lot of greats floating around nowadays).  The film takes risky chances, and they don't all pay off.  But there are moments (like the film's very last scene) that are genuinely powerful, and that's not a bad way to go out at all.