Logan isn't just the best Wolverine film; it's the greatest X-Men cinematic adaptation yet. James Mangold and Hugh Jackman have saved their best tale for last, and they got there by serving up the darkest and most soul searching journey for the title character yet with the Old Man Logan storyline.
The movie picks up in 2029 with the majority of the mutant race dead, buried, or being experimented on. Logan and Professor X aka Charles Xavier are hiding out in El Paso, Texas in a secluded factory plant. Each men are broken, physically and psychologically, and are essentially waiting to die or escape the world that has turned on them. The emergence of a mysterious young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) sends the three on a rigorous road trip north to find salvation whilst Logan tries to find a resemblance of peace. They are tracked by a band of mercenaries led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who work for a pharmaceutical company running tests on child mutants. A battle of wills ensues.
Logan is equal parts Road to Perdition, Mad Max, and Outlaw Josey Wales. Mangold, along with co-writers Scott Frank and Michael Green, aim for the heart and soul yet craft a relentless film that finally honors the identity of the title character. Logan is the classic outsider, and thus doesn't allow a shred of emotional connection, because it has burned him in the past. Everything he has stopped to love or admire was taken away or is being slowly pulled from his grasps. However, he has the DNA of a hero trapped inside of him, so he can't turn his cheek for long when Laura is in serious peril and Charles urges him to help her.
This "help that has come along" leads to pure mayhem, and the tone is set in the very first scene that Mangold and Jackman are going for the jugular with the violence. Limbs are detached from the body, claws go through skulls, and the body count runs high in this film. When you mess with an old sick and angry mutant, bad things are going to happen, especially if you take things from him. Logan is a chance for Wolverine fans to get their freak on and also have an emotional experience.
As much as Mangold's story presents the raw and messy side of Logan's ferocity, it also shows the sheer desperation of the man's soul. The man is hurting on the inside, and the movie picks precise moments to put that on display. The two hour and 21 minute running time are riddled with key character developing moments that the other solo adventures (the mediocre Wolverine Origins and just okay The Wolverine) skipped over or stuffed with a romantic subplot. Laura and Logan are connected, but the interplay between Jackman and Keen isn't forced or pushed onto the audience. They are like a reluctant family being nudged towards each other in the name of survival.
I'm a sucker for redemption tales wrapped around a reluctant hero who gets one last chance to prove himself. It provides Jackman one last chance to show you how far he has come as an actor. When he first played the troubled outcast, the actor had a handful of credits to his name, and was looking to make a name for himself. Ten appearances and 17 years later, Jackman shows several layers of the character that weren't exactly missing before, but didn't get the coverage or time they deserved. Jackman is an underrated actor who can dial up the intensity, but here it's the restrained moments that reveal the strength of the Australian thespian's skills. He's one of the most versatile performers in Hollywood, but Logan may be his best work yet. Only his devastating work in Prisoners tops what he manages to put together here.
The beauty of a send-off is that the cast and crew can put their entire weight into it. Jackman told USA Today that he was able to tap into facets of Logan's persona he hadn't found before because he knew this was it. Picture a quarterback dropping back in the pocket, and unloading a huge pass under fire right before a hit is set to occur, and that's Logan. X-Men movies aren't what they used to be, and have relied on Jackman's Logan to carry them. Here's the thing about this movie: it doesn't feel AT ALL LIKE AN X-MEN FILM.
That's right, folks. Fans of the genre and non-comic book film fans can settle into this story, and enjoy the ride. If you haven't seen a single X-Men movie, Logan will welcome you into its madness, punch you in the gut, and pull on your heartstrings. I found myself getting emotional watching this film, and that's due to the fact that this is the final act and there will not be another Jackman powered Wolverine film.
Stewart and Jackman have amazing chemistry, and get more time to trade barbs and shots here than in previous stories. Charles and Logan adopted a father-son relationship a long time ago, but this latest adventure is the only film to truly spend time tapping into what makes each man care so much for one another. You'll laugh, cry, and feel a chill watching them work. Stephen Merchant has a few good scenes as Caliban, and Holbrook acquits himself just fine as a bad guy with a few secrets of his own. Keen is a huge find, and shows a healthy range of emotion without much dialogue. Eriq La Salle even pops up in a small role.
Logan, like The Dark Knight did nearly ten years ago, transcends the comic book film genre by showing what a filmmaker and cast can do with inspired material and a keen sense of what they want to accomplish. Instead of just making another bang up Wolverine story to cash a paycheck at the box office, Mangold and Jackman have crafted a finale that can be cherished for decades. They saved their best swing for last. For Wolverine solo films, a third time was the charm.
The score from Marco Beltrami is excellent, and adds a reverence to the film that stands out near the end of the film. Without overwhelming the quiet scenes or being an innocent bystander during the action, Beltrami's music enhances the story and elevates the drama. A great score can do wonders for a movie's purpose.
Near the end of the film, a character tells another that there is still time to save a life. The moral of this film is finding an inner peace and allowing yourself to feel a connection with another even though doom follows your every move. Near the end of Logan, a character tells another that there is still time to save a life.
With this film, James Mangold and Hugh Jackman saved the legacy of the Wolverine character. Go see this film. I urge you to witness what happens when a comic book story merges with a crackerjack crew. Logan is a dark, emotional, and violent journey with a highly satisfying and entertaining conclusion. The last shot will make you cry, and for good reason. Jackman's Wolverine has reached the end of his watch.
BONUS: There is a surprise before the film begins, but nothing after the credits.
BONUS #2: My favorite Johnny Cash song plays over the credits.
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