Logan: The Superhero Movie You Didn’t Know You Wanted
The year is 2029 and Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) seem to be living off the grid and barely getting by. From all appearances, the mutant/human detente is over and the tipping point wasn’t in mutants’ favor. This is a world without mutants and it feels as though the US has no place for the old ones. The X-Men are gone leaving only comic book lore as their legacy.
A woman seeks Logan out for help thereby dragging him into the conflict to save a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen). If you’ve seen any trailers or promo footage for Logan, then you already know, this movie centers around who – and what – Laura is and why an armed force of Reavers are so very interested in (re)capturing her. Logan draws on the Marvel Universe (MU) with precision to build a story that grips you by the throat with each revelation. It smartly lays the building blocks to further expand the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) without once sacrificing this story in furtherance of the franchise.
James Mangold (director and co-writer) removes the shackles from the cinematic version of Wolverine and unleashes the grittier aspects of Logan’s personality to brilliant effect. Logan is a short-tempered, foul-mouthed, belligerent, emotionally unavailable, angry mutant. He doesn’t want to hear about the greater good, he’s got no time for reminders of his superhero deeds, he’s barely dealing with the loss of his X-Men – don’t expect a clear explanation of what happened – compatriots and he’s got no time or interests in rescue missions or road trips. But that’s exactly what lies ahead.
Using a tried and true American trope, the “road movie,” Mangold takes you on a cross-country adventure where an “x” literally marks the spot on the map. On this trip, there are intriguing glimpses into the unspoken history about the downfall of mutants drifting just out of frame and startling truths revealed about the outwardly feral Laura. The trip has its humorous moments that keep its weighty themes from dragging you under. If you’ve ever watched X-Men: Evolution and read the subsequent comics, then the mystery of Laura isn’t going to be that big a reveal – however her backstory created for Logan is believable and creates – what could be – a great jumping off point for the possible future.
Logan is equal parts introspective and predictive. It subtly provokes comparisons to changes evolving in the current world landscape while staying firmly on focused on its storytelling task. It’s funny, beautiful relatable, and heartbreakingly dismaying all at the same time. This world feels hauntingly familiar despite being a future time in an alternate universe. If you don’t walk out of the theater pulling on one of the many threads weaved by Mangold into the tapestry of this film, go see it again because you missed something.
Despite being a bit more than two hours; the strength of the story, its interspersed revelations, and timely action sequences make staying invested easy. It’s a jolt – if you even consciously notice it – when you realize how much time has passed. The pace fits with the almost tangible exhaustion Logan feels and creates spaces for the more silent themes of the movie to do their work as this trio crosses the striking vistas of the Midwest. Not one scene feels unnecessary, not one moment is out of place, and – in keeping with the more vicious aspects of both Logan’s personality and a world in which mutants are hunted – every violent act is purposeful.
Hugh Jackman delivers a performance head and shoulders above any of his previous goes as Wolverine. This turn feels like he invested more than just gym time to perfect his character. Logan is a taciturn, complicated man and this time you feel that in every word Jackman says and in every decision he makes. Patrick Stewart latest pass as Charles Xavier is nothing short of brilliantly Shakspearian. For Logan, Professor X isn’t the stoic and wise leader guiding the action with a steady hand. He’s humanly fragile, frighteningly touchable, and while still wise some of his choices are highly questionable. Dafne Keen turns in a performance that holds your attention without saying a single world for the entire first half of the film. She brings a whole new layer of nuance (and humor) to the movie with her speaking silences and overt aggression. These three are back by a host of actors who all brought their best.
Logan is a beautiful and brutal journey through tragedy, loss, the aftermath of defeat; a story about sacrifice, hopelessness, and family. It’s a throat-clenching look at how despair and loss can crush a man; make him choose to close himself off from everything – even himself – and what it takes to make him break free of his pain and re-engage the world and his feelings. Before all is said and done, Logan demonstrates how victory never quite looks how we think it will.
James Mangold isn’t making a Marvel movie but he is absolutely making a Wolverine film. He may have just made the Wolverine movie because Logan has depth, heart and a story that’s pretty damn perfect.
This review originally appeared on sliceofscifi.com under reviews.