Depending on your sensibilities, you may agree with how I feel about Logan – this is the most satisfying comic-book/superhero movie since The Dark Knight Rises and EASILY the best movie to have that flashing-image Marvel logo attached to it. It took 17 years, but they finally made an R-rated Wolverine movie, and because of this decidedly different tone and approach, no other cinematic endeavor featuring any of the X-Men can remotely come close to touching it. This film feels as if it was created for adults rather than for children; look elsewhere for spandex outfits and reassuring, jokey humor. I’ve always felt that there’s nothing PG-13 about a mutant with razor blades that pop out of his knuckles when he’s pissed, so considering that director James Mangold got a chance to go balls-out with the character, it would be sort of hard to screw up the potential that this particular premise has to offer. Mangold has long been a solid craftsman with more than a few very strong pictures on his resume (Cop Land is my favorite work that he’s released and I’ve viewed Walk the Line countless times), and after he delivered two-thirds of a good entry back in 2013 with The Wolverine (the final act is really dumb with that mechanical samurai thing), it’s clear he learned from that film’s shortcomings, dialing it back a notch, and making a genre film that is refreshingly free of distracting and needless CGI.
It’s pointless to reiterate the fact that Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast in the lead role; this will be the big-screen character that he’ll always be remembered for. He’s absolutely on fire in Logan, all animalistic fury but with a broken heart as well as a crushed soul; he needs one final shot at redemption. I loved that the film felt like a desolate Western, both visually and thematically, and Dafne Keen was a total scene-stealer as the mutated child, all feral rage and explosive anger to match Jackman’s patented brand of ferocity that he’s always brought to his dual character of Logan/Wolverine. Patrick Stewart is, as usual, terrific as Professor X, and gets some key emotional moments because of the surprisingly thoughtful screenplay. Richard E. Grant smartly underplays the chief baddie role, while Boyd Holbrook is very menacing as one of the main henchmen, with a flawlessly integrated mechanical hand that’s definitely creepy. And under albino make-up, Stephen Merchant is affecting as the link between the two parties, as this is essentially an extended chase scenario, with an ailing Logan and Professor X trying to protect a special girl with a dark history.
The screenplay by Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green is literate, witty, and packed with brutal action, with cinematographer James Mathieson doing some beautiful yet low-key work behind the camera. The set=pieces sting with a level of brutality that feels bracing for the gore-free previous outings, which seem downright jokey and lame in comparison. I don’t really care, on the whole, about the comic-book movie genre; to me, these types of movies are fast-food-cinema. They get the job done, and then you’re hungry for something more substantial. But Logan is a different beast in that it DOES feel substantial, like there’s some emotional heft and weight behind it. And the way it subverts your expectations is a crucial reason for its success. The filmmakers present a narrative with true stakes, never spinning out of control and unleashing the dreaded CGI vortex in the sky, keeping the themes intimate so that you actually care about the outcome, while the action is bloody, unrelenting, and consistently savage. As it should be. Free of creative constraints, it’s abundantly clear everyone had a blast with this seemingly final chapter of this particular saga.
Marvel has boxed themselves in with Logan; how can one be asked to take their product seriously when they’ve offered a definitive portrait of one of their most iconic characters, doing it the gritty justice that it deserves? The best thing that one might be able to say is that someone has come along and made a superhero film that doesn’t really feel like a superhero movie for nearly the entire runtime. I’m no easy-lay with Marvel product; I’ve skipped or not enjoyed as many as I’ve been able to hang with. My favorite stuff has included the two Captain America films, Iron Man 3, and Ang Lee’s underrated Hulk. But Logan is something all-together different. It doesn’t give a fuck about anything that’s come before it and doesn’t give a fuck if you don’t like it or think that it’s too nihilistic or aggressive. In short, it’s the Wolverine movie we all deserve and I can’t imagine myself feeling inclined to see too many more movies of this type in the future.