There are moments in Logan when you forget that this is, in fact, a superhero film.
This world, a world we've kinda sorta experienced over the course of the X-Men and Wolverine films, is so completely and utterly engrossing that it's as if we've discovered an alien world previously undiscovered.
To both their benefit and detriment, the vast majority of the Marvel films have created their fantasy worlds largely from a CGI construct. There is nothing, in fact, wrong about this approach and, let's face it, audiences have wildly embraced it.
Logan is different and we're all the better for it.
Logan isn't a masterpiece, but it's a damn fine film and that's exactly what it ought to be. Logan looks and feels like an apocalyptic western bathed in darkened intimacy of a film such as Paper Moon. Said to be the final film in the Wolverine universe, or at least in Hugh Jackman's manifestation of it, Logan doesn't so much tie everything together as it makes sure we all realize that it means something more than a comic book, more than a superhero and more than some popcorn action flick.
This is, mutants and all, a film about life and love and family of choice and the ways in which we all, even us mutants and superheroes, really do need each other.
Logan introduces us to a rather mythological Logan/Wolverine, a figure whose once powerful presence is really only powerful in The Uncanny X-Men comics that have already immortalized him even before his demise. The year is 2029. No new mutants are said to have entered humanity in 25 years and all of the X-Men are gone with the noteworthy exception of the now Uber driving, hard drinking and achingly wounded yet still stunningly powerful Logan (Jackman) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), the latter now considered nothing more than a weapon of mass destruction as a neurological disorder repeatedly threatens to take his life.
Logan is the first R-rated incarnation of the Wolverine story and it's an R-rating that Mangold works hard to earn. From the opening moments when some ill-advised baddies try to lay claim to Logan's limo, it's abundantly clear that Logan exists now in a gritty world far detached from the past films including Mangold's The Wolverine, arguably the worst film in the series surprisingly followed by what is unquestionably the best film in the series.
It could be said that Logan centers around a fantasy of sorts. While Logan is relatively content to wither away in relative isolation, a chance encounter with a young hispanic woman introduces young Laura (cinematic newcomer Dafne Keen) as a seemingly mute little girl with familiar gifts and some very dangerous people, led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), determined to get her before those who help her can get her to Eden, a mysterious and possibly imaginary place where other escaped mutants are rumored to be gathering in an effort to cross the Mexican border in a bid for freedom.
It should be noted that Logan is a rather brutal film, though it's more intense and impulsive in its presentation than particularly graphic. That said, the brutality is often directed toward young mutants, children really, and as the film progresses it becomes increasingly inflicted by them. It works within the framework of the film, though those particularly sensitive to such violence would do well to note it as it can be rather jarring.
Yet, there is a line drawn. In one quietly eloquent scene, Logan is reflecting on a lifetime spent killing in what is, at its essence, a cautionary reflection for the younger and less disciplined Laura. Laura's response, not to be revealed here, gives Logan much of the morality that guides its action and story.
Much of Logan becomes a road flick of sorts as our wounded trio targets safe territory while traveling with a sense of resignation that seems to recognize it's likely not everyone will safely arrive. Along the way, the action sequences are less about the CGI and far more about these characters that we've come to care about and the stark, melancholy toned conflicts that end with tremendous brutality for both victim and victor. Driving home the film's western aura, they encounter the Munson family helmed by Will (Eriq LaSalle), a cheated farmer just trying to survive and build a life for his family against the opposition of a behemoth corporation that wants their land and is willing to get it by any means necessary.
They take in Logan, Professor X and Laura. Um, yeah. That's probably not their best idea.
But, it aches. It feels real and it unfolds with wickedly dark humor and whipsmart action choreography along with a terrific supporting performance from LaSalle.
It may help, at least a little bit, to have some familiarity with previous Wolverine films or to at least have some familiarity with the story. While one can easily follow the story that unfolds, a deeper appreciation is gained by understanding these characters and their journeys that have unfolded.
It's not necessary. It helps.
Easily the best film in the Wolverine films, Logan is just about everything you could possibly want from a film that is said to be the end of the road for both Jackman and Stewart, the latter reportedly having made the decision after seeing what is, in fact, a pretty incredible and amazingly beautiful swansong. While the film could have likely benefited from tighter editing and shaving off 10-15 minutes or so, that's a minor observation for a film that grabbed me and never let me go.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic