Mark Reviews Movies

Logan (2017)

LOGAN (2017)

3 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: James Mangold

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal, Quincy Fouse

MPAA Rating: R (for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity)

Running Time: 2:17

Release Date: 3/3/17

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Review by Mark Dujsik | March 2, 2017

The problem with Wolverine as a character worthy of sympathy and dramatic weight has always been that he is essentially immortal. Pummel him, stab him, or shoot him. It doesn't matter a lick, because his body heals almost immediately. Gaping cuts mend in an instant, and his recovering flesh expels bullets from the entry wounds. Many people have tried to kill him over the course of this series, which includes two generations (as well as multiple variations) of X-Men and two standalone movies about the character. All of these people have failed to kill Wolverine, even with a bullet made of the same indestructible material that reinforces his skeleton and forms those trademarked claws that spring from his knuckles.

It's appropriate that the name "Wolverine" only comes up a couple of times in Logan, and when it does, it's always "the Wolverine," like some kind of half-believed rumor or unlikely urban legend. He's Logan this time around, and from the start of the film, as he awakens from a drunken stupor in the back of a limo he's leasing for a chauffeuring gig, we get the distinct impression that this is a man of flesh and blood. The flesh doesn't heal as well these days, and the blood flows from his wounds much longer than it used to.

Logan (played for the eighth and allegedly final time by Hugh Jackman) is weary, wounded, and mortal in this installment. He walks with a limp. Scars, which shouldn't be in the vocabulary of a mutant who regenerates physically after injury, cover his body. He needs reading glasses. His hair has more than a touch of gray to it. He is convinced that he's dying, poisoned from within by the adamantium that was transplanted into his body decades ago. If that's not the case, he keeps an adamantium bullet on hand for whenever he's ready to check out of his own volition.

Time has not been good to Logan, and it has been terrible for mutants, who are all but extinct in the year 2029. He remains, and so, too, does Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), his old mentor who, now a nonagenarian, has telepathic abilities and an unnamed degenerative brain disease. An international body has called Charles' brain a weapon of mass destruction, so obviously, Logan keeps his old teacher and friend locked up in a collapsed, metallic water tower in an isolated area across the Mexican border. Logan and Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino with the ability to literally sniff out other mutants, take turns keeping Charles sedated, lest his capabilities unintentionally wreak havoc.

The film is, above all else, a refreshing change of pace from the usual, comic-book superhero fodder. It's melancholy and introspective—about the central character and, in an indirect way, the state of comic-book movies in general.

The screenplay by Scott Frank, director James Mangold (his second go at a self-contained story about this character, after a previous, tedious effort), and Michael Green hasn't simply made the character physically vulnerable. It also has made a slight adjustment to Logan's personality. He was, of course, noteworthy for his antisocial, misanthropic, and cynical view of the world. Logan still possesses those qualities here, but he even seems tired of that attitude. That's the way he has lived his entire life, and look at him now. Charles can see the consequences, calling his former student a disappointment. Logan is too exhausted after a life filled with death, regret, and loss to comprehend his own part in that misery.

The plot is minimal, although even it continues the film's concept of looking a bit deeper into this character. The story here revolves around two variations of Logan—one serving as his greatest threat and the other presenting him with a chance at redemption.

The latter is a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who was created in a laboratory by a company trying to manufacture mutants to serve as soldiers. She, along with a few other mutants, escaped the facility, and now she needs to get to a place called Eden in North Dakota, so that the children can be smuggled to a safe haven in Canada. As it turns out, Laura has Logan's healing abilities, and she also has retractable blades that come out of her knuckles—and, in an improvement, her feet. Logan is convinced this Eden is simply a fantasy, created by the naïve minds of people who have bought into the B.S. adventures from the X-Men comic books.

The villains come from the mutant-manufacturing company: a team of enhanced mercenaries led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the facility's top scientist (Richard E. Grant), and, later, a clone of Logan that has been engineered as a rage-filled killing machine. They want to kill the young, escaped mutants, because the Logan clone has made them unnecessary. It is a perfect weapon—without the pesky conscience that ruined the program involving the children.

Yes, the film is pretty overt in its statement that Logan's greatest enemy is and always has been himself. It's not just a plot-driven gimmick, though. The screenplay's focus is on these relationships. It's about the shared grief of Logan and Charles, who have seen too much suffering over the course of their lives to feel like a part of this world anymore (There's a touching moment in which Charles, always the optimist about humanity, admits that he is finally empathetic of Logan's need to isolate himself from people). It's about the potential hope that Laura represents, as well as how Logan reacts to the idea with skepticism and even resentment.

In other words, the film represents what can be possible when filmmakers take the characters and the worlds of comic books seriously. There's still plenty of room for action—brutal, bloody, and gruesome action that actually recognizes the damage that Logan's blades can do to a body. It's not the film's focus, though, and it's never the generic spectacle that has come to define contemporary superhero fare. Logan is first and foremost a character piece—a sad and remorseful study of superheroes who are too human to think of themselves as heroes anymore.

Copyright © 2017 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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