This is Chris Shelton with the Critical Picture, movie reviews you can count on. This time we are looking at Logan, the latest in the X-Men series and last of the Wolverine movies, directed by James Mangold from his story and starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard Grant, Boyd Holbrook and Dafne Keen.
Okay, so first I’m just going to say “Wow!” This movie is not at all what anyone has come to expect from superhero movies, which have definitely been a genre unto themselves, I’d say ever since Iron Man debuted the beginning of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase I in 2007. Now the X-Men movies are not part of the MCU but because of complicated copyright issues, have been in their own universe separate from the rest of the MCU since the first X-Men in 2000. But besides this universe and that universe, here’s my actual point: this movie goes beyond a good superhero movie. Logan is just a damn good movie, period. The only other film in the superhero category that I’ve ever been able to say that about was Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, which despite some plot holes and inconsistency, was a movie experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. At least until now.
Logan brings a great deal to the table. It makes reference to Old School Westerns, even having the characters watching scenes from Shane during a brief respite. At times it is a wistful rememberance of times past, a swansong for the X-Men as a whole as well as Wolverine specifically. There may be more X-Men movies but they are going to be hard-pressed to match this. There were many points where I was reminded of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, actually, where “the world has moved on” and the time for these characters has passed. In 2029, when this movie takes place, no one remembers the mutant superheroes who fought so hard for not just their own place in the human world, but to save humanity from the threat their existence posed in the first place. A blip in the history books, a short-lived plague which has passed, a dark time that humanity purposefully wants to forget. Or has it? Because while mutants may have been perceived as the enemy, the truth is that it was humanity’s reaction to the mutants and its attempt to commit a kind of genocide against them that actually caused all the trouble in the first place. And this movie doesn’t let us forget just how destructive human beings can be.
In addition to themes such as these, there is the story of Logan himself and in this we find a man who has lost any concept of hope, who is beyond any passe ideas of honor or sacrifice or duty. He’s been there, done that so many times he lost count years before, has seen unending violence and savagery and the vain arrogance that comes with thinking that the world can be saved. In the end, all of those sacrifices and all of that work is for naught. Everyone dies, everyone is forgotten, everyone is expendable. And when you come to realize that late in life, when most of your friends are dead and gone and no one appreciates or even remembers everything you did, that all of your efforts haven’t really changed anything, you can’t help but become resentful, pull back and then realize that even your anger is so much wasted breath. The world just doesn’t care. That’s when you give up and that is where this movie begins. That is a hard place to be. How do you bring someone back from that, to a place where they can care about anything again? Is it even possible or worth trying? This movie dives headlong into this and it doesn’t resolve these questions with sappy Hollywood nonsense. It takes the hard road and it stays on it all the way to the bitter end.
Part of what defines the superhero genre is the suspension of disbelief, allowing superheroes to be that by allowing them to bend the laws of physics and endurance and strength. World shattering, cataclysmic disasters brought about by supervillains who want to destroy the world are the order of the day, but not in Logan. This movie is so grounded in the real world, it’s hard to even put this in that category. But no worries, the action scenes are tremendous and in fact, they are far more effective and gut-wrenching because this movie is so firmly happening in the same world you and I live in. Or at least, a projected near future world that definitely comes across as all-too-real in so many little and big ways. There’s a real attention to detail here that I appreciated. While I’m sure there was a ton of CGI and special effects being utilized to make the action sequences as amazing as they were, not even for one microsecond during this movie did it occur to me that’s what they were doing. The make-up, special effects and production design were all put together to be dark and gritty and, in a word, real. And by the way, this very much includes the R-rated level of graphic violence. You need to know going in to this that the sanitizing that goes on in most superhero movies of the realities of violence don’t exist in Logan. People die and they die in horrible ways and all of it is right there on the screen. It’s bloody, it’s savage and I loved every single second of it.
All of the acting in this film is beyond the level we are used to in this genre, with Hugh Jackman in particular showing more range and depth than I’ve seen from him in a very long time. Patrick Stewart also finally gets to let loose in surprising ways here and is obviously having a very good time doing so. And I want to take a moment to also give a shoutout to Dafne Keen, the young lady who plays a mysterious young girl who may or may not have more going on under her skin than meets the eye. Her performance is actually amazing here, with physical as well as character demands that call for her to do a lot more than most child actors and she pulls it off beautifully.
You could say that Logan is the movie that we as comic book and superhero fans have grown up to want to see. James Mangold pulls no punches and put a final Wolverine movie together that is not easily forgotten. I am giving this movie a rating of Sheer Awesome. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Go see this movie as soon as possible, before the spoilers get all over the internet and ruin the surprises which I haven’t even hinted at in this review. And let me know in the comments what you thought of it. I’d love to hear your feedback.
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