While superhero fatigue still has me in its icy grip, along comes Logan to warm that chill–at least temporarily. Perhaps it’s the, at times, overwhelming violence or the emotional vulnerability of being a new dad that makes the arc Wolverine’s final chapter that much more effective. Whatever way you look at it, Hugh Jackman’s curtain call as the claw wielding potty-mouth is a fitting and emotional bow that might rely a little too much on its R rating and hero cliches.
Picking up in 2029 where mutant residency has since passed, Logan spends his days driving a limo for drunk brides and frat boys chanting ‘Merica near the US/Mexico border. South of the border Logan lives with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart with his most powerful portrayal as Professor X to date) suffering dementia and the occasional population crippling seizure. With his health steadily declining and his body unwilling to heal like it used to Logan begrudgingly accepts to transport a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), with powers strikingly similar to his own, North across the Canadian border and hopefully to safety away from the research facility tracking her down.
Besides being billed as a no-holds-barred depiction of the Wolverine character, Logan tries its damnedest to come across as a mature and deep character introspective. All the while the superhero frailties peek from behind the rough around the edges exterior. This is of course by design because Logan has rejected the organized structure constantly placed in front of him due to a a tragic and tortured past that he’s been doomed to endure thanks to his mutation. In this chapter time has caught up to Logan and as inviting as he is to death, he’s still equally resistant to the exterior forces that stalk those who oppose his and everyone else’s humanity.
James Mangold certainly uses the R rating as though it’s a playground with which he’s been given carte blanche. Even previously proper characters that resides on the opposite spectrum of Wolverine drop the F-bomb as though it’s a bodily function. It’s a fact feels disingenuous to previously established characters, including Wolverine. The violent and animalistic nature of the character falls in line with the comics–at least from this viewer understands. Vulgarisms aside, it’s the forced action and drawn out fights that sometimes betray the hero story at hand.
Logan works simply as road trip movie. The occasional burst of action in the first two acts are easy to stomach, even while serving only to appease those salivating for bloodshed–and boy does the violence leave an impression. Once the film tips the scale to the final hour or so, Logan’s dour attitude is compounded by a big bad that is so clearly set up to be his climactic foe that it’s enough to give superhero enthusiasts a headache. And in that finale the conclusion is so unsurprising that it demeans the emotional punch to an extent. The urge to conform to superhero norms is constantly at odds with the genuine and moving relationship developing between two volatile yet endearing characters. Wolverine’s comfort level with violence is of course what invites the R rating, but it’s the glimpses of vulnerability that opens him up to audiences willing to follow him to the bitter end. Yet Logan’s weakness is that it succumbs to the expected boss battles that fits the outdated superhero formula.
As played out as the battle is, there’s an effective thread playing through every single cliche. As superhero movies go the stakes are always bigger than our characters. It’s a city, it’s the whole world or it’s some measurable number of lives that could be affected. At its heart, Logan is a handful of characters–Logan, Charles, Laura and to an extent, Caliban. The fatherly relationship between Logan and Professor X lends to the theme of family and how badly Charles wants Logan to feel the happiness of family before the end. Mangold does well to let some of the emotional beats hold steady even as the studio annoyances begin to bleed through.
Visually, Logan has the sheen of a gritty and introspective superhero story wanting to break off from the pack. Mangold’s direction manages to dip into a well of powerful human emotion amongst all the blood, guts and forced F-Bombs. Still, there are traces of generic blockbuster DNA on display in the final act. When all is said and done when the credits roll even the uninitiated X-Men apologists will have reasons to shed some tears and bid farewell to Jackman’s nearly two decade run as one of Marvel’s most embattled heroes. Logan is quite literally an anti-superhero tale forged out of blood, sweat and tears.
Beer Recommendation: None at this time. Sorry, bub.