Logan Review

Logan is a 2017 superhero Western drama written by James Mangold/Scott Frank/Michael Green and directed by James Mangold. The film is actor Hugh Jackman's final film as the titular character, which he has been playing for nearly two decades across multiple films. It's also the first Wolverine film to receive an R rating, which was explicitly used in the film's marketing.

Story
In the year 2029, Logan, now an extremely bitter old man, is taking care of a degenerating Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) across the US/Mexican border. When a woman pays him to take Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl, across the country to the Canadian border, Logan reluctantly excepts, especially when he finds out she has more in common with him than he would've thought.

The premise doesn't require you to know a whole lot about the X-Men film universe, since most of the characters from the previous films don't even make an appearance, but it certainly does help to know some things about the X-Men themselves and the previous relationship between Logan and Xavier in order for the emotional punches to have their full effect. Other than that, Logan could be taken as its own stand-alone film; what happened to make Logan and Xavier so bitter is eventually filled in for the audience and until then the film isn't really concerned with what came before it, but rather what Logan is going through right now.

What makes this movie stand out is the tone: it is intense and depressing. The whole film is soaked in the deep, personal sadness of the characters and what they're going through. You feel every heart break, every bitter insult and every happy moment brought crashing back down to despair. It makes for an emotionally rich, powerful experience that takes advantage of every frame. The intensity comes in the action scenes, which are extremely brutal and bloody. I'll discuss these more in the technical section.

The character of Logan is good for the story they're telling; a broken, depressed, bitter man who has lost all hope and point in living trying to find the meaning and peace in his life he desperately wants. However, I'm not sure the character of Wolverine we saw in the last few X-Men movies would fall into depression so quickly. However, the movie gets around this by making it just far enough away, timeline wise, from the other X-Men movies that you could imagine for yourself that something bad could've happened to make him this broken. The character of Charles Xavier is the same way: I can't imagine Professor X become this mean and broken, but the fact that they don't show us how he became that way is what makes it work. Laura is an intriguing new addition to the X-Men film universe; a feral child with a dark past that's slowly uncovered, her story helps expand and explain the world of Logan, letting you know what happened to all the mutants and what humanity is doing about it now. The character relationships are also great; the aging grandpa/bitter caretaker dynamic works well with Logan and Xavier and leads to a lot of great banter between them. The heart of the film, however, is Logan's relationship with Laura, which starts out strained and grows sweet near the end of the film.

The screenplay is really, really good. The dialogue sounds exactly how these people would talk in this environment. There's a lot of swearing, there're a lot of personal jabs at each other and some heartfelt moments. All of it sounds completely natural and fits the tone perfectly.

Technical
This film is very minimalistic, unlike most superhero blockbusters, which are all about spectacle. The sets are perfect for the Western setting: brown, dusty deserts and grimy, low rent towns help add to the depression of the film's world.

For the most part the CGI is really good. The claws look especially realistic; they're thick, look heavy and actually look like metal unlike the the claws in the first couple of X-Men movies which just looked like plastic. The most impressive effect of the whole film is the the villain's robotic hand because it moves like a robot hand we'd have today. You know how in Alien their ship looked like it could've been made from technology actually found in the 1970s? The robot hand is kind of like that: it looks like it could've been made with the technology we have in 2017. Sometimes, however, the CGI looks really bad. There's one scene where they're trying to get away from the villains and Laura flips over a car. Unfortunately, you can clearly see that it's not Laura, but a plastic looking CGI stand-in. The exact same problem can be seen in the exact same scene when they're trying to drive through a plastic-looking CG fence.

I said that the action scenes are intense and that's mostly on the technical side of things. The choreography isn't flashy or complex like a martial arts movie or modern blockbusters in general. Instead, it's mostly a lot of hacking and slashing without any clear technique. I really liked that they did this because it gives the scene a feeling of authenticity, like this is how Logan, who doesn't really need fighting techniques because of the giant claws in his hands, would fight off waves of enemies. The sound editing also helps a lot because we here every gun shot, stab and cry of pain which causes us to get immersed in the world of the fight. I talked about how the fight scenes are gory, which they are. However, besides a few good shots, we never actually get to see much blood. This is mostly because there're a lot of close ups and shaky cam in the fight scenes, which are the cardinal sins of filming action. I get that this is not primarily an action movie, but if you're going to have action scenes you have to have at least more than one wide shot so we can see all the action, not just give us a shaky cam close up on a soldier's face getting sliced clean in half and then move on to the next one. I suppose the director was trying to up the intensity with these decisions, but all it does is confuse the audience as to what's happening.

The acting from all three of the main cast is what carries this film. This might be the film that gets Hugh Jackman at least nominated for that Oscar he's been denied for awhile because he is obviously giving it his all. Even though he doesn't show much range in this particular part, what makes the performance interesting is contrasting it with how he's portrayed the character in the past. In the past, he was gruff, but never depressed like he is in this film, which is why this performance is so captivating and surprising. Patrick Stewart is probably the most pleasant surprise of the film, due also to context. Patrick Stewart usually plays dignified, sophisticated, powerful characters, like Charles Xavier in the earlier X-Men films. However, in this one, he portrays a weak, sickly man with a bad attitude, which I'm impressed he was able to pull off; even though he's a good actor Stewart's powerful, authoritative screen presence often overpowers whatever part he's playing. However, he was able to fight through it and give us a fantastic performance. Dafne Keen gives a good, brooding performance as Laura, but her moments really shine in the last few scenes of the movie which I can't actually talk about because of major spoilers.

Summary: Logan is a welcome, unique film not only among the superhero genre, but in movies in general. It's a great Western in a world where that genre has basically died, it's a deeply emotional drama and an intense, bloody action film. The highest compliment I can give is that I haven't been this invested in a movie in a long time. It really is a film to be experienced for yourself because no review is going to be able to convey the emotional rollercoaster this film will put you through.

A+

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