Claws slicing through a human face has never been more entertaining!
There’s a scene in X2 that I love. It’s during the attack on the school. Wolverine is fighting a solider in the kitchen and pins the guy to the fridge with all six claws through the chest while full on roaring an inch away from his face. Of course there’s a lot to love about X2 – and Hugh Jackman in this role – but this scene in particular was it. This was Wolverine, finally. And it cuts away to Shaun Ashmore’s character, Iceman, witnessing this act of rage. For only the second time in history – the first being the tremendously underrated Phantom – a movie gets a comic book character absolutely right, and they cut away.
As good as Jackman’s performance as Wolverine has been through out the X-Men films. Wolverine has always been, for lack of a better word, neutered. Wolverine is a tremendously violent character born of a several life times of suffering and trauma. And despite some of the truly fantastic performances franchise director, Bryan Singer has gotten from Jackman in X-Men, X2, and Days of Future Past, the argument has always been to let the beast out of his cage and give him an R rated movie. As adamant as fans were for that rating, they knew it wouldn’t happen because that restricted rating ultimately means a smaller take at the box office.
But fortunately for the fans, Hugh Jackman was on their side. It’s been 14 years. Hugh Jackman is not a young man anymore. If he was going to go out, he was going out on his terms and wanted to adapt the particularly famous comic storyline, Old Man Logan on an R rating. He wanted to give this character, a character born of violence and blood, the farewell he deserved. With franchise producer, Simon Kinberg, completely understanding why Jackman needed to do this film, James Mangold’s new film, Logan, was born.
Logan sees Wolverine in the year 2029. His mutant healing factor slowing due to his age and he struggles with several life times worth of injuries, health problems, and the deteriorating 90 year old mind of Patrick Stewart’s professor Xavier. Wolverine wants nothing more then to be left alone when an eleven year old girl, Laura, played by Dafne Keen, with the same healing factor and claws comes into his life.
James Mangold, returning to the director’s chair from 2013’s The Wolverine, manages the violence of this world with his usual eye for character with Logan encountering some thugs trying to steal his car. Using the act of Logan brutally killing and severing the limbs of these thugs you see what age and a life time of death has done to Logan. And in this first five minutes, you get to see a new side of Hugh Jackman that reminds us that he is a genuinely talent actor.
However, some truly great performances can’t hide the fact that villains in this film are weak. Boyd Holbrook is a talented actor and brings a great deal of slime to the role of Pierce. But that is literally all you can say about him. Suffering from a similar problem the new Ghostbusters had, Pierce sends soldiers to do his work, doesn’t get into fights and is dressed down by Dr. Rice who shows up after more then half the movie has gone past. The writers, Scott Frank, Michael Green, and James Mangold sacrifice any time to build a meaningful villain for Logan in favour of a cliched climax that just seems so out of place in how grounded this film is. And the only reason why the climax works so well is because we are so invested in Logan by that point.
I really wish Mangold had done just as good a job with the villains in this film as he did the heroes. Because as good as this film is, a singular villain that is given the time to be a true threat to Logan would have made this film the best comic book film ever made.
But what saves this film is Mangold’s choice to remove almost all of the CGI and effects for practical effects. Doing this allows you to truly be able to connect with these characters as it’s just these people you’re watching. With the endless vistas of New Mexico behind these characters, the time Mangold gives us to connect with these characters comes across as more of a modern western then comic book film. And a lot like the western Xavier and Laura watch in the film, Shane, Hugh Jackman brings a conclusion to the 14 year character arc that is every bit Logan finally finding the inner piece that he needed. Jackman’s brutal honesty in this performance is what truly sets this film apart. The focus on Logan allows us to truly see the extreme level of PTSD the character that the far more controlled PG13 rated films ever let him show. Patrick Stewart gives a performance that we rarely get to see from him. A performance of a man who is tormented in the sense he can even trust his own mind anymore. It’s an arc for Xavier that brings the character full circle to who he is and what he was striving for when he met Logan 14 years ago.
Not only does Dafne Keen not give up an inch to the imposing presence Hugh Jackman gives, she successfully mirrors the attributes Hugh Jackman has given Logan throughout the years – and this is only her second role. I cannot give her enough credit for playing the role of Laura because she gives as much to the role as Stewart and Jackman. And not only give it, but make it believable. It only speaks to her talents as an actor for her to have the haunted, empty gaze that Logan has at such a young age.
I have to give a lot of credit for his portrayal of the relationship between Laura, Xavier and Logan. There was an honesty there to a real relationship that he allowed to build in a way that never once seemed forced. It was through that relationship that made you root for Laura when she was brutally killing in this film – she was doing it to protect Xavier and Logan. Mangold picks and chooses were to put his gore – and this film is gory. For the first time in 14 years, you realistically see what happens to the human face when it has metal claws shoved through it. The violence in this movie shocked me – and I knew it was coming. But the thing is, Wolverine needed this level of violence. For as much good as Bryan Singer has done for the character in his films over the years, Logan needed a film this dark.
Although, as flawed and dark as this film is, it was truly great because of the performances Jackman, Stewart, and Keen give performances that transcend comic book films clear into character dramas. What Logan represents is a character drama that stays true to the character. Logan is every bit as worthy of 4 out of 5 stars because you will be with these characters from start to finish. Go see this movie. I promise you, it is every bit worth your time.