As I like to call it, “The Last of Us Movie: Mutant Edition.” I’ve been looking forward to watching Logan since the first trailer hit. The premise and its thematic similarities to The Last of Us are what got me intrigued. I’ve had a general disdain for the X-Men film series over the years, but this one looked and felt different right from the get-go. I knew immediately there was something special to it, despite my friends’ warnings. Perhaps it was just a well-made trailer and nothing more, but it seems my intuition was right (for once).
Logan is set in what could be an alternate future of the X-Men universe, where mutants have been thoroughly suppressed and hunted down. This doesn’t have the usual comic book sci-fi trappings of its predecessors, but a more untamed setting with a somber tone resembling more a western than a superhero movie. James Mangold did direct 3:10 to Yuma, which explains the treatment. Other than that, Logan is a filmmaking clinic and an ode to great films of the past.
NOTE: As this is intended as a full review of this title, there may be spoilers. You’ve been warned.
The premise is nothing new. An older person takes a child along and they survive together while trying to reach a destination. The most obvious parallel is the game The Last of Us, which also had a girl and an older dude surviving in zombie-infested post-apocalyptia. If we go way back, we can see Lone Wolf and Cub, with a ronin father and an infant son.
The male adult and child duo against the world has been done quite a lot, especially in video games that it was then labeled the “daddification of games.” It was the seemingly-forced shoehorning of emotional connection into a narrative that would otherwise be bland and pedestrian. But that “daddification” is not wholly artificial as adult men having to care for children are a reality, reluctant or not. Logan is a bit like Leon: The Professional in its premise, but with a physically and emotionally tired man instead of just an introverted man as its protagonist.
Logan and the aforementioned titles all execute this premise by walking a tightrope. The key is to make the child be able to eventually stand on his/her own as a character and get past the thin “just a sidekick” or “hapless NPC in escort mission” line. In The Last of Us, Ellie is helpful and has a lively personality of her own. In Lone Wolf and Cub, Ogami Itto’s son Daigoro is shown with surprising intelligence and agency at such a young age. In Leon: The Professional, Mathilda learns the ropes from Leon on being a contract killer.
In this film, Laura is both naive and precocious. Having been engineered as a weapon, her combat abilities are exceptional. However, this is coupled by her lack of proper social development, thus her underdeveloped communication skills, lack of table manners, and proclivity to just take things without permission or payment. She’s a feral child in a lot of ways, but her humanness is still there, with her missing her friends, her liking for Charles Xavier, and her attempts to connect with Logan.
Meanwhile, Logan is a tragic hero tired out by the battles of the past and traumatized by loss. His mutant abilities had regressed and he resorts to self-medicating and running away from what he once was—a hero. His continual rejection of Laura throughout most of the film is out of self-pity, rejecting all assistance and attempts at getting close to him as a coping mechanism for feeling weak and helpless. This is far from unrealistic; it’s the attitude of a person who has lost hope in life and has ended up just going through the motions. (It’s common for war veterans to behave as such.)
The main dynamic between the two is a back-and-forth that ultimately results in acceptance at the very end, with Logan finally realizing Charles’ words on what life really is about before he expires. Everything else in the story was mostly extraneous and supplementary, in my opinion. People who’ve neither watched nor read anything X-Men related will most likely gravitate to this dynamic, and the way it was executed is nothing short of brilliant.
The kicker is there’s no real payoff other than knowing that Logan does fully accept Laura as his own flesh and blood in the end. Logan is essentially a tragedy, and the only real takeaway from it is that Logan died while having felt—even for a brief moment—the true happiness that eluded him for most of his life.
The main cast is a powerful triumvirate, with two of them having played their respective roles for 17 years and the third one is a young actress making her debut. While Patrick Stewart still has a bit more to go as Professor X, reprising the role for the Netflix series Legion, Hugh Jackman is done with Wolverine. As a swan song for his iconic role, this was a great send-off.
Perhaps the character I gravitated to the most here was the 90-year-old Charles Xavier, the retired leader of the X-Men. His life’s work had resulted in a goose egg and he became dependent on Logan and Caliban’s care, taking pills to keep his unstable telepathic powers in check. Despite that, he’s still kind and thoughtful, although he has also become a lot more sentimental, which results in him and Logan helping out a family who then get killed due to their presence. He is the anchor that held the trio together, even after his death as his words would resonate in the last act of the film.
Hugh Jackman brought out a defeatist and avoidant Logan full of regret and running away from the world he once knew, complete with self-medication and social withdrawal. He was like Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver with tuberculosis. He captured how it is to be a shell of a once-great man’s former self, even when there were times when he shows a bit of what made him great. That adamantium claw which didn’t quite come out when he needed it is like an allusion to impotence (as pointed out in Comic Book Girl 19’s review).
Dafne Keen’s Laura is incredible. She embodied a state that was both feral and adorable at the same time, like this was a mutant version of the Jungle Book and she was a female Mowgli with actual claws. She didn’t alternate between socially-stunted naiveté and observant intelligence—she had both in flux. Never mind that she got the Mexican accent down (X-23 being Mexican in this film is a nice twist) since she’s British-Spanish anyway. What really hit home was how she had been able to instill both stoicism and emotion into this character at such a young age. That shows a level of innate acting talent that’s so hard to capture, even if you’re an avid student of Stanislavski.
Stephen Merchant as the heliophobic mutant tracker Caliban was also well-done, belying an intelligence and resolve underneath a fragile and unsightly body. Despite being put in such deplorable situations—perhaps mostly due to Logan’s attitude problems—he still showed heart right until his final act.
Then there’s Hugh Jackman as X-24. That role is basically the old Logan with all human emotion stripped out, which is fairly interesting. Perhaps that may have been the role that needed the least amount of acting, but still required his years of experience in the role as it may not have been easy to capture that animalistic fury the way he did.
Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce was rather entertaining. If I ever wanted to be a villain, I’d want to be a bit like Pierce. He wasn’t dumb and too headstrong for his own good, and he wasn’t outright incompetent either. In fact, he actually does a good job, given the circumstances in the story. As a hound dog for Transigen, he certainly kept his nose to the ground. His end was also appropriate and gives the audience a good payoff.
Richard E. Grant as Zander Rice was quite pleasant. You’d think at first he’s the usual pushy archvillain, but he’s quite soft-spoken yet stern at the same time. I’m more into these types of villains who are cast from the Teddy Roosevelt “Speak softly and carry a big stick” mold. The way he approached Caliban and politely implored him to give them truthful information may be an underrated moment, in my opinion.
(And oh yeah, the kids. They were alright. Children with superpowers are always charming, especially that one with the ice breath.)
I’d also like to mention a minor character here. The guy who approaches Laura while she was eating cereal, only to get decapitated, was played by former UFC fighter Krzysztof Soszynski. I just thought I should mention that because I recognized him immediately, being the MMA nerd that I am. (He should’ve tried giving the little mutant girl a Kimura armlock.)
And finally, give it up for the adamantium bullet, the real star of the show. (Although it could be argued that it was actually James Mangold in a cameo role as the bullet.)
The biggest secret to this film is nothing else but incredibly solid filmmaking. James Mangold directed nothing short of a masterpiece as far as superhero movies go. While Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is said to be such mostly due to the late Heath Ledger’s brilliant performance, this film was more of a team effort between the three main roles.
But all of the performances would’ve been nothing without what Warner Bros. seem to fail at all the time with the DC Extended Universe—economy. No wasted scenes, every moment mattered, and all the references were meaningful. I don’t know if anyone else got this too, but when that western was playing on the TV in the Vegas hotel room, I recognized it immediately (Shane) and went, “Okay, good one, Mangold.”
Every action had consequence, every Chekhov’s gun was put to good use, and foreshadowing always led to significant events. The main characters were never let off easy as they were supposed to be on the run. When they did stop for a reprieve, bad things happened. The narrative is well-paced and the bond between the main characters is made believable. You’d think superhero movies are supposed to be relagated to their usual role as vicarious popcorn fare, but this takes the genre to a different direction. (The R rating wouldn’t have been possible without Deadpool. Fox wouldn’t have had the guts otherwise.)
The basic structure of the film is that of a western, with a protagonist struggling with being displaced in a world that makes no secret of how he no longer belongs in it. Logan is not merely a prisoner of his own circumstance, but also of his own pain. Mangold was able to take the fundamental elements of the western genre and bring it to this near-future setting, which is nothing new as films like No Country for Old Men and shows like Breaking Bad do much of the same. But to do so in a superhero movie is not only playful and inventive, but also calculated and masterful.
And it’s not just about the color brown. It’s about seemingly disparate individuals surviving together when everything and everyone else is against them. Despite all the hardship and loss along the way, at the very end—as Johnny Cash sings in the end credits—the man finally comes around.
- Different from all other X-Men movies
- Incredible performances
- No wasted scenes
- Patrick Stewart is good at being senile
- Great film debut for Dafne Keen
- Swan song of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine
- This is essentially a tragedy
- Logan doesn't man up until the end
- This is essentially a tragedy
- X-Men: Apocalypse still exists
- Magneto was right all along
No, Rolling Stone. It doesn't need to "kill" the modern superhero movie, you pretentious dweebs. In fact, this movie may have helped liven up the genre by showing how a more down-to-earth "real world" treatment of superheroes can really be done. However, expecting others to follow suit would be defecating on the concept because this is certainly not easily done.
Everyone seems to like trends and conventions being killed, which isn't what's best for either business or art as it's a short-sighted way of doing things. Remember when modern superhero movies were the new thing? Logan serves its purpose best as an anomaly, and what an anomalous masterpiece it is.
I give Logan a perfect score simply because it's the kind of movie I like. I'm that guy who sometimes likes it when the hero dies in the end and it's not happily ever after. All the elements in this movie are to my liking, and I don't see anything wrong with it, at least from my own subjective point of view. It's safe to say this movie goes in the list along with Goodfellas; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Taxi Driver; and Leon: The Professional as my personal favorites.