LOGAN Directed by James Mangold; Written by Michael Green, Scott Frank and James Mangold; Starring Hugh Jackman; Dafne Keen; Boyd Holbrook; Patrick Stewart; Stephen Merchant; Doris Morgado; Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity; Running time 135 minutes; In wide release March 1, 2017.
The latest installment of the X-Men franchise finds us in the near future in the darkest of timelines: mutants have stopped appearing, most of them are dead, and Logan, Charles Xavier and Caliban live a lonely existence isolated near the US-Mexican border. When a woman appears with a young mutant with powers identical to Logan’s and a bundle of cash to get them to a safe passage to Canada, our hero finds himself pulled back into a world he thought long gone.
We’ve brought our own X-team to the Danger Room to discuss this film, but since it doesn’t come out until March 3, we’re trying to keep it spoiler free.
Andy: Well, that was amazing. What a complex, beautiful, disturbing, quiet, ultra-violent, subtle film. This film is so different from any of its peers. Just like last year’s Deadpool was different in that we’d never seen a true superhero satire before, this is different.
Bryan: I think this was head and shoulders above Deadpool. It was far more mature and honest on a human level.
Adam: While they’re in the same universe, it’s unfair to compare Deadpool to Logan. The former was never meant to be more than an action-packed, comedy gorefest while the latter is definitely much more mature and nuanced in what it was trying to do and the story it was trying to tell. Despite loving both, I wouldn’t even consider them in the same breath.
Andy: 100% agree. I just meant that it’s basically a different genre. Deadpool was satire. The other X-Men movies are superhero flicks. This? It’s basically a western. While Deadpool turned up the zaniness to 11, this takes it down to 0. No costumes. No X-jet rising from under the basketball court. No tiny stuffed unicorn. Just mortals standing against the threat of oblivion. Heavy stuff. But the blood (the reality of fighting with adamantium claws) of this film grounds it in the same way the ridiculous blood splatter of Deadpool reminds you what a ridiculous film you’re watching.
Bryan: It’s completely fair to compare them. They’re more alike than they’re different, Logan was just better all around.
Adam: This wasn’t a superhero movie; this was a movie that just happened to have superheroes in it. What was so refreshing was just how grounded, real and gritty everything was. This was a world full of people who were pushed to their breaking point, tired and on the verge of giving up. Or if not, then surrendering themselves to the day-to-day minutia of just trying to get by and eke out a living. Even when the action ramps up (and boy does it ever), this same world-weariness infused every frame of the movie and made it all the more cathartic when a moment of levity was passed between characters or between them and us. DC and Warner Bros need to take note that this is how you do this the right way.
Andy: You hit it right on the head, Adam -- this is a movie that just happens to have superheroes. Except they aren’t quite super. None of the characters is in full control of their heroic capacity. They’re too broken, too young, too old to be the comic book heroes we have come to love. What I’ve always liked about Wolverine as a character was how easily he was a stand-in for other major archetypes: While director James Mangold tried (with varying levels of success, depending on which cut of the film you saw) to make a Logan-as-samurai movie in The Wolverine, in this film he is the western gunslinger. There are long, loving homages to westerns, especially to Shane, and both that and Mangold’s previous western, the remake to 3:10 to Yuma, should be required watching as you get ready for this film. Mangold beautifully shoots these amazing western landscapes from Mexico to North Dakota and across the Great Plains in between. The scenery and setting are as much a character as our actors and provide the heart of the subtle commentary layered into this beautiful but brutal film.
Bryan: Just as X-Men (2000) set the pattern for superhero movies of the future, I think Logan does the same. The blueprint is such that it’s not dependent on setting up a larger world, it’s dependent on telling an incredible one-shot story. It’s the graphic novel version of a film and it serves the material well. It’s heartfelt, emotional, and the stakes can be as high and low as necessary. In Logan, though, the stakes are personal, which always make for the best films. It deals with aging, it deals with the corruption of our future, it deals with complex moral ideas about what is right and wrong, especially in regards to human testing and mutant person-hood.
Adam: I couldn’t have said that better myself, Bryan. Logan gives us a small slice of these characters' lives and expects us to deal specifically with what is taking place at hand. While there is still tons of lore to be gleaned from the many references and stories being told, the movie never spoon feeds them to us and expects the audience to go along and figure things out on their own. And I kind of liked that not all the questions were answered in the end because, in the long run, they weren’t what drove the plot or character motivations forward.
Bryan: What I loved most about this film is its heart. He isn’t afraid to be emotional. The characters inside the film are nostalgic about the X-Men in the same way we are, and Logan and Xavier are dealing with the very real issues of mortality and how to make a difference and how their legacy might count. Or how it might not. It’s not a mindless action movie with sequences of mindless killing for the sake of it. There’s a cost to it. It doesn’t flinch at the brutality of aging in our society. I never thought I’d see a tender scene of Wolverine as the caretaker of Professor X, helping him use the bathroom. I never thought I’d want to see that. But these are the scenes that play the best.
Andy: They’re this weird family unit. Each of the characters - Charles, Logan, and Laura - are vulnerable in one way or another and need each others’ care. They all play protector and caretaker to one another. Each one is both parent and child, mentor and apprentice. They save each other repeatedly. It’s beautiful and both simple and complex at the same time. But it’s the heart of this movie.
Adam: This is easily the most “human” of the X-Men movies, and an appropriate capstone to the film legacy. Like you said, I never thought I would see Logan showing such a compassionate and giving side of himself, but those rare moments where he dropped all pretense and showed emotion were incredibly powerful. I was talking with Andy about the movie last night, and he made the point that as much fun as John Wick: Chapter 2 was, in hindsight, it really feels more like the comic book movie than this does. Both wore their R rating on their sleeves, but Logan made it seem almost -- realistic. There was a heaviness and a sense of consequence to the violence here, and the carnage that ensued was never done to be gratuitous or obscene. Logan himself says that killing leaves a mark and is something you have to figure out how to live with, and the movie definitely strives to make us feel that with how it presented violence.
Bryan: One issue I had with the film was where I saw a missed opportunity. Obviously, the film takes a lot of cues from the comic book Old Man Logan, which was Mark Millar’s incredible series that took Wolverine into a post-apocalyptic future where he harbored a secret from his past that took the fight right out of him. In the comic, when we’re finally shown the flashback, it has all the force of the Paris flashback from Casablanca, but somehow more heartbreaking. There was an opportunity (I would argue a need actually) to do that here in this film, but it’s merely hinted at instead. I don’t want to say too much about it, though, because the details have been changed significantly.
Adam: I do wish I had read Old Man Logan before going in, but maybe it’s better that I didn’t because I had no expectation of a big reveal. I’ve already bought the trade and plan on reading it later today though.
Andy: And what I loved is that while it seemed inspired by the motifs of Old Man Logan, it didn’t need to draw from it much further than that. While the film plays out as somewhat post-apocalyptic, we realize very quickly that the apocalypse has already happened to us, and it happened to us sometime before 2017. In their future timeline, the US-Mexico border wall is a tourist attraction where red-blooded ‘Muricans come to yell at Mexicans, casinos are everywhere, and family farms are being destroyed by mega-corporations. With mutants as a stand-in for marginalized groups (it’s no accident that 12-year old Laura is a refugee from Mexico City being pursued by southern gentleman Donald Blake) it’s very subtle, but this is a stunning indictment of a possible future predicated on the rise of Trump -- or just the worst inclinations of human nature, greed, jingoism, science and “progress” that have led to Trump in our world.
Bryan: Yeah, this is definitely a future America that we need to work to prevent every bit as much as the X-Men worked to prevent the Days of Future Past timeline. It doesn’t seem as dire, but it really is.
Andy: That’s the beauty of it. It’s not dire. It’s that meme of the cartoon dog sitting in the bar where everything’s on fire saying “This is fine.” Logan’s world seems downright normal. And possible.
Adam: Life isn’t dire when you’re not on the other side. Who knows for sure what side we will be on 12 years from now?
Andy: I want to talk for two seconds about the beauty of casting Stephen Merchant as Caliban. While this is a serious role, he brings a lightness to it. As wasted as the character was in last year’s X-Men Apocalypse, this was a full redemption and an amazing performance. Speaking of amazing performance, both Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman bring the A-game to this. I know superhero movies don’t get nominated for Academy Awards, but damn. These are two of the top performances of any kind in the entire series of movies -- a series predicated on great performances.
Adam: And we would be remiss not to discuss how fantastic Dafne Keen was as Laura, the young mutant Logan puts under his protection. As much as Hugh Jackman carries the film, she is the driving force behind everything he does, and the fact that she delivers such a wonderful performance despite not speaking for a good chunk of the movie is utterly amazing.
Bryan: I’m all in on this film. I think it’s the third best X-Men film ever made, right after X2 and X-Men: First Class. It’s easily the best of the Wolverine standalones, and it makes me hopeful that Marvel, at least Fox’s wing of the universe, will offer us more of these rich one off stories without trying to hard to build a sprawling universe. This was a well earned 9 out of 10. Bring tissues.
Andy: This is definitely in the top X-Men movies out there, but I’m not sure whether it belongs in my top 3 or top 5. It might even be my second favorite -- but it’s just so different from everything else it’s almost hard to judge. I’m still digesting this -- like an extremely rich and complex meal. It’s broken and frail in a way no other of the films are. It’s severe and realistic in its brutality and humanity. It’s everything it tries to be and more. This is a 9 out of 10.
Adam: I’ve almost been dreading this moment because rating this and saying where it falls in line with the other X-Men movies is almost like trying to choose which of your kids is your favorite. I went in to Logan with such high hopes, that I felt bound to be disappointed. I wasn’t, not by a long shot. I got a different movie than I was expecting, but it lived up to and beyond what I was looking forward to based on the trailers. While The Wolverine was a great movie, Logan took everything that was great from that and distilled it into its purest and best form. It’s always a good thing to see writers and directors learn from what they have done in the past and improve upon it tenfold in future projects. That said, it is difficult to compare it to the original trilogy just because direction, acting and storytelling have improved in the decade since those were out. but this is easily in my top two films, either tying or slightly above First Class. 10 out of 10.