Friday, April 8, 2016

Logan (2017) (Movie Review)

     The 2017 movie “Logan” marks the end of legacy, the final portrayal of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and it’s about time he got an Oscar nod for his iconic portrayal. Seriously, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is one of the great, long lasting character performances in movie history. For 17 years he’s brought the famous comic book hero to life, has given consistently solid performances, and still, no one is asking for him to leave. This is a special case in which it’s the actors choice to end his character in a blaze of glory, rather than drag it through the mud and get tired. Obviously Wolverine was already the main hero of the X-Men films, but he’s such an iconic hero that he really disserved his own stand alone series. Typically when you have an A-list actor playing an iconic superhero in a successful blockbuster franchise, things often get the exact same reception. Usually the first film is regarded as a classic, the second is a solid continuation, and the third spoils everything. Well, in the case of Hugh Jackman’s stand alone Wolverine trilogy, the exact opposite happened. His first solo movie titled “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is widely regarded as one of the worst action movies of the past decade. His second solo movie titled “The Wolverine” wasn’t perfect but was regarded as largely superior. Now we have his third solo movie titled “Logan”, which has been unanimously praised as not only the best “Wolverine” or “X-Men” movie by far, but possibly one of the all time greatest comic-book adapted movies ever made. Now just like with “X-Men Apocalypse”, I’ll be basing this review on my own personal opinion, and not what everyone else says. With all that addressed, let’s talk about “Logan”, the conclusion of “Wolverine’s” solo film series, and the tenth installment in the “X-Men” movie Franchise.

      One great thing about Wolverines film series is that each movie has its own set tone, and represents a different genera. The first movie was a superhero origin story, the second was a Japanese martial arts film, and this third movie is done in the style of a Western. It even makes direct reference to the 1953 classic “Shane”, which I personally watched with my dad at a young age. As such it was very nostalgic to see how that movie actually plays into the theme of this film. The year is 2029, a biological agent is killing off the mutant race, with no new mutants born in the past 25 years, and the X-Men have been regarded as heroes of old. We meet the old-man version of Wolverine, who’s lost most of his healing powers due to the bio toxin, and is slowly being poisoned by his own metal skeleton. He’s also taking care of a withering Professor X who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s or some kind of mental deterioration. The two have basically given up all hope, and are ready to just die already. Fortunately for them, a mysterious little girl suddenly comes into their lives, and subsequently gives them something they both previously lost, which is a family. It’s revealed that she is Wolverines daughter, or at the very least the 23rd attempt to clone someone from our hero’s DNA. Thus she’s branded as X-23, and apparently is every bit like her old man, right down to raped healing, sharp claws, and a temper to match. Now a reluctant Wolverine must embark on a mission to take this child to a safe-haven called Eden, before an evil group of cybernetic solders and doctors called the Reavers get to her first. 

      As far as performances are concerned Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have never shined brighter than in this film. Both have always been respectable in the roles of Wolverine and Professor X, but this time they both add a great deal of emotional wait to the film, as both characters are at the end of their ropes. Hugh Jackman’s performance speaks for itself, and I really believe he disserves an Oscar nod for his work. Patrick Stewart is frighteningly good this time around as Professor X, infusing the character with pathos, as well as an over the top crazy side, and the same warm humbleness we’ve come to admire from the character. There’s several moments near the end in which his performance brought back memories of my own late grandfather, and I couldn’t help but feel touched. Even some of the smaller side characters like the mutant Caliban are played very well, and add something to the film. Of course the big break-out character is X-23, played by new comer Dafne Keen. I’ve been a long time fan of this character, and was beyond thrilled to finally see her shine in a live action movie alongside Wolverine. The young actress Dafne Keen is phenomenal in the role, and a real discovery. You wouldn’t think an unknown child actress could hold her own acting alongside seasoned talents like Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, but she nailed it ... nailed the shit out of it! This wasn’t an easy role either, as the character doesn’t speak much, and has to convey everything through her emotions. Whenever she shoots a look it’s like piercing daggers, but she also conveys just the right amount of sympathy to balance out her more beastly side.

    Unfortunately, just like every other Wolverine movie, the villains aren’t very good, and this time are just plain forgettable. The main villain is a mechanical armed soldier named Pierce, and he’s a bad guy taken right off the shelf. Nothing original, nothing menacing, and he felt like a product from an 80’s action film. I’ll at least give the actor Boyd Holbrook some credit, as he played the role well, and looked like he was having fun as this clichéd evil cowboy stereotype. Also, as an X-Men fan, I’ve never really cared for the Reavers, but I do like how they were handled in the film. I like that their cybernetic details are very mild, so they can function as threats without off-putting the films more down to earth tone. There’s also this completely random evil doctor named Rice, who has some vague connection to a character Wolverine apparently killed in one of the previous films. This is the one character who I think should have been completely removed from the film, as he did nothing and was very boring every time he was on screen. Wait a second, I just noticed something about the cast. Over the past five X-Men movies, this is the first one that doesn’t feature any cast members from the “Game of Thrones” alumni ... that’s crazy.  

      At last we have an evil Wolverine clone who’s also played by Hugh Jackman, and I have some mixed feels about this guy. On the one hand, I like what the character represents, that Wolverines greatest fight comes in the form of himself if he’d abandoned all humanity, and was a completely savage animal. This evil Wolverine is also utilized in effectively frightening ways, and one little detail I love is that his facial hair resembles Sabertooth from the first Wolverine movie. The problem is that this character didn’t seem to leave much of an impact on our hero, and he just seemed to lack the tension required when having the older Logan battle his younger self. There was never a moment when the real Logan sat down and thought to himself that he’d have to face a younger, more aggressive version of himself, and if he even stood a chance. I also didn’t like that the evil Wolverine never spoke, and was just a puppet for the two boring human villains. I think this movie would have benefitted greatly by giving the evil Wolverine clone his own characterization, and motivation, rather than just being a tool. Maybe he thought of himself as the real Wolverine, and old man Logan was just an echo that needed to be silenced, just little things like that would have made this character more interesting. I will say that the fights between Wolverine and his evil clone are the most epic duals that our hero has ever had. Forget about Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, Mystique, or the Silver Samurai, it’s this evil version of Wolverine that gives him the real challenge, and their unhinged, bare knuckled (well, claw knuckled) fights are every bit as brutal as they are hard core.

      The fights with X-23 are also sensational, and I have to give serious props to the little girl doing all the stunt work. Also, coming off the heels of the super powered, special effects driven battles from the previous “X-Men Apocalypse”, it was a genuine breath of fresh air to see smaller scale action, with practical stunt work, practical effects, and a great use of surrounding environments. One of my favorite moments comes during a car chance. Our hero’s are in a vehicle heading toured a fence at high speed, the driver shouts “Hang On!”, and in a great twist, they actually can’t crash through it. Instead they have to back up, and drag the chain link fence along with them, and I absolutely love little touches like that. Oh, and of course this movie is ratted R, and its hard R. While the 2013 movie “The Wolverine” had a light R ratted version on Blue Ray, this was the first theatrical Wolverine movie to get a really violent make over, and it’s mostly for the better. I don’t care for violence and gore as a spectacle, but the brutally violent content really helps convey the grit, drama and tone of the film. This is a very savage world, with big consequences, and a lot of the personal struggles our characters both endure and suffer through here wouldn’t have been nearly as effective in a PG-13 movie.

     Let’s talk about the theme, as every Wolverine movie has a different theme of our hero rediscovering something he lost. The first movie was about him re-discovering his humanity after being pushed to the edge. The second movie was about him re-discovering what it means to be a hero, after he lost everything he initially fought for. This third movie is about our hero re-discovering what it means to have a family again after losing everyone he loved. I personally prefer his character arch in “The Wolverine”, as he rediscovered his hero status, and while “Logan’s” theme of family is good, I think it could have been stronger. For example, the scenes between Wolverine and his doubter are very good, and well acted, but I feel the movie needed more scenes with them bonding. There’s a pivotal moment near the end, when Wolverine takes his daughters hand, squeezes it, she softly calls him “daddy” and then he smiles discovering how beautiful it is to be part of a family again. It’s an excellent scene, but it would have been so much more impactful if the movie gave us more scenes building up their father/ daughter relation.

     Also, the passing is a little slow at times. I can’t say that the film is boring, but it definitely feels long, especially in the first 30 minutes. Combine that with the films joyless overtone, and it makes the movie a little difficult to watch at times. Now there are several great highlights throughout that help keep things balanced. There are some deeply thrilling moments that don’t rely on strait forward action. Particularly when Professor X’s mental state causes a psychic shock wave, freezing everyone around him except for Wolverine and X-23, who both have to work together to stabilize him. I especially love the simple moments, like this humble little dinner scene in which our heroes share a meal with a family. It’s beautiful seeing them bounding with strangers, while subtly reminiscing about old times. My favorite little touch of all is that the X-Men Comic-books actually exist within the movie, and are based around events from the previous films. That is frisking awesome, and a very original idea that I’ve never seen utilized in a comic book adaption. It’s also pretty serial to see Wolverine looking through a comic book with pictures of himself in the classic yellow and blue costume. There are even toy action figures, as we see a little boy holding a polished Wolverine doll. 

      As we build to the finally, our heroes meet more genetically cloned mutant children who are being hunted by the Reavers. Watching these kids unleash their powers on the attacking solders is the closest this film ever gets to feeling like a real X-Men movie, and it’s great. The climax in general couldn’t be simpler, as it’s just Wolverine and his daughter fighting off armed troopers in the woods, just to keep some kids safe. It’s so simplistic, yet it’s so much more engaging then the super-powered brawls we usually get from most comic book films. Seeing Wolverine and X-23 fight side by side is a dream come true, as well as pure bad ass. This is also the most intense climax of the X-Men series as our hero is beaten, bruised, bloody and out of breath the whole time. When the fighting concludes, we get to the films big, emotional highlight ... the death of Wolverine. To kill a big name super hero like Wolverine is a risky venture if not handled well, but I’m happy to say that it was very well earned in this film. All the previous themes in the film come together beautifully, and the scene was shot with perfection. The acting on display is sensational, and Wolverines final words are as impactful as they get. Also, I love that final shot of Wolverines grave, and how the cross is turned on its side to resemble an X. It’s the best closing moment of any X-Men movie by far. Although, I didn’t care for Johnny Cashes “When a Man Comes Around” playing during the credits. It should have been Johnny Cashes “Hurt” instead, that would have been awesome to hear during the credits, but that’s just me nit-picking.   

      You really have to go into this movie with the right mind set, that this isn’t a fun, summer pop corn flick. “Logan” is a brooding, dramatic and emotionally draining experience, which for me makes it a little harder to re-watch. To be honest, I’d actually rather watch the previous “X-Men Apocalypse”, not because it’s better mind you, but because it’s a lot more “fun”, and easy to watch again after a long days work. When I watch “Logan” again, I really need to be in the right mind set to appreciate it, and to an extent, enjoy it too. Also, while I can safely say I love 2013’s “The Wolverine”, I just can’t bring myself to say I loved “Logan”. I just felt that it could have been stronger in parts, and the experience was just a little too draining at times. This is definitely a good movie, as well as ambitious, and it’s great to see that the risk paid off. This was a project that clearly came from the hearts of the cast and filmmakers, which is really important now days because studios have had too much free range to crank out whatever will make them money. Plus, there’s still plenty things in the movie I loved, ranging from the solid performances, the fierce action, and especially for the theatrical introduction of X-23. I feel that the “X-Men” franchise really needed this movie, as it defied genera conventions, and was a very meaningful send-off to Hugh Jackmans long standing legacy as my all time favorite superhero.  

                                               I give “Logan” 4 stars out of 5.  


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