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3 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Logan (2017)
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by Jay Seaver

"The ending this series deserves, and so much more."
5 stars

If "Logan" is not the actual end of the line for the X-Men movies that began in 2000, it probably should be, because there is not going to be a better opportunity for the cycle to end both fittingly and well than this. Twentieth Century Fox doesn’t have to make stop making stuff with Marvel’s mutant characters - just say that "Deadpool" and "Legion" are the start of a new continuity and take the lesson that they and this film offer to heart - that there is room for a lot of different styles under the X-Men umbrella, even if this finale doesn’t seem like an obvious match for the other films using the same characters and setting.

It opens in 2029, some time after mutantkind has ceased to be a major concern for the world and at least twenty-five since the last known mutant birth. James “Wolverine” Howlett (Hugh Jackman), known for much of his extended life as “Logan”, lives under the radar, driving a limo in El Paso but actually living across the border, where he and another former X-Man, Caliban (Stephen Merchant), care for Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Charles is still an immensely powerful telepath, but that’s more a danger than a super-power now, as the 90-year-old professor is suffering symptoms of dementia and his outbursts and seizures can have dangerous effects on the people around him. Logan isn’t doing so hot either - his healing abilities keep him spry as he approaches the end of his second century, but the adamantium bonded to his skeleton has started poisoning him faster than he can heal. Enter Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a Mexican nurse who wants to hire Logan for a far longer, more dangerous drive than usual, bringing her and 11-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen) - a mutant with powers similar to Logan’s - to North Dakota. But, of course, also enter Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a bounty hunter working for the corporation that created Laura and a host of other children like her that want their property back.

Put like that, it sounds a little absurd, not like the more serious-minded, spandex-free, mature superhero movie it pitches itself as, and indeed, I would not necessarily recommend it to those who have looked down their nose at the genre but have some interest in this one because it is different. Like the comics that inspire the film, a great deal of the gravitas that Logan can boast comes from the sheer weight of in-story continuity and the history that the viewer has with the characters. The little moments that Jackman has had in seven previous movies over seventeen years give the audience an affinity for the character that would be hard to build from scratch, while having previously seen Patrick Stewart play Xavier as a wise mentor for as long (and even seeing James McAvoy as a cocky younger iteration) lend an extra level of tragedy to his degradation. Even the lesser movies in the series - and they don’t get much lesser than X-Men Origins: Wolverine - help build this one up; director James Mangold (with co-writers Scott Frank and Michael Green) can reference the Weapon X program without showing it or skip a lot of exposition about Xavier’s powers and history, thus not shifting the tone they’ve created for broad science fiction.

And Mangold does create a fine mood in this one; free to go for an R rating rather than a family-friendly PG-13, he plunges Logan into the bloody, violent world that has often only been alluded to or shown in sanitized form. From the first fight scene, there’s blood and dismemberment that the other movies have generally cut away from, but more than that, there’s the sense that Logan is a man frequently unable to control his animalistic impulses, at the mercy of a berserker rage that is all the more horrifying when reflected in Laura. Mangold and company can often make an action sequence thrilling - the car chases, in particular, are often inventive and clever - but the filmmakers are cognizant of how horrible actual violence can be. The psychological toll of this killing is, for once, reflected in the physical effects on Logan, and the lack of a brake on the mayhem allows for a certain amount of horror at the sheer numbers that pile up. Similarly, the potentially worrisome nature of Xavier’s immense powers is demonstrated, with even the moments when it works in the characters’ favor kind of scary. Mangold uses violence as catharsis, as all action filmmakers do, but it’s never empty; there’s always a price.

Jackman and Stewart do an excellent job of showing that price; the X-Men movies have never been either’s most challenging work, but they’re able to find new depths. Jackman’s Wolverine has always been sarcastic, detached, and a bit condescending to the more idealistic likes of Xavier and his X-Men, and while the latter isn’t in much evidence this time around, Jackman does a great job of tapping into how Logan in some ways hasn’t been able to grow beyond irritability, never really knowing something he couldn’t physically bounce back from and perhaps not understanding that this sort of finality could someday apply to him. He does a really exceptional job of humanizing a perspective that has been warped by Logan’s immortality and sometimes-feral nature.

Stewart has been playing Xavier for as long as Jackman has played Wolverine, although this last go-around is the one that establishes Xavier as Stewart’s signature character, even more than Jean-Luc Picard. There are hints of the relatively simple wise and altruistic Xavier from previous movies here, but smothering them with the indignities of aging and difficulty accepting that he’s no longer in charge makes Stewart’s performance more interesting than dignity cloaked in dry wit, although it also lets him be very funny at times. There’s a personal bond between the pair that feels more real than it ever has, with Stewart playing Xavier as both paternal and contemporary to his old friend.

Compared to them, Dafne Keen is building Laura up from scratch, a heck of a job for one so young, especially when the generally very good script occasionally seems undecided on just how communicative her character is going to be. She’s crucial, though, not just because she’s got to demonstrate just how disconnected from civilized norms Laura is without words, but because the film is not crass enough to let her simply be the MacGuffin whose most important characteristic is that people will kill for it, but an interesting character in her own right, someone who can reflect Logan’s journey of discovering her humanity despite being told she is not really a person for her whole life so far. And on top of often-wordlessly expressing high emotion without overdoing it, she (and her stunt doubles) do a pretty fair job of doing it in the middle of some brutal fight scenes.

Indeed, perhaps what is most impressive about the movie is how Laura eventually becomes an equal to the title character in importance, and in the process suggests a new take on the X-Men that could revitalize the franchise in both comics and film if they ever wanted to truly start fresh: An angry younger generation forced to contend with a screwed-up, corporatized world that is actively hostile because of their forebears’ failures and failings. For all the bloody violence and swearing that this film has that its predecessors lacked, perhaps the grimmest thing about it is that it can barely even give Charles and Logan any chance to try and shelter Laura’s soul in the traditional manner; from start to finish, she’s going to have to get her hands bloody because, despite their idealism and visible successes, the last generation of X-Men failed and continue failing.

Not that this will happen - even if they go down this road, the originals will be back, with new people in the roles on-screen and torturous logic on the page. But, until then, these characters get an ending, and there will eventually be plans afoot to start over or work around it if there aren’t already - longtime superhero fans know that endings only last until someone else decides they want to bring something back - that takes nothing away from this one, which builds a terrific, unique finale on the foundation of all that has come before.

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originally posted: 03/07/17 13:47:29
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User Comments

8/29/17 G Loved it 4 stars
6/05/17 stephen dour & derivative nonsense. 2 stars
4/06/17 Micmrean Great but vi-o-lent. The Shane recitation - didn't like. 4 stars
3/15/17 Bob Dog Too dull and depressing for my taste. 2 stars
3/12/17 Jack Unpleasant & sloppy. Hated the classic film Shane inclusion. Just awful. 1 stars
3/12/17 chris dementia and limo driver? This is theiR END??????? 1 stars
3/11/17 action movie fan flawed but exciting story 4 stars
3/07/17 Jack Kelly yo dude up d8 ur site 1 stars
3/05/17 Kingneutron Dafne was fantastic, hope they make more sequels with her 4 stars
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  03-Mar-2017 (R)

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