Movie Review: Logan
By Matthew Huntley
March 13, 2017
Logan sets out to be the black sheep of the X-Men franchise by being the first entry in the series to be rated R. And it's a hard R. This is an unabashedly violent, gruesome, raw and sometimes hard-to-watch action movie; it creates a world that's dark, dusty and inhabited by misanthropic characters who possess a bleak and hopeless outlook on life. It's not unlike (and probably drew inspiration from) Mad Max: Fury Road with regards to its tone, locations and depraved people.
But then, the X-Men movies have never been “upbeat.” The humor and playfulness found in other superhero movies like, say, Spider-Man, The Avengers or Deadpool was never really a staple quality for the X-Men, probably because these superheroes always felt especially marginalized; they're lonely, sad, fearful and angry, and Logan takes these qualities to the extreme.
However, it would be wrong to praise Logan just because it's dark, violent and disturbing. Being these things for their own sake doesn't accomplish anything if there isn't a worthwhile story being told, and indeed James Mangold's film often feels redundant with its brutality, almost as if its carnage is the story. How many times, for instance, do we have to see the bad guys decapitated or viscously stabbed through various parts of the body before we become desensitized to such imagery and it no longer carries any meaning? Logan reaches that limit by its end and the movie is ultimately longer than it needs to be, no doubt because of its excessive action sequences. So, overall, it's far from perfect.
On the other hand, the movie is often bold, exciting, well-performed and technically impressive. Mangold and his team have crafted a visually stirring action drama that sees its titular character finally come to terms with himself, and even though the plot, characters and atmosphere feel derivative of other dystopian movies that have come before it, collectively, they keep us engaged and get a rise out of us.
Besides its bloodshed, another way Logan sets itself apart is by operating mostly independently of its brethren. Yes, there are references to the other X-Men movies, particularly Days of Future Past, but because this one is more character-driven, we feel it tells us everything we need to know and therefore it's not imperative viewers have seen the original or other sequels to know what's happening here. This allows Logan to stand on its own and we simply follow its story about a troubled soul who never could shake his turbulent past or find genuine purpose in life. And now, Logan (Hugh Jackman), a.k.a. Wolverine, wants nothing more than to buy a boat, sail away and die. He assumes it's just the same, since the mutant population is all but extinct because of a virus. His body is already giving way - the adamantium metal that runs throughout his body, which gives him those extendable claws he's famous for, is now killing him and overriding his innate mutant ability to heal instantaneously.