by Erin Hatch, Editor,
How serious do you want your superhero movies to be? The trend across most of Marvel Studios’ cinematic output the past few years has been to offset heavy moments by injecting levity regularly into a script and keeping the action from getting too brutal. Output like Marvel’s Doctor Strange, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Age of Ultron aren’t afraid to go to serious places at times or examine darker themes, but they all stayed PG-13 and never lingered too long examining the inner demons of the characters. Marvel’s estranged brethren over at 20th Century Fox had Deadpool, which committed to an R rating but also to never taking itself too seriously. Now the Wolverine series has gone to new levels of brutality but also new levels of solemn consideration into the character’s inner turmoil. Logan is a somber reflection on an old fighter who has lost the will to fight punctuated by bursts of visceral violence when he is forced into action.
Before I start the actual review, a warning for X-Men fans: If you are expecting the ‘Old Man Logan’ arc from the Wolverine comics, don’t. Despite some superficial similarities- there is a road trip, some thematic parallels, and the titular hero is an aged version of the character- this Wolverine story has little in common with the comics. The setting is a slightly dystopian future but not post-apocalyptic. Logan doesn’t have any big dark secret holding him back or any particular reticence to bust out the claws, he’s just tired of fighting. All those other Marvel universe characters from ‘Old Man Logan‘ are gone too, with a few lesser known X-characters playing supporting roles and vague potential New X-Men cameos filling out the roster of mutants.
The release is still a few weeks out, so this will be light on spoilers, but be forewarned about plot details anyway.
The year is 2029. The X-Men are dead, there are no more mutants, and the only trace of their existence are the tattered comics that exaggerated the team’s adventures over the years. The mutant once known as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, The Wolverine) now works as a humble limo driver in El Paso, working to save up funds to buy a yacht and get away from it all. Meanwhile, he and mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant, Hello Ladies) are living in isolated ruins south of the border, taking care of a dementia-riddled Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, you know who he is) whose psychic powers now pose a danger to everyone around him unless suppressed by medication. Life sucks, and his options seem to be narrowing when fate intervenes in the form of a girl, Laura (Dafne Keen, The Refugees), who has escaped from a genetic testing facility in Mexico City with the help of a nurse and is now trying to get to a refuge for young mutants, an isolated site in North Dakota called New Eden. After initial reservations, Logan submits, and he and Xavier join her on the road to New Eden while evading pursuit by bounty hunting cyborg Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, Narcos) and his corporate masters.
The journey alternates between somber introspection and brutal violence, taking a grim tone with few uplifting or humorous moments to lighten the mood. The pacing sometimes feels slow, especially in the second act, which makes this two and a half hour movie feel longer. This is not a fun romp through a post-mutant America but a character study of a warrior who has outlived his fight and is now searching for an ending to his story. Director and Writer James Mangold (The Wolverine) makes repeated references to Shane (1953) and the notion of a hero so changed by violence that he can no longer fit into proper society, likening the Wolverine to an old western hero riding off into his sunset. This is on the serious end of superhero-based cinema, committing to character over fun, so if that is the kind of movie you are looking to see, you will probably be willing to overlook the pacing issues and downbeat narrative. If you’re looking for humor and action that doesn’t get too heavy, you’re looking at the wrong film. Opinions were mixed amongst the crowd coming out of the preview.
Which isn’t to say that the movie isn’t enjoyable as a serious film. Logan is a fitting farewell to the character as played by Hugh Jackman, especially in the way it acknowledges just how long he has been in the role. It captures the weariness of having lived through nine films over seventeen years, even if many of them are no longer continuous and a few were only cameos. Patrick Stewart gets a meaty take on Professor X as well, capturing the wise and compassionate leader as he loses his composure and his mind. Finally, Dafne Keen steals the show as Laura, and it is great to see X-23 in action.
Logan may not be for everyone: the graphic violence goes farther than previous Wolverine entries and the movie is long and sometimes slow. If you aren’t in the mood for a heavy film, I can’t recommend it. But if you are ready for a superhero story that tackles the ramifications of a long life of constant brutal violence, examined thoughtfully, but also with some pretty sick action, then I think Logan will deliver.
Unless you are expecting ‘Old Man Logan.’ Seriously, they are nothing alike.
ComicsOnline gives Logan 4 out of 5 potential New X-Men cameos.