To be completely honest, I haven’t followed the X-men movies very much. Compared to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve always preferred a canon that was clear-cut. But the trailers for Logan piqued my imagination. A punished Wolverine, trapped in an emotional odyssey, trying to escape his past? That sounds better than most superhero movies of late. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the occasional burst of action and effects, but it’s clear that James Mangold’s vision of Logan is attempting something more substantial.
It’s clear from the outset of the film that this is the finale for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character, whom he’s played for almost 18 years. As the exposition forms in the first few minutes, we get a sense of how desperate things have turned in the near-future setting of this film. The X-men are all but disbanded, mutants haven’t been born in years, and Logan is eking out a living as a taxi driver – using his little pay to buy medication for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).
A little side note here: Logan is an incredible tribute to Hugh Jackman’s work as Wolverine, but I’ve got to give Stewart credit for how well he’s revisited the Xavier character. This is not the Charles Xavier we’ve known: he’s heavily medicated, his mind is falling apart, and it’s nigh-impossible not to feel an immense amount of sympathy for the man. There’s a great scene in the film where Xavier suddenly recalls a traumatic past event that his mind had kept from him, and I applaud the director’s choice to not actually include a flashback scene. The abstraction of that trauma felt incredibly authentic.
Of course, that’s what much of Logan is: brutal, hard-hitting realizations that this movie isn’t like the comic books. Things aren’t sugar-coated here: people die, the past is full of ghosts, and there’s no guarantee that things will turn out okay. Instead, we’re presented with a redemption arc as Logan travels with Laura (played by Dafne Keen) and attempts to bring her safely across the Canadian border. There is no doubt an allusion made here to current political events related to immigration, but it’s done very skillfully. The universe presented in Logan feels very developed and plausible, while still capturing some of the magic of the X-men franchise.
I do have to minor critiques of the film, though. The first was the soundtrack, which personally didn’t do the movie much justice. I appreciated the original scoring, but to be honest, I think the film would have been better off with some of the voicing used in the trailer (Cash songs, American folk, etc.) to really capture the Americana mood of this cross-country journey. The climactic battle was where I really felt the soundtrack was so disjointed and distracting from what was happening on-screen. Likewise, I felt like the movie ended a little too late: the introduction of several new characters in the last half-hour made it difficult to value their contributions to the overall arc, and I think could have been done without them.
Regardless of the slight missteps, Logan does an exceptional job of bringing drama and emotion to a previously less-dimensional character. I have a whole new appreciation for Hugh Jackman’s work with the character now. It’s now-playing in the theaters, so go check it out.