Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Release! Logan (2017) [No Spoilers]

No Spoilers in this Review. Rest easy.

Director: Nick Mangold

Gritty, grimy, and blood-drenched, this is the Wolverine movie that any grown-up fan of the character has craved. It's arguably the best of the entire X-Men movie series, and definitely the gutsiest and most unique.

Being a spoiler-free review, I'll keep the description to broad, non-revealing strokes. Set in a not-too-distant future, Logan is almost completely alone and trying to live a very quiet existence within a nearly mutant-free world. He is caring for Charles Xavier, the former headmaster of the school which took Logan in and made him a part of the X-Men. Charles is now in his 90s, with his health greatly deteriorated. Logan himself is not exactly in tip-top shape either, for reasons which are not very clear through much of the movie. The two aged and ailing friends' lone dream is to simply buy a boat on which to live out their remaining days on the ocean, away from the rest of humanity. This modest pursuit of peace is brutally interrupted when a mysterious little girl comes into their lives, with an army on her trail. A reluctant Logan must wrestle with exactly what to do, while evading and fending off their aggressive and violent attackers.

The movie is the most assured X-Men movie yet, and it's quite possibly the most assured "marquee" superhero movie ever made. There are no flashy outfits. No ensemble cast of scene-stealing, wise-cracking comrades. No fantastic set pieces. The settings are often composed of the swirling dust of the desert, the loneliness of the open roads between west Texas and the Dakotas, and the eerie quiet of a few forests. Also missing is the typically snappy, "joke-a-minute" banter that you find in the other X-movies and the MCU (most of which I love, by the way). The conversations in this film carry more weight, as they delve into Logan dealing with his rage and apathy and how they are drowning out a chance to win back some part of his soul. And this is done without pretension or forced, awkward dialogue for the most part. It's a rare look at a mythical figure in his final days, being forced to take a final reckoning of exactly who he is.

The aged, cranky friends Charles and Logan spend a bit of
time dealing with what will likely be their last bit of time
together. The relationship has far more weight than nearly
any other portrayed in a superhero movie to dare.
Of course, don't think that it's just a depressing slog with a couple of broken down old mutants having a heart-to-heart road trip. Or a withered old Wolverine staring at his shoes for two hours. This movie is easily the most brutal and graphically violent mainstream superhero flick made to date. While Deadpool was bloody, it was mostly cartoonish violence in which the gore was for comedic effect. In Logan, the fights are gut-wrenchingly graphic and almost painful to watch at times. But this is to great effect, as brutal violence was almost always at the heart of the Wolverine character. What came later, and is central to this film, is the man Logan's struggle to live with that violence and its consequences. And the fatal consequences have actual impact in this movie, thanks to the measured pace. The balance between the deadly battles and their horrific nature is done exceptionally well.

While there are a few things one can quibble over, especially comic book and science-fiction nerds like myself, I found that the questionable details were minor ones that do not cripple the story. Any superhero movie asks you to suspend your disbelief in a few major ways, and Logan is no different. What Mangold and the writers created here easily transcends any little goofs. It's a superhero movie that really stands alone in the genre, and it feels far more like an update of a classic Western in the style of The Shootist. The bar for these movies has now been set a bit higher, and now we'll see if the MCU or DCEU film franchises try to match or exceed it.