Logan is as great a superhero film we’ve ever gotten and that we’re ever likely to get. It transcends the form to become one of the all-time greats of the genre, joining films like Richard Donner’s Superman, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. James Mangold’s haunting, western sensibilities are here uncensored by 20th Century Fox, a company with a very inconsistent, yet at times transcendent record. Here, they seem to have gained a confidence boost after the insanely cheap, insanely profitable Deadpool, and have given free reign for an artist to create, something not often seen in a blockbuster, rarely in a superhero film, and never in a Marvel movie.
But Logan’s no Marvel movie. It’s a hard-edged western about a man coming to grips with his own mortality, and that of his father figure. Logan’s heart-wrenching in a way no other X-Men movie is, ultimately earning tears from its audience.
The film concerns itself with a burnt-out, retired Logan, in a 2029 world with no use for mutants. The film, as usual for the X-Men, dispels any sense of continuity, ignoring previous films to tell its own story. We get the sense here that the events of the first X-Men, Wolverine’s introduction to the team, are the only concrete events that have taken place here. Sure, there were other adventures after, but no Phoenix saga, no mutant cure, no death of Professor X, no Days of Future Past. Logan is suffering from his age, and from the poison of his adamantium skeleton. He’s slow in his old age, as seen in an opening scene where the haggard Hugh Jackman struggles to beat down five carjackers. In these moments, we feel a visceral sense of realism, and, while we perhaps long for the days of X2, where Wolverine mowed down dozens of highly trained mercenaries, this is a different kind of violence – bloody, no holds-barred, murder. And when Logan finally does let loose in the climax (a refreshingly simple combat in the woods as opposed to all these world-ending superhero films), it’s a beautiful catharsis. Logan’s suffering from his old age, but not so much as Charles Xavier – a telepath with dementia/Alzheimer’s/something. Patrick Stewart’s brilliant here in his most vulgar, human depiction yet, and takes full advantage of his natural gravitas. Xavier takes on the father figure role in a more genuine, heartfelt way than ever before, and becomes a grandfatherly figure to the new player: Laura, a manufactured genetic daughter of Logan, freshly escaped from an evil corporation. The three head off on a road trip to escape said evil corporation, forcing Logan back into his saving the day role, and that’s all I’m going to say to avoid spoilers.
Logan works because it doesn’t concern itself with franchise-building – little that came before matters here (adamantium bullets kill, they don’t give amnesia like in Origins), and what comes after matters less. Logan is a singular vision, a complete film, without the tacky franchise-building that annoys in Marvel and grates in DC. There’s no end credits scene, no sequel hook, no franchise set-up whatsoever. The film is purely a farewell to an iconic incarnation of an iconic character.
Logan also works because of its well-realized characters. Even Stephen Merchant’s Caliban is given a fulfilling arc. And while some may find the film lacking in the villain department, I found the combination of Boyd Holbrook’s charisma and Richard E. Grant’s simplistic motivation to be a refreshingly minimalistic approach. The supporting players are all strong here, Laura’s played to a tee by the excellent Dafne Keen, who seems to have a career ahead of her based on her performance in this film.
The action here is bloody, and carnage-ridden. There’s no censoring here, no sanitization – Logan’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very nice, and this film is the first film where that feels accurate.
All in all, Logan is near-perfect, a suitably bloody film with a suitable sense of finality. A beautiful, heart-wrenching, tear-jerking tale of loneliness, aging, and finding purpose in a world that’s passed you by, Logan earns an A+.