Movie Review: "Logan: A Swan Song"
Beast. Hero. Samurai. Cowboy. Hugh Jackman is all of these. He also plays Wolverine/Logan/James Howlett. In fact he’s been doing so for the last 17 years, and after 9 movies he told the world he thinks he’s done it enough. In the custom of auctions: he saved the best for last. With a peerless cast, a gritty new rating, and a fresh spin on the superhero genre, Logan proves to be the crown piece of the X-Men franchise. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking you’re in for the flawless masterpiece its reputation is suggesting. Hurt by easily avoidable faux pas and gaffs, Logan falls just short of its full potential.
Logan takes place twelve years in the future. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is much older, more haggard, and his body doesn’t work like it used to. He’s tired of the grind, and he’s tired of fighting the trouble that always seems to find him. Just when he thinks he can finally retire with his old mentor Professor Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart), a little girl (Daphne Keene) walks into his life. The girl has the familiar issue of being chased by a para-military scientific organization, and an even more familiar mutation. Logan is coerced into putting his retirement plans on hold to try to get this girl to safety.
If the story seems a little familiar to you, it’s because that was on purpose. Logan was set to parallel the classic Western film Shane. I wish I could tell you that I figured this out from an in-depth analysis in the analogies of the film and the subtle nuances in style and meaning, but I can’t. Logan tells you that’s what it’s doing. Forming parallelisms to classics is a commendable tactic in film, especially when the film is a fresh take on the original (for example, this being about a former superhero as opposed to a gunslinger). What is reprehensible, however, is being so blatant about it that Logan literally played a minute of clips of Shane in the movie, and later a character directly quoted from those clips. Parallelisms should be realized by audiences, not told to audiences, depriving them of the pleasure of drawing their own conclusions.
Speaking of deprived pleasures, the new R-rating on Logan made us all realize what we’ve been missing for the last 17 years: a ton of brutal violence. While violence does not necessarily make a movie better, when your main character has kitchen knives growing out of his hands and rage issues, it does. Watching the gory dismemberings and stabbings in Logan, the audience finally sees the piece of the character that had been missing for all that time. We didn’t realize how much better it would make his movies until we finally saw it, and it felt right. Rating this movie R was one of the best executive decisions made in superhero film history. Not only does it help the character in the fight-scenes, but it helps the character in his dialogue too. Dropping F-bombs all over the movie sounded so natural coming from the disgruntled, angry man that the audience forgets this is the first time he’s used it more than once a film.
Logan wasn’t the only one to revel in the newly approved language. None other than the mild-mannered Charles Xavier traded R-rated barbs with Logan throughout the movie. This reinforced their new relationship dynamic as two very very old friends who have been spending a lot of time together. The chemistry between the two actors was so powerful that you have to conclude that Jackman and Stewart spent everyday after shooting at the bar together. While their performances were even better than their normal “outstanding” level, one would be remiss to not mention the real surprise of the film: young Ms. Daphne Keene. A bilingual young actress with a penchant for choreography who can play an audience’s emotions like Yo Yo Ma plays a cello, one day we’ll be recalling when she had to be listed as “Introducing Daphne Keene” because she has talent enough to hold her own with veterans Hugh Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart.
This amazing acting did have a drawback, however. Watching the movie you can appreciate the character growth and development both individually and for the relationships between the three main characters. However, if you were reading the script, and not caught up in the powerful acting, you would realize that none of this actually took place, and that it was merely an illusion cast by the actors. The characters-arcs went next to nowhere (more of a character-straight-line) because the film both wanted to express their stubbornness to change, and their ability to change. They split the difference and had them represent neither of these facets, leaning on the actors to pull through (which, admittedly, they do).
While this (and a very sloppy plot-device midway through) unfortunately detracts from the flow of the film, the audience does still have reason to put this movie above your average action-heavy superhero flick. Making this a Western-themed movie does amazing things when looking at the symbolism scattered throughout, and the overall meaning of Logan’s journey. Like a good movie should, the audience is left thinking about not just Logan’s purpose in this film, but his whole life. These sorts of morality debates always leave an echo effect in the minds of the audience, causing films like this being much more memorable. So while flaws are present, they are well overshadowed by the raw talent, energy, excitement, and impact this film has on the audience. Be sure to make your way to what will certainly be considered one of the classic superhero films of the era.