Logan (2017)

casey Wow, where do you even start? I didn’t know what I was expecting from Logan, but it wasn’t a powerful meditation on mortality, fatherhood, and cultural alienation. By setting aside the cartoonish violence of previous Wolverine movies and the comic book tropes of the X-Men titles in favor of a contemplative character study, Logan manages to transcend both the superhero genre and, in a sense, the very medium of film.

brooke The first trailer for Logan had me thinking, it’s about damn time we had a pleasant indie-inspired stroll through the life and times of old man Wolverine.
Unfortunately, this isn’t that.

casey In reality, Logan isn’t any of what I said. And it’s not exactly the best at what it does, either.

brooke I think it’s terrible.

casey At its core it’s a bloody grimdark thriller starring a grim antihero reluctantly learning to be a real person (yet again, for this particular character). That we happen to be familiar with Logan is supposed to be the draw, but instead it’s just another source of frustration because it’s long been clear that the brooding Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) isn’t actually all that interesting by himself.

brooke And the action is too fast while everything else moves at a snail’s pace. Also, Charles Xavier (yes, still Patrick Stewart) is grumpy and swears now, I guess.

casey Logan does have an interesting premise, beginning with its aging namesake struggling to survive in a future where few Mutants remain, none have been born in decades, and his own regenerative abilities are in decline. He’s also a reluctant caretaker for Professor X, who suffers from partial dementia and lives hidden as a fugitive for unspecified reasons. Their tenuous existence is upended when Logan is introduced to Laura (Dafne Keen), a mysterious, silent young girl with mutant abilities similar to his own, and he’s soon forced to protect the girl and the Professor from a heavily armed paramilitary force bent on capturing the her as they flee across the country to a safe place that may not even exist.

brooke This may have been the first time I didn’t enjoy a Patrick Stewart performance, with Xavier as both the sage, the peanut gallery, and a physical embodiment of Chekov’s gun. It’s a combination that doesn’t work for me on any level, and felt completely out of bounds for the character. I’ll grant he’s supposed to be an old man slowly falling apart from some unnamed degenerative brain condition, but even so his performance doesn’t make sense to me.

casey I actually like this take on the character (wasn’t he supposed to be dead, though?), maybe because the idea of the most powerful telepath in the world struggling with old age is an interesting idea, and because he injects a little humor into the proceedings. Jackaman’s Wolverine, though, is just a wet blanket.

brooke Jackman did okay with what he was given, which isn’t much. And Stephen Merchant’s Caliban, another of Xavier’s caretakers with the ability to track other mutants, feels completely out of place. He’s the most boring mutant ever.

casey So as we’ve hinted, there’s no shortage of stabbings, decapitations, shootings, and other murderous mayhem, all of which is very rated-R and sometimes fun to watch. But it’s not the movie’s violence that bugs me, it’s the casual inhumanity. (Minor spoilers here) At one point Logan and company are given shelter by a kindly Oklahoma family who provide them with food and a brief respite from the chaos. Logan does the man of the house a favor, their son shares a sweet moment with Laura, and Professor X implores Logan to embrace this moment of domesticity. Once that goodwill has been milked out and their plot purpose has been satisfied, the bad guys show up and the entire family is brutally murdered and forgotten in minutes, more fodder for the movie’s bloodlust. It’s cynical and a little gross in how it plays out, but mostly just predictable and boring, and that embodies how I feel about a lot of Logan.

brooke I enjoyed the guts, gore, and glory like I do with most bloody films, but that family’s death was as unnecessary as it was gruesome.
I must say that in the midst of this messy movie, X23/Laura is a relief. Keen is great, especially for how young she is, and there are a couple of homages to her comic book history that I appreciated. But there just isn’t enough for her to do. She spends the first third of the movie switching between calm face and angry face, and she doesn’t talk until the final third of the film.

casey Things eventually culminate in a finale where it feels like Sony wants pass the torch to a new generation of mutants, and time will tell whether that’s successful. There’s some powerful imagery in a group of young mutants trying to cross a border while being pursued by armed soldiers that hits a little close to home, but otherwise it’s more of the same generic soldiers getting stabbed.
To be honest, I don’t know exactly what a “good” version of Logan looks like, but maybe it’s one where life is treated as meaningfully as Charles tries to convince Logan it is at certain points in the X-series. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fine seeing squads of private military goons and innocent bystanders slaughtered on film, just don’t ask me to pretend that there’s some deeper meaning behind it at the same time. It’s the enormous gap between the movie’s heart (such as it is) and, umm, its claws, that I found off-putting. I don’t think it’s terrible, just bland and a little frustrating.

brooke I think Logan is pretty well summed up by a moment between Xavier and Logan when they’re staying with the family you mentioned. Logan has just deposited Xavier in the bed and wished him good night when Professor X tells him that this is what family feels like, and maybe the Wolverine should settle down and raise his clone child while Logan barely avoids rolling his eyes. And that’s what this all feels like. Director James Mangold points and says, “Look! It’s so nice that Wolverine is growing up!” and I never believed it. All I saw was more evidence that he’s the same as he’s been through all of the X-Men and Wolverine movies: shouty, and stabby, and slightly tender-hearted when the script needs him to be.

casey At least we’ll always have the trailer.

brooke And all the jokes we made about it.

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