Its the end of a long road for everyone’s favourite Australian-Canadian mutant.
Say what you will about the current flood of superhero movies from both the Marvel and DC camps that currently inundate the mainstream film market, but it’s difficult to deny their popularity or incredible impact. And much of what made that possible was due to X-Men: while they don’t hold up too great now, the success of those early X-Men films paved the way for superhero films to become the phenomenon they are now. After over 10 years and countless movies, the X-Men franchise has truly earned its place as an important milestone in cinema history. And of all the X-Men, none were more iconic (or insanely marketable) than Wolverine, who alongside Professor X and Magneto, was pretty much the franchise in his own right, to say nothing of how much the iconic role turbo-boosted Hugh Jackman’s career into the stratosphere of A-list success. But, all good (well, mostly good) things come to an end: Jackman is hanging up the ol’ adamantium claws, and what better way to send off arguably his greatest role than a film like Logan?
To be honest with you all, I kind of wish Logan really was the end of the X-Men film franchise as a whole. Of course its not, and rest assured there are plenty more movies starring everyone’s favorite muties coming. But I doubt any of those films will be able to match what Logan has done for its genre. Logan isn’t just another in a seeming endless stream of superhero and comic book films: its something else entirely, a film that truly transcends the bounds of the genre it helped create to stand alone as a testament to the power these stories and characters can really have. It’s a powerful answer to anyone who feels that nothing that comes off the pages of a comic book can be powerful, resonant, or moving on anything other than a surface level, or that we can never really comment on relatable issues through super powered analogues. It’s also in its own way a weirdly beautiful-yet-ugly reflection of the X-Men franchise as a whole and its future.
In other words, Logan is absolutely fantastic.
Ironically, Logan’s accomplishments have as much to do with how its subverts the tenants of the superhero/comic book movie genre as it does with its elevating of those elements. Logan’s grim, gritty, and desperate world has far more in common with that of westerns than anything like the Avengers: hell, The shambling older Wolverine that’s slowly wasting away in this film has aching and haunting echoes of Clint Eastwood’s washed-up gunslinger in Unforgiven. The tale that Logan weaves in its story is heart-breakingly bleak: its as much about ol’ Wolvy’s failures and short-comings as a hero, a role model, and a protector as it is about the desperate search for some semblance of redemption for those shortcomings. It’s definitely a refreshing and stunning departure from the typical fare often associated with the Marvel brand. That’s not to say that Logan is a bleak, joyless slog like so many of the DC films: Logan, for as bleak as it is, has a lot of heart. Under its grit, grime, and oftentimes shockingly brutal violence, there is a raw and incredible sense of humanity to all of Logan’s characters and their plights. For all the heart-breaking and sad moments, Logan is balanced out with its share of moments of levity and charm and simple little highs that make its tragic lows are the more beautiful. On the whole, the story of Logan is refreshingly simple: small scale, small yet highly personal stakes, which are immediately identifiable in a way that the often large-scale and highly abstract stakes of most comic book movies are not. But I think its most remarkable accomplishment is the way in which Logan makes not just title character, but everyone around seem more like people than any other superhero movie before it.
Of course, much of what makes Logan so moving are its truly standout performances. Of course, it generally goes without saying that Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart delivered strong performances, but they particularly outdid themselves in Logan. While Stewart worked hard to steal the show with his often impressively multi-faceted portrayal of a tired and truly aged Charles Xavier, it was Jackman’s portrayal of an older and embittered Logan that made for the real show-stealer. Jackman’s performance in Logan was so fantastic because it’s the kind of Wolverine we’ve never really seen: one that’s truly vulnerable, and Jackman bought that vulnerability to life excellently. On scene in particular might have been the single greatest moment of performance not just for Wolverine, but also in the entirety of the X-Men franchise. I would detail it, but it would be kind of a massive spoiler, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. With that said, however, newcomer Dafne Keen’s performance as the young mutant Laura a.k.a X-23 was fantastic as well, albeit somewhat under-utilized given how little she gets to say throughout the film. Still, her performance was surprisingly fantastic in spite of that, and was more than worthy to stand alongside Jackman or Stewart.
With all that said, Logan does still have their problems, minor though they may be. Ironically, for as subversive as Logan tends to be in relation to its peers, it’s still plagued by the same problems that most Marvel films tend to be accused of having: namely flat and one-dimensional villains. That certainly isn’t he fault of the actors themselves, as there’s still some memorable performances in the villain department to be had: Boyd Holbrook’s turn as Donald Pierce is oddly compelling and even a little mesmerizing, his slow, southern drawl and slightly eccentric appearance and motions pleasantly invoked other similarly eccentric and fascinating villains of westerns past, although unlike, say, Anton Chigurh, we’re not given much insight into him as a character or his motivations, so the compelling aspects of his performance are really just window-dressing. Given how compelling every other part of Logan is, this isn’t a huge deal or a deal-breaker, but it is unfortunate that Logan hasn’t broken Marvel’s streak of fairly forgettable villains in spite of its other achievements.
As I mentioned before, Logan is also shockingly violent, although far from inappropriately so. Though Logan’s action scenes are well shot, exciting, well paced, they often served more to me to illustrate how much better Logan is in its quieter moments. The constant yelling and chaos that often ensues in the film’s action sequences can quickly be quite overwhelming, and by the end of Logan you will have definitely had enough of hearing both Laura and Logan yelling their lungs out while stabbing people in every conceivable orifice. Still, these moments don’t feel at odds with Logan’s quieter moments of introspection and study of its characters, and are used effectively overall.
Logan could be the most transcendent super hero film since The Dark Knight: a gritty, violent, and incredibly moving portrait of loss, disappointment, and redemption that, like the many great westerns that it draws from, really does feel like the end of an era. As far as swan song performances go, Hugh Jackman couldn’t have hoped to deliver something better than what he gave in Logan. It may not be the true end of the X-Men in cinema, but Logan is nevertheless a wonderful bookend to one of the most influential film franchises in recent memory.