Friday, March 3, 2017

A Reel Review: LOGAN

Ever since the first X-MEN film hit the silver screen way back in 2000, actors Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have owned their respective roles of the self-healing and metal-clawed Logan/Wolverine and the powerful mind of Charles Xavier/Professor X; turning both characters into household names and elevating them to icon status in cinema. After 17 of our years, the X-MEN franchise has seen many ups and downs, and with LOGAN, both Wolverine and the Professor say goodbye to their characters, and close a chapter on the first generation of the X-MEN in cinema.

The year is 2029. Mutants are on the verge of extinction. Scratching out a living, Logan (Jackman), cares for the bed-ridden and nearly insane Xavier (Stewart), when they cross paths with an 11 year-old girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who has abilities similar to Logan’s. The three set out on a road trip to take Laura to a rumored safe haven for mutants called Eden, while avoiding capture by hired enhanced goons led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who are working for a corporation in the business of creating their own race of mutants.

One of the best approaches to bringing a high-concept superhero from the thin comic pages to the medium of film is to crossbreed it with another genre. Director James Mangold, in his second outing in the X-MEN universe of films, makes his first step a good one in giving LOGAN the sensibilities of an Old West film. These are dangerous times these characters are living in, where travel is filled with peril, resources are thin, and the law is never around when needed. LOGAN is very much like a wagon-train adventure set out across the plains, with the simple plot of getting from one place to another in one piece.

At the center of it all, aside from the future of mutant-kind and the life of a kid, is the new uneasy relationship between Logan and Xavier, which is built like an estranged father and son dynamic. Here, Logan cares deeply for Xavier but is furious at him for some reason, and Xavier is wrought with guilt over some terrible thing he had done in the past. Both characters are in desperate need of forgiveness and redemption, even though they don’t actively seek it. It’s fine character work that gives the film a lot of weight, and its thick enough to resist the strongest of metal claws.

Adding an extra layer of depth to these familiar characters is the burden of old age. Gone is the invincible Wolverine, who is now healing very slowly, hobbles around with a severe limp, and is being internally poisoned by his metal skeleton. Also gone is the quiet and reserved thinking-man of Xavier, who now suffers from dementia and drifts in and out of cohesive thought…while having occasional bursts of mental explosions which threaten to kill anyone around him. To see these two characters suffer in such a way is startling, and in many ways, hard to watch. On top of that, LOGAN wears its hard R-rating proudly; gone are the cartoon-like effects of laser beams and flying characters, and instead we have Wolverine chopping off heads and arms and stabbing enemies in glorious crimson bloodshed. Both Logan and Xavier drop F-bombs and cuss like drunken sailors on a bad (and good) day, all making LOGAN a unique superhero film and not one for the kiddies. The action and fight sequences are outstanding, as is Marco Beltrami’s score.

Acting is superb. Hugh Jackman and Patrick Steward play off each other like the odd couple, and the depths they have to take their characters is jarring to see. As good as they are, the show is really stolen by young Dafne Keen, who displays amazing intensity and a surprising screen presence. And watch out for a cameo in the early goings to bring a few laughs.

As wonderful as LOGAN is, the final 10 minutes may prove to be frustrating for many. The way certain characters finish the film doesn’t feel quite right for them, which may be another nod towards the Western in which no one is guaranteed a proper ending…but there still feels like something was missing in the big wrap, and one has to wonder if a future director’s cut would solve that. There are also a few important plot-threads which are given a ton of time during the film which are not answered completely or at all. It’s a minor gripe, and not nearly enough to completely de-claw LOGAN, for this is a film which stands out from the massive crop of superhero films in style and substance, and a satisfying end to an era.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.