Associate Arts & Culture Editor
In February, “The Lego Batman Movie” set the stage for 2017’s comic book movies in a big way. If the follow-up, March’s “Logan”, is any indication, 2017 may just be the best year the comic book film genre has ever had.
“Logan”, the third and final Wolverine film starring Hugh Jackman, takes place in the year 2029. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart) are now old enough that Logan’s healing abilities are deteriorating, and Charles has lost control of his psychic powers and is a danger to himself and others. Logan spends his time caring for Charles and working as limo driver, until Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his team of Reavers find Logan’s hideout, and seeks information on mysterious young Mutant Laura/X-23 (Daphne Keen), whose power resembles Wolverine’s.
Other superhero films that have released in recent years have been successful at blending common superhero tropes with those of the others genres like comedy, crime drama, and political thriller. This film, however, can’t be labeled so easily. While the film definitely features a few story beats or conventions which only work in the outlandish world of comic books, those elements are so downplayed in favor of the post-apocalyptic, sci-fi/western format which “Logan” adopts for the majority of its runtime.
Before seeing “Logan”, it may help have at least one (preferably two) of these three films: “X-Men”, “X-2”,or “X-Men: Days of Future Past”. The reason being that the relationship between Logan and Charles in this film will have more meaning for you if you have some understanding of the history the characters have together in the “X-Men” films. However, the characters they play in this film are written to have endured such suffering over the years that they are practically new characters from the ones presented in those three films. Likewise, the story is so removed chronologically from the events of the previous films that you can walk into “Logan” without seeing an “X-Men” film, and still understand the plot. The caveat to that statement is that most of the character motivations, backstory, and driving-force of the narrative are either merely implied or briefly explained, meaning a second viewing may be beneficial to fully understand the film.
Hugh Jackman is magnetic in his final role as Wolverine, and Patrick Stewart likewise delivers a powerhouse performance in his own swansong as Professor X. The script puts their characters through the proverbial ringer, and their gravitas on screen keeps you invested in them every step of the way. Daphne Keen is a revelation as Laura/X-23. She speaks very few lines in the movie—in both English and Spanish—but her subtle body language and on-screen presence allows her to hold her own even when acting alongside two powerhouse veterans.
This film is expertly paced, with skillful direction by James Mangold. The first of only two weaknesses is that this is yet another comic book movie with underwhelming villains. Donald Peirce is a fine antagonist, but you just don’t know much about him or his motivation. Ostensibly, he’s working for the secret villain, but it doesn’t help that said villain just doesn’t have enough screen-time to have much impact on the story or the audience; even less so if you don’t have prior knowledge of Wolverine’s past in the “X-Men” films (not counting “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”).
The other major weakness is that this film is awfully depressing. Several instances of levity and humor throughout aren’t enough to keep “Logan” from having one downer of a scene after another, culminating in perhaps the most depressing of any comic book film ever made.
“Logan” isn’t trying to be a Marvel-esque joy-ride, and the weak villains only Make Logan, Charles, and Laura all the more compelling. Do yourself a favor and check out this one-of-a-kind comic book film.