My Rating: 8.5 out of 10
As someone who has never gotten around to watching the original X-Men trilogy, I am always surprised at how good the films from this franchise are. First Class, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse are all within my top 10 superhero films of all time, and now Logan joins that list as well. The movie incorporates many of my favorite storytelling techniques and executes its story almost flawlessly. Like the Dark Knight, Logan approaches familiar movie characters from a new, darker perspective. Like Watchmen, Logan deconstructs those characters and focuses on their relationships with one another to make the film feel realistic. For example, what would happen if the man with the world’s most powerful mind gets a degenerative brain disease due to aging. Unlike Marvel films, that generally avoid dealing with death, Logan is full of suspense since beloved characters could potentially meet their demise at any moment.
My personal favorite films are genre movies that subvert expectations, highlight important and relevant real life issues, flesh out their characters in interesting ways, and aren’t afraid to kill off main characters if doing so makes for a better and more realistic story, while, at the same time, providing the audience with the epic action and excitement that go hand in hand with most genre films. With that said, not every filmmaker can pull this off. For example, many recent DC movies have tried and failed, only to come off as gloomy, nonsensical, or boring. Logan, on the other hand, manages to nail pretty much every single one of these criteria. I think the reasoning for this is that the X-Men movies in general already have a lot of dark undertones and deal with real life issues like acceptance, bigotry, and death. In addition, the nature of Logan (Wolverine) as a character is gritty and violent. It’s far easier to make a brutal R-Rated film about a “hero” with razor sharp claws than it is to make one about Ant Man or even Superman.
In terms of story, I really don’t want to say much. Logan takes place in the near future when mutants have been nearly wiped out and no new mutants have been born in over two decades. All that remains of the original X-Men are Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman) and Professor Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart). While the story is very much connected to the X-Men films that came before, it also exists as a standalone story that can be viewed as taking place in an alternate reality. The fact that the X-Men films have played around with their timeline in the past was another benefit to the writers of Logan, who had more liberty to make lasting changes to the franchise in ways that writers for Marvel and DC would never be able to get away with.
Before I start to get into spoilers, I want to recommend Logan to anyone who enjoys superhero films, the X-Men movies, Hugh Jackman, or powerful stories about human connections. This is a movie that is difficult to watch at times, but even more difficult to dislike. Even if you aren’t very familiar with the X-Men movies up to this point, you should be able to see Logan without being confused. There are a few minor points you may want to look up regarding who Logan and Professor Xavier are, but other than that the plot really stands on its own. In addition, the film doesn’t spell too much out about specific incidents that weren’t shown in any of the other X-Men films, which makes diehard fans of the franchise just as “in the dark” as newcomers.
Instead of being a movie about a powerful super villain that needs to be defeated or some other great force threatening to destroy the world, Logan is a story about relationships, survival, and redemption. In terms of relationships, the main ones in the film are the familial ties between Logan and Professor Xavier and Laura, which are fascinating, heartbreaking, and beautiful. These connections help ground the characters in reality, but also break up the bleakness of the film (along with the action and occasional moments of levity). The idea of family is one that is heavily explored in Logan, such as what it means to be a family. The love between family members is arguably the strongest kinds of love there is, but what defines family is not always clear cut. Logan and Xavier are as close to family as it gets, despite not being related. Caliban was even willing to die for his two friends, despite their relationship being anything but friendly. Logan and Laura are biologically related, but go through most of the film without having a familial connection. There were a few quotes that really stuck with me after the movie, such as: “She is not my daughter, but I love her. You might not love her, but she is your daughter.” and “This is what life looks like. A house. A safe place. People who love each other.”
The survival aspect of the film is obvious, since the entire premise is about Logan trying to get Laura to safety. Whereas the redemption aspect deals mostly with Logan coming to terms with who he is and the life he has lived. Yet relationships are the core of the movie. They allow the characters to choose different paths than the ones they had set for themselves and give the characters an opportunity to change or accept who they are. At the beginning of the film, Logan is fed up with his life and is tired of all the killing. But, by the end, he comes to terms with who he is, understands his purpose, and fights bravely to save Laura and her friends. To truly sell realistic connections and illicit powerful emotion from an audience, the script cannot stand alone, but needs to be supported by phenomenal actors, which this film had plenty of. If this is truly Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal of Wolverine, it was a fine not to go out on.
Overall, Logan was an incredible movie. My only real complaint is that we didn’t get one final scene at the end showing what became of Laura and her friends. The movie was very open ended, which I enjoyed for the most part since it left many plot points up to the imagination, but I feel like a scene showing Laura living a normal life in Canada 5-10 years after Logan’s death would have given the film more closure. While art that mirrors life should be somewhat bleak, I believe it should also provide the audience with a bit of hope. Logan certainly does this in other ways and the fact that we never find out what happens to Laura doesn’t greatly impact the film, but I personally would have liked to have known. If you have a chance, definitely take the time to see Logan.