There have been highly praised comic book films in the past, such as X2: X-Men United, Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers, and while the accolades for those films were all well deserved, each was trying to appeal to a fairly broad audience, limiting the depth of storytelling. Logan does not have that limitation, and as a result, we are treated to a more poignant, touching, and violent comic book film than we have ever seen.
Logan’s R rating definitely allowed for a much more realistic (and graphic) take on Wolverine, but more importantly, it allowed for more mature storytelling. The previous X-Men films have established a certain bond between James “Logan” Howlett (Wolverine) and Professor Charles Xavier, but Logan really explores their father son relationship, which has grown into something that is both beautiful and ugly. Charles, still the most powerful telekinetic mutant on the planet, is now a nonagenarian with dementia, suffering from seizures that can be fatal to anyone that is near. Charles is looked after by a withered and aged Wolverine, whose own powers, as well as his health, are failing. Far from their days as X-Men, both are just trying to survive. Logan has begrudgingly taken on the role of Charles’ caretaker, working as a limo driver just to make enough money for Charles’ medication. It’s fascinating to watch a character whose bitterness toward his own deteriorating health is (marginally) subdued by his obligation to care for someone to whom he owes so much. Great performances are rarely the praise a comic book film receives, but performances are the driving force of Logan, with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart both delivering the best of their careers. Newcomer Dafne Keen also brings a particularly strong performance as Laura, the young girl whose powers (and rage) rivals those of Wolverine. Given the fact that Laura is primarily a mute, the role required a young actress that could internalize, which Keen does very well.
Logan and Charles’ relationship is incredibly dynamic, and could easily have been the basis for the entire film, but it wouldn’t be an X-Men film without action, which Logan delivers in spades. Considering how character driven the film is, there is a fair amount of fight scenes, each as incredibly choreographed and bloody as the last. When two of the main characters are fighting machines sporting razor sharp claws, this is to be expected, really. As the previous X-Men films were family friendly, we have never really seen Wolverine let loose (even the much praised “berserker” scene in X2 is completely sans blood), but boy does he ever here. There is more than a few severed limbs and/or heads, giving further justification of the film’s R rating.
The tone of the film is very much in line with a classic western (the 1953 western Shane actually plays a small part in the script), with echoes of Clint Eastwood’s The Outlaw Josey Wales and The Unforgiven. I was reminded of Batman Begins in that it is a genre film disguised as another genre film. Batman Begins is essentially a mob crime film that happens to feature comic book characters. The same applies here. Logan is essentially a character driven modern day western that happens to feature comic book characters.
If I have one complaint with Logan it’s with it’s length. I’d say the film a about twenty minutes too long, and the third act slows a bit too much, resulting in a slight shift in tone. The shift in tone is not quite to the extent of the third act in The Wolverine, but it’s noticeable nonetheless. This is a minor issue, however. Logan is not just an incredible comic book movie, it is an incredible film period. I do not believe it to be hyperbole to say that Logan could receive consideration come award season later in the year, provided too much time hasn’t past. When the second trailer for Logan was released, I stated that Fox should end the entire X-Men franchise here, and after having seen the film, I firmly stand by that. This will be a difficult film to top.