Getting old sucks. Just about everything about it is awful. Your body stops working like it should. Just getting up out of bed can be a painful, exhausting experience. Aches are just natural and you should do warm-up stretches before you do anything at all. Simple actions that you did without hesitation just five or ten years earlier, things like washing the car or moving furniture, now cause you to pause and question whether it’s really necessary to put out that much effort. And if you get that old and then still have to worry about a parent, particularly one with a physical or, god forbid, mental disability, then you’re really in a world of shit. Remember The Babadook, where an exhausted single mom has to deal with both a troubled child and a monster, but it was the way grief, fear, and child-rearing all intermingled to become the most frightening part of the film? Fear, regret, and guilt form the emotional core of Logan in much the same way, working much more effectively than the obnoxiously in-your-face metaphorical final threat does. Logan‘s director James Mangold was also responsible for 2013’s The Wolverine, which did its damnedest to be the best Wolverine film it could be until it completely broke down in the third act and turned into a steaming pile of CG shit. But up until that point, the script by Mark Bomback and Scott Frank did its best to ground the character and provide a less fantastic approach to what was, essentially, an X-Men movie. I’d argue that it could have been one of the top three X-Men movies out there if that last act wasn’t so bad. Whereas Mangold was brought on board The Wolverine well after the project had been in development, he was still allowed to make it something better than it probably had any right to be. With Logan, he was involved from the very beginning, and it shows. By focusing the film on just three main characters, Logan (Hugh Jackman), Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and the mysterious little girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), Mangold is able to craft the best-structured, best-looking, and best overall X-Men movie to date. But with a resume that includes some truly outstanding films like Cop Land, Walk the Line, and 3:10 to Yuma, that’s to be expected at this point. After the success of last year’s R-Rated Deadpool, Fox gave Mangold the freedom to make a film that didn’t need to water anything down, and while there is a gratuitous boob-shot, the rest of the more adult qualities of the film, particularly the language and the graphic violence feel like natural extensions of the characters and this world. Because it is a bleak and violent world we’re dealing with here. Set five years after the closing scene in X-Men: Days of Future Past (and whether this is the same timeline or not is up for debate), mutants are virtually extinct, with no new mutants being born and the other X-Men being long dead after a mysterious incident at Westchester. The cinematography by John Mathieson makes amazing use of Louisiana and New Mexico landscapes to substitute for Texas, Oklahoma, and eventually North Dakota. This is one of the most beautifully post-apocalyptic-looking films I’ve seen in ages, despite the only apocalypse being a personal one for Logan and the Professor. Poisoned by his own adamantium bones, Logan’s healing ability is fading; he’s aging and feeling all the pain of his 184 years. Xavier is in his nineties and suffering from a neurodegenerative disease, having to stay sedated and medicated in an iron prison that helps keep his psychic powers in check. Because when not in check, Xavier is prone to seizures that can paralyze and eventually kill everybody around him. Logan’s abilities make him one of the only people who can fight through and help him when they happen. Logan is working as an on-call limo driver in Texas, shuttling around privileged and annoying white folk in order to scrounge the cash for back-alley drug purchases to keep Xavier in pills. While the back two-thirds of the film are glorious in their balanced use of violence and character moments, it’s the opening of the film that really drives home just how special Logan is. There’s a lot of talk about how The Dark Knight was a great, “transcendent” superhero movie. That it was Oscar-quality across the board. Granted, it was nominated for eight Academy Awards and brought home two (for Sound Editing and a posthumous Best Supporting Actor for Heath Ledger), but despite being on everybody’s best-of lists, I’ve never been all that fond of it. It’s clearly the best in the Chris Nolan Batman series, but it still has several fatal flaws that I can’t get around (most notably the editing, Bale’s performance, and the social politics, but that’s an article for another time). If there was ever a superhero film that qualified as a potential Best Picture, it may be Logan, but I think there’s a stronger possibility for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nods for Jackman and Stewart (Mangold may also get a Best Director nomination and the music by Marco Beltrami should also garner lots of attention). The opening sequences of this film are like no other superhero film you’ve ever seen, and when decoupled from the violent murders and fantastical powers, are brutally honest portrayals of aging adults dealing with illness and dementia. Jackman hosted the Academy Awards in 2009 (to high praise) but he has only been nominated for one Oscar (for Best Actor in 2013’s Les Misérables) in his career. This may be the year that he brings one home (although it’s doubtful he’ll be asked to host this time around). This Logan (Jackman’s ninth outing in the role) is the most viscerally real performance in any X-Men film (or most other films) you’re going to see. Every movement is expressive either of pain, loss, sorrow, regret, guilt, or an overall exhaustion with every aspect of life. He’s a man ready to die, but he just has too many damned responsibilities to take care of first. He’s not suicidal, really, but he longs for death’s sweet release. And that right there is what getting old is all about. Sir Patrick Stewart has, remarkably, never even been nominated for an Academy Award, but this turn as Professor Xavier may just put him in the running. He’s sardonic and funny when he’s lucid, but he’s painfully frail and delicate when he’s not. When he’s struggling with Logan in the beginning, not recognizing him and not wanting to take the medication that keeps him safe, it’s gut-wrenching – especially if you’ve dealt with dementia before. It’s so goddamn real that it hurts. And later in the film, when he finally remembers the details of what happened at Westchester, his tearful admission of long-suppressed guilt, weak and tired, crying into his pillow, will make your stomach drop and break your heart. Dafne Keen’s portrayal of Laura/X-23 is perhaps the biggest surprise in the movie, as she spends the majority of the film refusing to speak and expressing a brilliant combination of innocence and feral rage that would make seasoned actors jealous. She is so totally committed to the role that she inhabits it in the exact same way Jackman has become synonymous with Wolverine. She explodes onto the screen filled with so much anger and self-determination that it’s hard to believe she’s only twelve years old and this is her first feature film (although she did co-star with her father Will Keen in the television series The Refugees in 2014). She’s an instant star. While the film is bleak and pulls no punches when dealing with guilt, fear, and the inevitability of death, it is also about redemption (which is where the film suffers a bit for being a little too on-the-nose). So while I’m emphasizing the seriously depressing aspects of the film, you can go into the theater knowing that it’s all for the best. Heroism overcomes selfishness, family trumps isolation, and I don’t think there could have possibly been a better way to send off both Jackman and Stewart in these iconic roles. Oh yeah, you will cry. Maybe just a tear, but possibly prepare for outright weeping with one of the most beautifully moving and perfect final shots you’ll see this year. There will still be X-Men movies going forward, don’t worry. But they will have to strive even harder to stand up and be noticed in the aftermath of hurricane Logan. — Paul Brian McCoy – 4.5 stars out of 5 In the hit Broadway musical Hamilton, there is a song called “One Last Time” which contains the line, “We’ll teach them how to say goodbye.” The cast and crew of Logan, the ninth movie to feature Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, says goodbye to his run in what is arguably the best X-Men movie yet. But Logan also sets an example that the Marvel Cinematic Universe should follow when their big actors decide to retire from their roles. Logan is written and directed by James Mangold and places an older Logan in the year 2029. In this strange new world, mutants are near extinction due to a combination of scientific tinkering and a mysterious tragic event. Logan is now a limo driver in Texas taking care of an ailing Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart) with some assistance from Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Everything is going fine until the day Laura (Dafne Keen) shows up in their lives and changes everything. I once argued on my podcast, Ramble On About Movies, that having Logan’s healing ability is the worst power to have and this movie shows why. Logan has lived a long life and the long life is finally catching up to him. Jackman plays Logan as the old cowboy, the man who has seen and done too much in life; some of it good, some of it not good. This portrayal of Wolverine is different from any of his previous performances. This Wolverine is a broken man. He is broken in spirit, body, and mind. He just wants to survive long enough to take care of himself and Xavier. That relationship is the cornerstone of this film, and we see them in a different light. Instead of seeing Xavier as the mentor to Logan, we now see Logan playing caretaker to a sick Xavier. Where this movie shines is in the performances from Jackman, Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen. In other X-Men movies, we have seen Jackman and Stewart play their characters the same way over and over again. Some serious talks here, some one-liners there, and then Xavier tells Logan what he needs to hear. But this time around Mangold gives his actors a chance to act and Jackman and Stewart bring it. We see them take their characters to the next level with depths we haven’t seen before. And Dafne Keen – wow! She literally comes out of nowhere to steal the show. She finds a balance between fierce and innocent in her character. And when you get Keen, Jackman, and Stewart together in a car you get a great dynamic of a daughter, a father, and grandfather traveling America. The emotional connection between these characters is what gives the movie moments of laughter, tears, and wonder. When it was announced that Logan would be rated R I thought, “Does this movie really need to be rated R?” After watching Logan I can honestly say, “Yes. Yes, it does need to be rated R.” Logan gives Jackman the chance to bring the brutality we have always wanted him to bring to the Wolverine character. Unlike X-Men Origins: Wolverine which had some of the worst fights in the Wolverine’s movie career – look at the fight with Gambit – Logan has action sequences you have seen in comics finally brought to the big screen. Blood, limbs, and obscenities fly across the screen, shot and choreographed in ways that make the audiences go, “Ohhhhhhh.” This movie lets Hugh Jackson take the gloves off and use the claws. At this point let me remind you, don’t take your kids. When I first heard they were doing an R-rated Wolverine movie – thank you, success of Deadpool – and were going to base it on Old Man Logan, I knew I wanted an R-rated cowboy/superhero film and that’s exactly what I got. Logan is a breath of fresh air in the Hollywood landscape of all superhero movies, all the time, giving Hugh Jackman the opportunity to ride off into the sunset as the character he first brought to the big screen 17 years ago. I am not ashamed to admit I was in tears by the end of this film, and I hope Kevin Feige watches this and gives stars like Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., and others the proper send off when their times come. Logan is a film that focuses on what we love about the character, gives the actor a chance to shine, and is made with love. — Eric Muller – 5 out 5 stars The Wolverine solo films have not been good movies. The 2008 first film was widely lambasted and while it made its money it was an obvious artistic misfire. The second film, The Wolverine, directed by James Mangold was an improvement even though it had its silly moments and fell apart with a contrived final confrontation. The Wolverine movies were definitely the lesser, unworthy sidekick to the X-Men franchise, and this was a franchise that recently suffered from the near abysmal Apocalypse. Mangold returns for another Wolverine sequel but I was cautious. And then the cheerfully profane Deadpool broke box-office records and gave the Fox execs the latitude needed for a darker, bloodier, and more adult movie that’s more interested in character regrets than toy tie-ins. Thank goodness for the success of Deadpool because Logan is the X-Men movie, and in particular the Wolverine movie, I’ve been waiting for since the mutants burst onto the big screen some seventeen years ago. It is everything you could want in a Wolverine movie. In the year 2029, mutants have become all but extinct. Logan (Jackman) is keeping a low profile as a limo driver and taking care of an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) south of the border. Xavier is losing his mind and a danger to others with his out-of-control psychic powers that need to be drugged. Caliban (Stephen Merchant) is also helping, a light-sensitive mutant with the ability to innately track mutants across the globe. Logan is ailing because his healing power is dwindling and he can’t keep up with the steady poison of his adamantium bones. A scared Mexican nurse tries to convince Logan to help out the little girl in her care, Laura (Dafne Keen, feral and a better non-verbal actor). She’s an angry, violent child and built from the DNA of Logan. She too has unbreakably sharp claws and a healing ability. Bounty hunter Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) is trying to recapture the runaway merchandise/science experiment, capturing Caliban and torturing him to track his prey. Logan goes on the run with Xavier and they try to make sense of what to do with Laura, a.k.a. X-23. They’re headed north to Eden, a hypothetical refuge for mutants to sneak over into freedom in Canada, and along the way are deadly hunters who aren’t afraid of leaving behind a trail of bodies to get their girl back. It feels like it shouldn’t have taken Jackman’s reported final outing for the execs to realize that a guy with freaking knives attached to his hands might be a concept that would work in the more grisly, more adult territory an R-rating creatively affords. It’s about time this man got to fully use his claws, and it was a joyous explosion of violence and gore built up for fans such as myself for a long time coming. It feels like Fox has been planning for this event as well, as if they stationed a production lackey to devise all sorts of grotesquely fun ways that Wolverine might skewer his competition in bloody beauty (“Finally, your preparation will not be in vain, Ronald”). There’s one scene in particular where a bunch of armed henchmen are psychically frozen in place and Logan struggles to move past each, and we get to anticipate just how each one will be viciously stabbed. For a series that has shied away from overly gory violence, Logan certainly celebrates its new opportunities with bloody glee. The fact that the first word spoken is an f-bomb and there’s a gratuitous moment of drunken sorority girl boob flashing is like the producers trying to directly communicate to the millions of ticket buyers and saying, “Hey, we’re sorry it took so long. Hope it was worth the wait.” Oh, dear reader, it was worth the wait. It’s not just the action that’s invigorating but the emotional core of the film is deeper and more compelling and ruminative than ever before, and finally these great actors are given material to deliver great performances worthy of their talent. Stewart and Jackman have never been bad in their respective roles even if and when the movies have been. They just have never been called upon for much more than genre heroics, anguish, and pained moral dilemmas. With Logan, both actors are finally given meaty material that affords nuance and ambiguity, and they are excellent. Charles Xavier is losing his battle with Alzheimer’s and ALS, which is a major concern when his mind is considered a weapon of mass destruction by the government. He’s going through his own end of life deliberations (“You’re waiting for me to die,” he groans at Logan) and it brings out a far different Xavier than we’ve ever seen, even with the youthful cockiness from James McAvoy. This is a cranky, defiant, and doddering Xavier, someone who is barely outpacing his sense of grief, guilt, and depression. There’s a tragic back-story we only get a glimpse of but it’s suitably devastating for a man who has devoted his life to others. He’s looking for a few last moments of grace and looking to hold onto something by journey’s end. Thanks to his healing ability and the star wattage of Jackman, there was little fear that anything serious would ever befall Wolverine in his many previous film appearances. Sure bad things happened to him and he lost plenty of female love interests, but you never feared that he wouldn’t be able to ultimately handle himself. That’s not the case in Logan, which opens with a Wolverine who has clearly lost more than a step or two. He’s tired, rundown, and his adamantium skeleton is slowly poisoning his body. His healing powers are slowing down and he’s not as berserker fast and agile as he used to be. For once there’s an uncertainty attached to the character – and a vulnerability. This turn greatly increases the intensity of the fight sequences and the greater stakes of the drama. The comparisons of the samurai were rife in The Wolverine and now the comparisons to the aging, lone gunslinger are ever-present in Logan. He’s drawn into a conflict that he was not seeking and he’s found a little bit of his remaining humanity and compassion to do right in the face of overwhelming odds and near certain destruction. There’s a subtle moment that the film doesn’t even dwell on that stuck with me. It’s after an accident, and in the thick of confusion, Logan is trying to save his mentor but he’s also worried that Xavier will think he betrayed him. “It wasn’t me,” he repeats over and over, not wanting this man to suffer more. It’s a small moment that doesn’t get much attention and yet it really spoke of their relationship and the depth of feeling during these fraught final days. This is the first Wolverine movie that feels like the characters matter as human beings just as much as purveyors of punching and kicking (now with gruesome slashing at no extra cost). Jackman showcases more than his impressive physique this go-round; he delivers a wounded performance that’s built upon generations of scars that he’s been ignoring. It’s the serious character examination we’ve been waiting for. I also want to single out Merchant (Extras) who gives a performance I would never have anticipated from the awkwardly comedic beanpole. He even gets a badass moment and I would never have thought Stephen Merchant would ever have a badass moment in life. Mangold’s film plays as a love letter to Western cinema and uses the genre trappings in ways to further comment on the characters and their plight. This is a bleak movie. It’s not a dystopia. In fact, it resembles our own world pretty closely with a few technological additions; automated machines and trucks, the common knowledge that mutants have been wiped out like the measles. Knowing that it’s reportedly the end for Stewart and Jackman playing these characters, I was anticipating the film to strike an elegiac chord. His past and legacy are catching up with Logan. He becomes an unlikely guardian to Laura and explores a fatherhood dynamic that was never afforded to him before. The unlikely partnership, and it is a partnership as she’s a pint-sized chip off the block of her tempestuous father, blossoms along a cross-country road trip to a paradise that may or may not exist, while desperadoes and powerful black hat villains are out to impose their will upon the weak. This is explored in a leisurely pit stop with a working class family (welcome back, Eriq La Salle) that welcomes Logan and his posse into their home. We get a small respite and learn about greedy landowners trying to pressure them into giving up the family farm. It’s completely reminiscent of something you might see in a classic Western of old, just transported to a new setting. There’s even an extended bit where Laura watches 1953’s Shane on TV, and when those final words come back in expected yet clunky fashion, I’d be lying if they didn’t push the right emotions at the right time. But when it comes to action, Logan more than satisfies. The action is cleanly orchestrated by Mangold in fluid takes that allow the audience to readily engage. The film doesn’t go overboard on the Grand Guignol and lose sight of the key aspects of great action sequences. There’s a refreshing variety of the action and combat, and the action is framed tightly to the characters and their goals. It makes for an exhilarating viewing. If there is anything I would cite as a detriment for an otherwise incredible sendoff, I think the movie peaks too soon action-wise. The emotional climax is definitely where it ought to be (tears will be shed whether you like it or not) but the third act action doesn’t have quite the pop. Also, while Holbrook (Narcos) is an entertaining and slyly charismatic heavy, the villains in the movie are kept relatively vague as is their overall plan. The vacuum of villainy is kept more one-dimensional, which is fine as it allows more complexity and character moments to be doled out to our heroes, but it is a noticeable missing element. One of the best attributes I cited from last year’s Captain America: Civil War is that the full weight of the character histories was felt, giving real emotional stakes to all the explosions and moralizing. When our characters went toe-to-toe, we felt a dozen films’ worth of setup that made the conflict matter. Logan carries that same emotional weight. We’ve been watching Wolverine and Professor Xavier for almost two decades and across nine films. These characters have gotten old, tired, and they carry their years like taciturn gunslingers looking for solitude and trying to justify the regrets of their lives. It’s a surprisingly emotional, serious, and altogether mature final chapter, one that provides just as many enjoyable character moments and stretches of ruminative silence as it does jolts of gritty, dirty, hard-charging action and bloody violence. It’s as much a character study as it is a superhero movie or Western. I cannot imagine this story as a watered down, PG-13 neutered version of what I saw on screen. This is a movie for adults and it pays great justice to the characters and the demands of the audience. The final image is note-perfect and can speak volumes about the ultimate legacy of Wolverine and by extension Xavier and his school for gifted youngsters. Logan is the second-best X-Men movie (First Class still rules the roost) and a thoughtful and poignant finish that left me dizzy with happiness, emotionally drained, and extremely satisfied as a longtime fan. (This review originally ran on Nate’s own review site Nathanzoebl. Check it out for hundreds of excellent reviews!) — Nate Zoebl’s Grade: A- Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response John E. Meredith March 6, 2017 Agreed with you all, completely. While the X-Men movies have all been enjoyable enough (other than the weak rendition of Phoenix in the third), none of them has fully felt like the mutants I grew up reading. Jackman’s Wolverine always came the closest to what I wanted, and in his final outing he shines. Even though weakened and defeated, this is nonethless the Wolvie I always wanted to see. Vulgar, brutal, and dark. If only all of the X-Men movies could have had a touch of this. Studios have to stop thinking, since something originated in comic books, that it must be comic-booky. Most readers, while still wanting some bombastic, also want the subtle, the characterizations, and the pathos. Why the hell do they think we read them anyway? Thank you all for your perspectives on this great flick. 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