2.5/4, 2010s, Action, James Mangold, Review

Logan

Amazon.com: Logan (2017) - Movie Poster/Flyer/Promo Size: 11 x 17 : Hugh  Jackman (Wolverine 3): Posters & Prints

#7 in my ranking of the X-Men franchise.

Outside of Joker, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comic book film so obviously desperate to be taken seriously as cinema as Logan. It ends up caught between genres, though, instead of weaving them together. The serious character study is largely there, though it feels a bit shortchanged, and the exciting superhero adventure ends up playing catchup unconvincingly for long stretches. The clash undermines the whole experience taking what should have been a rather easy layup of a film into something a bit less.

It’s 2029 and something’s happened to the mutant world. No mutant has been born in twenty-five years, Wolverine/Logan is a combination of indestructible and sickly, and Charles Xavier is acting erratic in an isolated location south of the American border with Wolverine and another mutant named Caliban guarding him. Logan is working as a driver, trying to save up enough money for a yacht that he can take Charles on and safely live away from the world, protecting the rest from the deteriorating state of Charles’ mind that turns his ability to freeze people around him into a painful, deadly experience. Into his world comes a Mexican woman, desperate for his help which he brushes off as not his problem. Immediately afterwards, he’s visited by an obvious bad guy, Donald Pierce, with a metal arm, a Texas accent, and a series of questions about the woman.

The woman, Gabriella, worked at a genetics lab in Mexico City where scientists, led by Dr. Zander Rice, were experimenting with children mutants grown in the lab. She, along with some others, broke the children out when Rice decided to liquidate the children, and she has Laura, a mute girl, along for the ride. When Gabriella shows up dead at her hotel after calling Logan there, Pierce shows up to Logan’s remote getaway where Laura has snuck to in Logan’s trunk, and we see the first of the curious decisions by characters that undermine the action of the film. Laura knocks Pierce out with a pipe, and Logan gives the sickly, sun averse Caliban the task of taking the mechanical armed paramilitary soldier out into the middle of nowhere to dispose of, almost like they think he’s dead. Because they don’t ensure that he’s dead or give the disposal to Logan or even just tie him up at the hideout, he gets a chance to connect with his team who are driving towards the hideout and lead the attack while capturing Caliban, who was the ability to track mutants (convenient). All of that is predicated on Logan actively giving bad instruction that goes against what he would probably do, especially after we’ve seen him kill several people in the opening sequence out of self-preservation. I don’t see anything there that would tell me that Logan would be genial in that sequence as opposed to the opening. It’s weird.

Xavier, Logan, and Laura get away in a solid scene that shows Logan completely trashing his limousine to get away, barely escaping by outrunning a train (which is whatever, but enough to sell the idea of them getting away), and head straight to Oklahoma City to rest for a short while before heading out again. They have to wait until Logan can get a new car considering the state of the limousine, and when they wait for just the few hours, Pierce and his Reevers show up, triggering a Xavier event that nearly kills everyone in the hotel before Logan can get to Xavier and give him his medicine. The Oklahoma City sequence feels like this movie where everything gels best. There are moments where characters are allowed to breath, like Xavier and Laura watching Shane in their hotel room. Logan figures out that the location Gabriella wanted Logan to take Laura to was taken from an X-Men comic book (which were taken and expanded from “real” adventures Logan took part in), and he begins to question everything about his mission. The Reevers show up unexpectedly (because they have Caliban) and know exactly where Xavier is, getting to his hotel room while Logan is out, and Logan has to fight the psychic damage in order to exact terrible vengeance on the Reevers in the room. This is the combination of narrative styles that works best in the film.

The rest of the movie is built on bad decisions and coincidences that undermine everything else. The three get away, and on the interstate they almost get run over by an automated eighteen wheeler along with a small farming family pulling some horses. Xavier, after having just barely escaped with his life because the Reevers found them without explanation (which should have been easy enough to figure out considering Caliban), decides that what they need is to spend the night with this innocent family so that Logan can get a feeling of home. And Logan goes along with it. I mean…what? The violence that inevitably gets visited upon this nice family is because of a pair of incredibly stupid decisions, but it’s all at the behest of the movie trying to pursue its thematic goal.

At the heart of it all is that Laura is actually Logan’s daughter through surrogacy and gene manipulation on the part of the scientists. Logan needs family and meaning in a world where he’s lost everything, and Xavier, knowing that he himself is dying and will leave Logan alone soon, understands that Logan needs someone to live for, and here comes this girl who is his biological daughter. The evening, with a nice conversation around the dinner table, is supposed to be that view into the world he could have. It’s a nice idea, I just wish it was better placed in the film. There’s no way these characters should be relaxing at this point. They should be running like they’re being pursued by a paramilitary organization with a mutant sniffing mutant hot on their tails.

Everything goes wrong, including Logan getting himself involved in a water dispute with the farmer’s neighbor (where, honestly, the farmer is in the wrong), when, surprise, the Reevers find them. They send in Weapon 24, a clone of Logan that’s much younger and much more ferocious. The fight is brutal, though it ends with Logan and Laura being the only two left standing at all, and Logan doesn’t finish off Weapon 24, assuming that he won’t survive a wound that looks grievous but considering Logan’s own history of survival would indicate that Weapon 24 will probably be okay with some time. Which, of course, he is.

See, here’s the core of my issue: James Mangold obviously was far more interested in making the character-based story. That’s where all the love went. Almost none of the action is really all that necessary to tell the story of Logan facing his mortality while learning the value of connecting with his daughter at the same time. It’s necessary for some mechanical elements around it (including the death of a prominent character that I feel falls a bit flat because it relies too much on the previous films for the emotional involvement from the audience instead of building the movie up itself). Instead, it feels like the central idea of Logan’s emotional journey was built and then the plot of the impending paramilitary organization was stitched on late without a good amount of time to smooth out the wrinkles.

I can imagine a version of this movie where the paramilitary threat is gone after Oklahoma City, and we just get a focused tale of three people on the run, looking over their shoulders, and finding those small moments on the run to bond, ending at Eden and Logan quietly dying. That wouldn’t be the sort of action spectacle audiences would expect from the first R-Rated Wolverine movie, but it might have been more appropriate to the actual story being told. The only reason that the final action scene happens at all is because an intricate series of coordinates was written out on two separate pieces of paper (an envelope filled with cash for Logan’s services, and the back of a photograph of the children in the lab that we don’t discover until its in the hands of the bad guy) and the bad guy got it in time. The only reason the bad guys keep up is because the good guys let them, essentially.

I’m very much of two minds on this. The action is largely good. The character stuff is largely good. However, they are horribly sewn together to the point that character actions to keep the plot mechanics moving forward veer between making no sense whatsoever and being just outright stupid. That it wants to be taken seriously makes this all the more frustrating because there is a very good movie hidden in here. It’s just not this.

Rating: 2.5//4

10 thoughts on “Logan”

  1. I’ve only seen this once in the theaters so I’m not going to disagree with you too much until I can do a rewatch, but I think you’re missing several things. Like:

    And Logan goes along with it. I mean…what? The violence that inevitably gets visited upon this nice family is because of a pair of incredibly stupid decisions, but it’s all at the behest of the movie trying to pursue its thematic goal.

    Um, because the characters are old! Yeah, ideally they’d keep running, but the point is that they don’t have the strength and energy any more. The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak, etc etc. It’s pretty clear in the film and themes that they just don’t have it in them like the old days. The complaint here would apply just as much as the scene where Logan passes out while driving.

    That wouldn’t be the sort of action spectacle audiences would expect from the first R-Rated Wolverine movie, but it might have been more appropriate to the actual story being told.

    Except the final battle is literally an outward manifestation of Wolverine’s inner conflict that is so on-the-nose I thought it was impossible to miss. (Yet here we are…) I mean why do you think Wolverine’s final foe is a young clone of himself, not Sabertooth or any other classic villain?

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    1. The point about younger Wolverine is a good one, and another point in Mangold’s favor. The images and character stuff is there, and it’s the point of it all.

      But the exhaustion (which does pop up, as you say) seems to get ignored from time to time at important points. Like when Wolverine is willing to not only participate in a fight with the farmer’s neighbors but he essentially picks it. The whole farmer episode feels wrong because they don’t stop out of exhaustion, they stop because Charles likes the idea of playing house. It undermines everything the movie is trying to do there.

      I think the movie needs a script doctor to move some stuff around. Calaban dies in Oklahoma City instead of at the farm, so Wolverine and Charles think they’re free, allowing them the moment to relax at the farm. The Reevers find them through more traditional tracking techniques, and the same action scene takes place (perhaps without the water dispute which feels out of place). The introduction of the young Wolverine needs to take over the antagonist slot in the film, so Logan kills everyone else, barely escaping with his life, and trying to save Charles for a few more moments only to lose him. The Young Wolverine tracks them through his enhanced abilities (smell or whatever) and the final fight near the Canadian border is just between old and young Logan.

      This helps clear up the final act, keeping the border with Canada feeling like magic (“We just need to get over the border and we’ll be safe from the paramilitary organization that’s operating without any rules” never feels convincing), and focusing the fight on Logan’s new outlook with the manifestation of his older self.

      I remember loving this movie when I first watched it. I bought the UHD disc because of that, and then I suddenly sit down to revisit it and my experience is suddenly hobbled by all of these weird narrative choices that undermine a lot. I’m not sure what happened, but this movie has its heart in the right place but doesn’t weave everything together well enough, I don’t think.

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      1. Fair points. I think part of what your missing is that Charles is tired of running in that scene, and “wants to play house” because, after being isolated and alone for so long, he is savoring the chance to be around people again, to relive a taste of what he lost with all his students gone now.

        I do remember thinking some of the script had a problem trying to force certain paradigms into it (as i recall, all the mutant children were also non-white, while all the paramilitary guys were white) but like I said, I’m due for a rewatch before I argue too much with you. Parts of my memory may be faulty. 😉

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      2. I guy Charles’ part of it. It’s not just that he’s tired, but that he’s also in a state of dementia. Him insisting on staying fits, it’s Wolverine’s side of it that I don’t buy. I also have a bit of a problem with the movie inviting this massacre on an innocent farming family, and once Wolverine and Laura have left the farm they never think about them again.

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      3. My grandmother had dementia so I guess I can see Wolverine’s side of it. Even before that he’s always had difficulty refusing Xavier. And when you have those moments where the person you’re caring for is doing well…

        Like I said, I can buy it quite easily.

        No argument about the innocents though. It’s been a bit of a struggle for every superhero movie though. When was the last one I really felt did it right… Superman 2? (Either cut) The Avengers 1 & 2 at least hinted at it.

        Oh the Dark Knight with the swat/hostage scene.

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  2. To make ‘Logan’, Mangold “borrowed” heavily from at least three source materials I’m familiar with: ‘Shane’, the ‘Old Man Logan’ comic and the movie ‘Blood Father’ which came out a year before Logan. Of the three, ‘Shane’ is the best of them but ‘Blood Father’ also ranks above ‘Logan’ and comic.

    I’ve written at length on my webzone about Logan so I won’t rehash that here. But I will say I found the decision to endanger the life of the farm way out of character, like you did.

    I laughed at your description of ‘Canada is Magic’. I had the same feeling of puzzlement.

    I didn’t like the kids, Laura especially. She wasn’t likeable and she was overpowered, an early preview of things to come in comic book movies.

    I DO feel this movie needed to be both an action movie and a drama. To draw on the Western genre, which this movie is trying SO hard to copy, the ‘old gunfighters last fight’ trope is what the movie is going for. You need to have that fight, all the fights, he has to die fighting and in a good cause. ‘The Shootist’, even more than ‘Shane’ is the model here. Sadly Logan fails to reach that level of quality.

    This is a good movie, to me at least. I think you have to take it as given that people have been following Logan and Professor X, it doesn’t work as a standalone movie any more than Avengers: Age of Ultron does. And as an end to a saga, I give it more credit than perhaps it deserves.

    It did not satisfy me, though or make me happy. I didn’t enjoy the film, though I appreciate it. I have no intention of ever watching it again.

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    1. If you’re going to include Blood Father, it feels like you should go back to its main progenitor, The Searchers. This movie really is awash in Western influences, and The Shootist does feel like a more appropriate callback than Shane, I think, considering Logan’s age in this.

      And your point about it not working as a standalone is kind of where the base of all of my problems lie. Not functioning as a standalone in a franchise can work in a more plot driven exercise like most of the Avengers movies and Star Trek movies. However, when turning it into a character driven drama, that undone work within the film itself tends to undermine the overall work.

      @natewinchester ‘s point about Wolverine giving into Charles’ desire to stay with the family only works when you take into account the entire histories of the characters, which seems reasonable. However, because the movie itself (separated by years from the last entry in universe) doesn’t actually establish the actual affection Logan and Charles had for each other before Charles’ mental deterioration, the moment doesn’t carry the right emotional weight. All it feels like is Logan deciding to take a break in the middle of a chase that endangers other people. Thinking of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is another interesting counter example. Laura Palmer’s relationships with most of the other characters are thinly drawn in the film itself, relying on what we had learned from two seasons of television to carry them, but the core of Laura’s story (her relationship with BOB) is so well drawn within that film itself that the short hand for everything else becomes a side issue.

      I kind of feel similarly about Charles’ death. The emotional involvement asked of the audience is so completely tied up in the other movies with Charles being so different from where he had been that I feel very little there. Contrast that to Star Trek II where Spock spent the whole movie proving his worth and friendship to Kirk through action, and his death holds purchase within the singular context of that film itself.

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  3. My basic problem with this one is just that it’s a downer, too heavy of a touch for a super hero movie, missing that fun factor. And that bit with the water just seemed like an unrelated story that was dropped in from somewhere else. It actually reminded me of an A Team episode. A thumb down from me.

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  4. yes it’s dark, logan is about 190 years old, or twice as old as xavier, at the time of the film, pierce seems to be a much more colder version of colonel stryker, who uses his resources and that of the dr. played by richard e grant, to bring the dystopian world there are suggestions this is the prequel to that standalone mutants series, that apparently simon kinberg was a part of, and it wasn’t half bad.

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