Friday, March 3, 2017

Movie review -- Logan

logan movie poster

Huh, check me out . . . another review of a movie out in current release. Who'd a thunk it?

Through the years of my blogging, I've railed long and loud about the horrible job movie studios have done bringing my favorite comic book title to the big screen. And along with that, the ridiculous, neutered version of Wolverine that has appeared in the various films. With Hugh Jackman looking to end his run as the legendary mutant, screenwriters James Mangold and Scott Frank dipped into an alternative reality storyline known as Old Man Logan featuring an aged Wolverine and took bits of that to make this film.

Fyi -- spoilers in this review

In the establishment sequence of the film's opening, we get our first look and sense of just how worn down Logan is from a lifetime of battles. He awakes in his car to the sound of someone banging around outside. A group of Chicanos are attempting to steal the rims off his vehicle. Logan staggers out of the car, his ankles buckling, he's barely able to support his own weight. The thugs aren't impressed and blast him with a shotgun. It takes a minute, but Logan drags himself off the ground and confronts the thugs. Despite unsheathing his claws, Logan gets the sh*t beat out of him -- he's slow and awkward, no longer the deadly fighting machine he once was. But lying on the ground as the thugs literally try to stomp him to death, his berserker rage finally kicks in.

And when it does, we see why this movie got an R rating. He kills them all and in just exactly the way you might imagine someone with unbreakable razor sharp claws would do the job. It's bloody and gorey and a bit cathartically pleasing to long time fans who have tired of watching the comics most feared fighter get his ass kicked regularly in the previous movies.

We learn that the year is 2029. Mutants are all but wiped off the face of the earth, there hasn't been a new mutant born in years. Logan muses that though Professor X had always taught that mutants were God's gift to humanity, perhaps they were simply God's mistake . . . and maybe now that mistake is being rectified. Also of note is that existing mutants are being killed off as well. The reasons for both of these events is revealed later in the movie, and there is nothing divine about who is doing it or why. It is against this background that we see Logan is now living in the southwest under a fake name and trying to earn a living as a gypsy limo driver. We also learn he's trying to save up enough money to buy a yacht. The reasoning is revealed in a trip south of the border to Mexico..

Logan has Charles Xavier/Professor X, and Caliban holed up in an abandoned industrial facility. Xavier, whose mind is considered a weapon of mass destruction by the government, has degenerative brain disease and suffers seizures that cause devastating effects to a large area around him and require him to be constantly medicated. The yacht is for the three(?) of them to hide out on for the remainder of their lives. Somewhere safe for them and somewhere to keep Charles' dangerous mental/psychic outbursts away from innocent people.

Logan's attempt to live under the radar ends though as a mercenary type with a mechanical hand and annoyingly smug attitude accosts him, looking for a woman he claims has something of his. Soon afterward, this woman, a nurse, finds Logan and begs him to take her and her daughter to North Dakota. Logan refuses initially, but relents once she offers him nearly $50,000 for his services.

But it turns out the "daughter" is in fact Laura Kinney and as Logan soon finds out, she is no ordinary child, but rather part of a government experiment to create mutant killers. Her designation code is X-23. Laura is who the mercenary is tracking, and in short order, he and a large group of heavily armed mercs are after Logan, Professor Xavier and Laura.

The film proceeds along this fairly basic track of Logan and company running and the mercs chasing, with a surprising number of amazingly brutal fight sequences worked into the narrative. While Logan is a shadow of his former self (as is Prof. Xavier), Laura is an astonishingly effective weapon. She goes from zero to full berserker in the blink of an eye, and kills more than her share of bad guys along the way.

The X-23 character is supposed to be around 12 years old in the movie, and tiny Dafne Keen is a wonder in the role. She reminds me a bit of Asa Butterfield in Ender's Game, as she has an incredible ability to put on a menacing glare that is in stark contrast to her youthful appearance otherwise. And with her petite size, the filmmakers were able to use more gymnastic type movements in her fight sequences that are truly breathtaking.

I had wondered previously if this movie version of X-23 would include the foot claw seen in the comic version:

X-23 laura kinney

It does. This allows Laura to fight with both hands and feet, making her a blur of mayhem when she fights.

As mentioned, Logan, Laura and Xavier head for North Dakota. Is where they are going real? Or is it just a happy story the nurse told Laura and the other children in the facility to give them hope of a better, free life somewhere else? And can two worn out old men and a little girl make it to their destination with an army of mercenaries bearing down on them along with another, much more powerful mutant weapon, X-24, in their arsenal?

Along the way, we see some warmth between Logan and Xavier, and some instances that show that underneath the gruff and angry Wolverine exterior is still the guy that wants to help and stand up for those who need a hero. Jackman does a great job of playing Logan as a cranky old man, burdened with the memories of friends lost and enemies killed. And the mystery of what happened to the X-Men -- the comic book series has one answer. But when Logan and Charles talk about events at the mansion another more terrible possibility seems to be suggested.

There's also a bit of meta at work as we see that Laura has a bunch of X-Men comics. Logan points out that the comics are bullsh*t . . . but only partly, saying the writers took events that really happened and made them more fantastic for public consumption. I thought that was a nice touch.

This movie is Jackman's farewell tour of Logan. The finale isn't happy and there are a number of unhappy moments throughout the film as it is obvious that the studio is ending more than a couple of character chapters here and opening some others. If you're looking for a feel good ending, you're not going to get it. But if you're looking for a hard driving coda for a ruthlessly underserved comic-to-movie character, I think you'll like this film.

Be advised, this is an R rated film for good reason. Lots of killing and brutal wounds and mayhem. Also a brief flash of female bosom in the early going. Other than that, no sex or nudity, but enough bad language to more than make up for it.

Did you find this review helpful? Check out my other reviews for my thoughts on the flicks and the occasional gallery of hotness that accompanies them:

fyi, there's no post credits scene in Logan, so don't waste your time sitting around in your seat after the film is over unless you really want to check out the credits. There is, however, a pre-feature scene featuring Deadpool that I won't ruin for you. It's pretty funny, but not the laugh riot I've seen some reviewers claim it is.

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