I’ve already expressed my feelings about the superhero genre twice here in my reviews for both Deadpool and Batman v Superman last year, and I don’t want to go on beating a dead horse, unlike Marvel (yes, I went there). The X-Men films were never really a part of my life growing up, and they’ve never really captured my attention even after eventually watching three or four in the series. In fact, I’ve pretty much ignored the last few as they came and went through the cinema until now. So why did I bother with Logan? I’ll be honest: I was curious to see what an R-rated Marvel film that wasn’t Deadpool looked like. Turns out it looks like a Marvel film.
Logan is set sometime after events in films I didn’t see, where Logan/Wolverine is working as a limo driver in Texas, raising funds for himself and two other exiled mutants, Professor X and Caliban, in order to escape to relative solitude. To complicate things, Wolverine’s adamantium skeleton is poisoning him, making his regenerative abilities weak and somewhat ineffective. As he goes about his business, a woman finds him and asks him to transport her and her daughter to the Canadian border, the catch being that her daughter is actually a mutant not unlike Wolverine himself and some very dangerous people are out to get her.
For as much as I’ve neglected to pay mind to the X-Men series, I’ve always found the character of Wolverine particularly interesting and engaging. He’s a character composed of some genuine internal conflict and turmoil, something that’s given him the right to be the intemperate antihero that other heroes are purported to be. It’s because of this that I think the film’s extended, R-rated leash is actually its greatest asset. The brutal violence (and it is quite violent), the profanity, the rawness all complete Wolverine’s character. Logan pulls back the veil and refuses to shroud him in sterility any longer. Blood and swear words aren’t a gimmick here, they are Wolverine at his core.
That lack of restrictions really does serve to elevate a film that is otherwise pretty run-of-the-mill Marvel fare. The characters’ relationships are that much richer, their circumstances that much grimmer, and the film’s appeals to the heart are that much more heartrending. That isn’t to say that it does these things with true excellence, but rather at a higher level of competency. I was interested but never invested, stricken but never moved to tears. I’m sure that’s partially to do with my being on the outside looking in, though, and longtime fans of the series will likely have a more emotional experience here.
The truth still remains that Logan doesn’t escape many of the standard issues that come along with this kind of film. The action, especially at the start, is plagued by frenetic cuts and shaky cinematography, even if it’s slightly more keen to dwell on grotesque moments. There are of course some instances of real inspiration, but they’re outweighed by continual slaying of numerous faceless foes with a hazy understanding of what’s going on. I’m growing increasingly less patient with this kind of action, especially when we have films like The Raid, John Wick, and even the Russo brothers‘ Captain America films as points of reference for a better way to do action in the modern era. The pacing is a bit off, and the mythos at the centre of the plot is presented in a way shallow enough that it’s tough to fully grasp the gravity of situations sometimes, or even who or what exactly certain characters are. The plot, while playful at times, offers no real surprises, instead functioning on an endless cycle of the protagonists moving to a new place, the antagonists finding them, and then a fight breaking out. I wasn’t aggravated or entirely bored by the end, but I’d certainly had enough.
Director James Mangold, who’s worked on a few other films I’ve enjoyed like Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma, has an obvious fondness for Westerns, making a couple of blatant references to the film Shane and using a lot of rugged countryside terrain for the film’s setpiece moments. I would have liked to have seen a more full bore take on the Western with this film, but I imagine the source material and studio puppeteering held Mangold back from such a vision. Still, it was nice to see a bit of his fingerprint here, and it added to the film’s more refreshing aspects.
Beyond that, not much here is really pushing artistic boundaries or breaking any established moulds. The acting is serviceable across the board (the little girl, Laura, played by Dafne Keen, being the lone standout), the photography is standard. Honestly, it really does just feel like a typical Marvel film with an edge that acknowledges that most of its viewers are above the age of 17 to begin with, and it really is that edge that makes it better than most of its peers. Not great, mind you, but better. Hearing Professor X and Wolverine joke around and dig into each other while cursing makes them seem much more human and not so manufactured like everyone else in this universe, and it made me actually enjoy my time spent with them. Logan is a good action film by all accounts that will unfortunately not live long in my memory not because of the risks it takes but because of the risks it wasn’t allowed to take. Adult X-Men fans will lap it up. Skeptics like myself will have an enjoyable afternoon at the cinema and leave with our minds unchanged.