Rated R for violence, bloody images and language including sexual references. One hour, 43 minutes.
Publication date: Feb. 27, 2017
Review by Peter Canavese
“Logan" marks the third and final solo film for the long-running Marvel Comics character introduced to screen audiences in the 2000 film “X-Men." Director James Mangold (who helmed previous installment “The Wolverine") returns, bringing with him a Western sensibility honed on his 2007 remake of “3:10 to Yuma." Screenwriters Scott Frank, Mangold and Michael Green take very loose inspiration from a comic book run known as "Old Man Logan," but only a few plot points carry over: a futuristic setting (in this case, 2029) that ages our hero, his mentor Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and the notions of Logan having a child and a cross-country road trip to undertake. Beyond that, the writers give themselves the freedom to invent.
There's a new corporate "big bad" called Transigen Research, a company weaponizing mutant children. Circumstances conspire to place one of those children -- 11-year-old Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen) -- in the care of ever-reluctant hero Logan, a.k.a. James Howlett, a.k.a. Weapon X, a.k.a. Wolverine.
When Transigen's dirty worker Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his band of Reavers come a-callin', Logan, Xavier and Laura flee for their lives, hitting the dusty road in search of a fabled haven called Eden. The mute Laura suspiciously shares much in common with Logan, most notably adamantium claws and barely contained rage. And so "Logan" becomes an unconventional-family drama with three generations of mutants forced onto a road trip, although “Little Miss Sunshine" this ain't.
A closer analogue is the 1953 western “Shane," which Mangold quotes liberally. The concept of a "modern Western" interpolating machine guns and the like is hardly new, but Mangold plays it to the hilt, and the style suits Jackman's tightly-wound loner (who looks uncannily like latter-day Mel Gibson at times here).
What's best about “Logan" is its chancier approach to a genre franchise picture. Mangold heads in the exact opposite direction from Bryan Singer's tiresome epic spectacle “X-Men: Apocalypse." Although it doesn't go too far out on its mutant limbs -- the brief still prioritizes violent action, here of the brutal, bloody sort found in graphic novels -- “Logan" wears the age of its characters as a badge of pride and an invitation to dramatic ambition. Wolverine and Professor X are shadows of their former selves, fighting off age-related ailments and their sense of heroic teamwork curdled into guilty feelings and strained familial duty.
Jackman and Stewart sink their teeth into material that's often poignant, turning in series-best performances. Mangold, too, finds inspiration in the moments between these characters, framing moving (in both senses) images such as Logan tenderly carrying his father figure up a flight of stairs and to bed. As a comic book film, “Logan" seems certain to please its core audience, especially with its R-rated violence and profanity allowing for pure, uncut Wolverine. For the broader audience, there's a resonant motif in “Logan" that times have changed for the worst, but this dystopian world revives the humanity in these characters, a development that's all for the best.