by Dan T. Badger
My son and I were lucky enough to see Logan in Imax on the night before its “official” opening. It was well worth the minimal effort it took to get the tickets and head out to the Oak Brook theater.
We got there on time (a nice change from the Rogue 1 mix-up) and firmly ensconced ourselves in the seats and awaited the trailers. No red bands this time, a few repeats, and some new ones made up the appetizers. The first looked to be a CGI mess that seemed to rip off Guardians of the Galaxy, Cloud Atlas and The Fifth Element. It is called Valerian and the City of 1,000 planets. It stars Dean DeHaan but that doesn’t look to make it salvageable. Pass. Next up was the latest installment in the aforementioned Guardians and Planet of the Apes franchises. I will be seeing both. Guardians looks slightly stronger, but both are worthy of your hard earned entertainment dollars.
The newest Spiderman looks like fun as well. I have seen everything wall crawler related and I will keep my streak going with this. one. Next was the Fate of the Furious or F8 of the Furious if you prefer. We are up to 8 in this franchise and no one seems to mind. I will wait for cable. Next was The Mumm. I left out the Y deliberately, because i see no reason Y it was made. Next up was Kong: Skull Island. It has Creedence Clearwater Revival on the soundtrack, Samuel L. and John C. Reilly as Randy Quaid. I will guilty pleasure the hell out of this.
Then we had the IMAX leader and the beginning of the main attraction. Or so we thought. I will keep this review spoiler free, but have fun with the first two or three minutes of Logan. It has some pressed ham, a few fanboy in jokes and theme music from two old favorites: Superman and True Romance. If you need an explanation, let me know.
As for the movie itself, well, let me digress. As a fan of movies and the iconic characters that populate them, I have had the pleasure of watching some magnificent performances. Some actors simply embody the role they play. Clint Eastwood’s Josey Wales is one example. I can’t think of him in any movie without seeing that performance underlying it. Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca is another example. Rick Blaine was effortlessly cool and tough throughout that movie.
Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday made me want to have tuberculosis so I could leave all the fucks behind and focus on being the baddest dude in a town full of badasses. Each of those three examples were one shots. A single film with excellent characterization and a mythical every-man quality to them.
Then there sources of debate like Heath Ledger v. Jack Nicholson where two titans battle for supremacy in the same role. (I am Ledger man if that matters to you).
Indiana Jones, Rocky Balboa, and Michael Corleone are roles where the character was mostly strong but had some weak moments.
I could have done without Godfather III, Crystal Skull and Rocky V. Then there is Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Even when the movie overall was weak, he was great as the brooding half savage killer. X-Men 3 and Wolverine: Origins will not make anyone’s “best” lists, but the comebacks he made in Days of Future Past and The Wolverine rewarded the fans’ loyalty. Even his short performance in First Class was fun.
Logan goes beyond that here. It is a real triumph for the character and the actor. Again, this will be spoiler free with the exception that I will assume you saw the trailers. I feel safe doing that because they are misleading. Wolverine is old, but this is not Old Man Logan. The movie is set in the near future and the bad guys have taken full advantage of the advances in technology.
We are shown early on that Logan is doing his best to stay under the radar and dealing with his aging. In case you forgot from the earlier movies, he was pretty much immortal. His “mutant healing factor” slowed the aging process. That’s what let him fight in so many wars. In the opening scenes of Logan, he is slower, less resilient, but a little wiser.
The film does great job setting up the future conflict before we first get to see the next generation of mutants. She is incredible. This could be the strongest young female role since Lyanna Mormont reminded the men who remembered what when it was important.
Like Logan, she is damaged and channels that in her ferocity. Her performance is beyond her age. Her character has been denied pretty much everything and she is persevering. She is fun to watch in action scenes and in calmer settings. This is especially true when the film heads into road/buddy /western genres.
All of the characters play off each other well in these shifts. They have tremendous chemistry together. Logan and Laura, Laura and Professor X, Logan and Caliban all mix well. The established characters’ interactions show the nuances of a lengthy relationship. The interactions with the new players show connections being roughly forged. One of the best exchanges involves this dialogue: “Bad shit happens to people I care about.” “I’ll be fine.”
The villains and the heroes blend well too. Pierce is decent villain. He is condescending and casual in his cruelty. He also vapes. Watching Logan interact with him and the other bads is fun. He tries to show restraint at times for a variety of reasons, but usually fails in that effort.
There are several different antagonists here. The levels of evil and ability of the villains vary as the plot moves along. From high tech and methodical, to greedy and grasping, to mindlessly malignant, the full spectrum is on display. There is one scene that I really liked as the “water subplot” wrapped up. It involved a sense of betrayal and acknowledgement of the toxic nature of being near the mutants. Two characters exchange a few wordless looks that speak volumes. One end of the duo is an unexpected actor who delivers pretty well (spoiler free, so that is all you get, but watch for it, it is some fine acting).
At some points, the plot may seem to meander, but the side quests are worth the time. Characters are explored and developed. And with near impeccable timing, these scenes are broken up with action scenes that are reminiscent of some of the best early X-Men fights. Besides, every buddy movie needs a casino sequence.
Each action scene gives us a nice contrast between Logan and Laura’s abilities and those of the enemy combatants. Hand to hand fighting, gun battles, car chases, and a train dodge keep things moving along.
Logan’s motivations get a good work out as well. Like an aging gunfighter in a western he becomes involved in things he should probably avoid if he wants to see old age. He confronts some stereotypical cowboy movie dilemmas and we even get some ham handed cues to let us know that we should be seeing Logan as the reluctant hero who should ride off into the sunset at the end.
The movie also works well in the way it sets up and meets expectations. We don’t get Chekhov’s gun, but close.
If you like the X-Men franchise or the Wolverine character, you will love this. If you like well paced action, you will love this. The weak points are few. It is graphic in its violence (hence the R-rating), but that is necessary considering the lead characters. The henchmen graduated from the Imperial Stromtrooper Marksmanship School. The end goal could use some more explanation. Other than that, this is worth your time. If the creators are smart, they leave this as the last Jackman excursion into Wolverine territory. He is iconic again. Let it stay that way.