‘Logan’ Review: 2017’s First Best Film of the Year!

Logan transcends its comic book trappings to become a hard-R take on the Western genre for the best film in the X-Men franchise.

Can you believe it’s been seventeen years since the first X-Men film debuted in theaters? It was a kinder, simpler world. People couldn’t have imagined that the comic book film would become a genre as common to audiences as the action film. Universally beloved, Logan aka Wolverine has seen his share of highs and lows. After the pitiful X-Men: Origins – Wolverine the ship righted itself with The Wolverine. Hugh Jackman and The Wolverine’s director James Mangold reteam for what’s touted as Jackman’s final turn as the adamantium-clawed berserker with Logan. Logan is a melancholic paen to the Western with enough blood and gore to redefine what a comic book movie can and should be.

A downtrodden Logan (Hugh Jackman) teams up with Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to deliver the first mutant child born in 25 years to an Edenic place in North Dakota. As the trio struggles to make it there, Logan must come to terms with getting older.

As a character, Logan’s always embodied the lyrics of Bon Jovi’s “Dead or Alive.” He’s a lone wolf who wants to focus on himself and yet his inner sense of goodness precludes that. Here, he’s spent years hiding away after an unspoken event destroyed several members of the X-Men. He works for a limo company ferrying the self-absorbed and the greedy, whether it be young women flashing their breasts or a group of frat boys screaming “USA!” out a car window. The world of 2029 doesn’t look too different from 2016.

Acting as both a capstone to the Wolverine storyline, Logan does a lot to erase the ugly taste left in our mouths from X-Men: Apocalypse. Director Mangold, who co-wrote the script with Scott Frank, take the route of telling a comic book story through the eyes of the Western genre. An extended scene of Professor X watching the Alan Ladd film Shane acts as the signpost for audiences of what to expect; this becomes a fun thing for classic film fans who have seen Shane. Regardless of your classic film prowess, Logan embodies a John Wayne-esque gunslinger seeking one final act of redemption before he hangs everything up. Charles and Logan become the godfathers of the mutant race after its extinction for reasons that remain shadowy, probably for fear of messing up the already tangled timelines.

Looking sufficiently grizzled Hugh Jackman continues to give the role his all. This is a character he’s inhabited for nearly twenty years and he’s just as humorous and acerbic as can be. A third act shift allows him to act as both conscience and unrestrained id, and there are fun callbacks to the things that his character didn’t do from the comics/television series – a great scene with small children shaving his beard provides for a fun reference.

Uninterested in falling into the “bonding” tropes that often happen with the arrival of a child, Logan looks at the character’s relationship with Laura (Dafne Keen) in terms of finding their mutual identities. Logan’s always been a character at odds with his creation. Laura isn’t given a choice, but is created as a living weapon. Logan’s plaintive declaration “don’t be what they made you” calls back to the entire reason for the X-Men’s creation: to allow young people to be who they want to be.

As the young Laura, Dafne Keen is a beast in training. With a glare that will stop you in your tracks, you’ll laugh at her throwing a severed head, but only for a moment. When she goes into full rage, with claws in both her hands and feet, there’s nothing short of pure terror. Her moments with Logan and Charles are sweet and present the softer side of this makeshift family. In fact, the film’s script is its strongest when it focuses on family. Logan, Charles and Daphne spend an evening with a kind-hearted family, giving them a glimpse of a life they dream of, but will never have. The ultimate conclusion to the storyline is a heartbreaking and nightmarish homage to The Searchers that is unforgettable.

In line with its rivals Logan’s villains are as bland and two-dimensional as those in Marvel and DC. The main baddie is Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce, a character with a name so bland it makes sense that the actor kept confusing me with someone else. (I asked several times in my notes whether he was Joel Kinnamen or not.) Richard E. Grant arrives in the third act as the “main” baddie, but his appearance does little more than open the door for spin-offs with another character.

Logan is the first great film to come out of 2017. Jackman and Stewart say goodbye to their roles in the most elegant way possible that will certainly leave you in tears.