Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 10, 2017

Finally, a great X-Men movie

For some people, life is over before it starts. For others, it goes on for too long. The first glimpse of the tired and broken Wolverine in “Logan” suggests he should have died many years ago.

His body wouldn’t let him, though. It stitched every wound, spit out every bullet and rebuilt the ruined parts again and again. Some would consider this to be a gift. But for Logan, it merely prolonged the battle and the slow march to death.

No matter how many enemies Logan defeated, new ones always sprung up in their place. So it is as “Logan” opens. There’s another battle to fight, only this time, his body won’t knit itself back together.

The adamantium bonded to his bones decades ago is poisoning Logan and turning him into a husk of his former self. Just as painful are the memories of the deaths of the mutants that once made up his family.

One of the mysteries of “Logan” is how they died. The script by writer and director James Mangold drops hints, but don’t expect it to hold your hand. You’ll have to listen closely and think it through.

At least Logan isn’t alone. Professor Xavier survived whatever happened, although death would have been a mercy given his condition. He’s there, mentally, but just barely.

Logan and the professor live off the grid in an abandoned smelting plant held together by rust, with the former making daily trips into a nearby city to earn a few dollars driving a limo.

The world is indifferent to their plight. Set in the near future, “Logan” presents a version of mankind that’s teetering on the edge of crumbling.

In time, an 11-year-old girl – Laura – joins Logan and the professor. Her caretaker, a Mexican woman, tracks down Logan and asks him to take the girl to a place called Eden. Bad men – perhaps some of the worst men to populate an X-Men movie – want to find and capture her.

Who Laura is and the reasons those men want her make up the tiny bit of plot Mangold stretches across two hours and 17 minutes, so I won’t spoil any of it here.

Clearly, “Logan” is not a typical X-Men movie. Gone are the bright colors, glitzy special effects and wise-cracking heroes. The relentless violence that fills the movie is brutal, bloody and inhumane. Gore is splashed on the screen in buckets and Wolverine spews every f-bomb he grudgingly swallowed in the PG-13 X-Men movies.

“Logan” is also a gloomy affair, although Laura provides a ray of hope, even as she’s ripping open throats with the ferocity of a rabid beast. But for the most part, the film piles death upon death and misery upon misery, until even “The Road” would seem cheerful in comparison. At least the movie has a consistent tone.

But this final Wolverine film starring Hugh Jackman is also brilliantly written and directed and serves as a proper dénouement for a character who has always deserved a film this good.

Mangold directs “Logan” like he wishes it were a Western. The Wolverine has spent a lifetime following the lonely code of the fugitive and running from who he is, and the killing he’s done has ravaged his body and soul. Then there are the stark, barren landscapes Logan hobbles across in his attempt to escape. The characters in the film even watch “Shane” on TV in case the audience misses the point.

Despite the slightly overworked references, Mangold directs with a confident hand. From the adrenaline-fueled escape from the smelting plant to the brief respite Logan, Professor X and Laura have on a country farm before the war finds them again (in the form of a ferocious Wolverine clone called X-24), he discards the comic book movie conventions that saturate every super hero film and gives “Logan” a stark and relentless realism.

Mangold does this while keeping the growing bond between Logan and Laura at the center of the film. Logan has always denied who he is, and Laura gives him a final shot at being true to himself. For all its viscera, a deeply human heart quietly beats in the chest of “Logan.”

Jackman, who has appeared as the Wolverine in nine films over 17 years, throws everything he has into his final performance as the character. He has proven himself to be a considerable actor in other films, and he finally proves himself to be an extraordinary actor in “Logan.”

Every person the Wolverine has killed, every moment of excruciating pain he has suffered and every devastating loss he has endured can be seen in Jackman’s eyes and stiff, aching movements, and heard in the words that spill out of his mouth like gravel.

There have been good X-Men movies, but not a great one. “Logan” changes that. I was especially struck by the final shot, which has a poignancy rarely found in films sourced from comic books and graphic novels. Never have the words “The End” been more unnecessary.

For some people, life goes on too long. I’m glad Logan hung on, though, and gave us an unforgettable final chapter in his story.

3.5 of 4 stars