Wolverine has been a fan favorite character for many years now – not just in the pages of the comics, but also on the silver screen. However, because of being bound by MPAA ratings and the family-friendly image Marvel has carved for themselves, his true rage-filled nature had yet to be tapped. That is, until now in co-writer/ director James Mangold’s LOGAN. Unlike Wolverine’s previous stand-alone features (X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, THE WOLVERINE), this bolder, badder, brutal chapter humanizes the conflicted antihero, giving him the depth, dimension and darkness we’ve all been chomping at the bit to see Jackman portray. And folks, this is up there with THE DARK KNIGHT and AVENGERS as one of the best superhero films of all time. Just make sure to leave the kiddos at home, because this is for them to discover and appreciate later.
It should speak volumes that Mangold opens on laconic limo-driving Logan (Hugh Jackman) in full-on, bloody beserker mode after an attempted carjacking. This just means he’s got so much more in store. Our beloved adamantium-clawed mutant has grown older, more grizzled and weary, taking longer to self-heal and even longer to GAF. He’s resigned to living out the rest of his days on the Mexican border with two fellow mutants: sun-sensitive Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who’s suffering from dementia and crippling seizures that classify him as a “weapon of mass destruction.” But Logan’s superhero legacy finds him (as it typically always does) when nurse Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) begs him for help escorting her young charge, Laura (Dafne Keen, who SLAYS – literally), to North Dakota. When Gabriela soon turns up dead, and with malevolent, mechanical-handed baddie Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) pursuing the girl, Logan is given no choice but to go on the run.
Mangold, along with co-screenwriters Michael Green and Scott Frank, send Logan on a traditional Campbell-ian hero’s journey. That said, they throw in a few added twists – one being that Logan is reticent to accept his journey throughout a large portion of the film, all while being forced into morally murky areas we’ve never seen him in before. Not only do we see him relating to others in ways never explored on screen prior (like the pseudo parent-child dynamics between Charles and Logan, and Logan and Laura), but the filmmakers also push Wolverine, and Jackman himself, into some risky places with the violence and the character’s vulnerabilities. Here, we feel the tangible weight of his guilt-stricken conscious and his all-encompassing grief over actions he might have set in motion.
LOGAN is less like a “superhero” film and more like an interpersonal road movie with a Western feel. It derides the pedestal ideals, with Logan barking that comic books are “ice cream for bedwetters!” While the relationships feel as textured as those in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and the narrative backdrop has the wafting scent of CHILDREN OF MEN, it helps that they equate Logan to that of the titular character in SHANE. From the narrative similarities, to the nuances Jackman adds, to Charles and Laura actually watching it in the hotel, the filmmakers draw multiple parallels to the classic Western masterpiece. Without giving too much away, there’s also a force that’s equally as unrelenting and unstoppable as the T-1000 in T2.
Suffice to say, every emotional moment – whether that be shock, awe, elation or sadness – is earned. Not many Marvel movies can say this. It’s absolutely brilliant how they handle tonal shifts all within the context of their alternate reality.
What works best about LOGAN is that it combines the intimacy of a drama and the epic action you come to expect out of “superhero films.” When all is said and done, it’s so transportive and immersive, it will bring tears to your eyes as you feel exactly like little Joey in SHANE, desperately crying out to a hero who doesn’t hear you.
LOGAN opens on March 3.