Sunday, March 5, 2017
It's unlike any superhero movie you've ever seen. Stunning on all counts, Logan is the first movie from Marvel to hit all the right notes as a real film experience for everyone, and not simply an extension of a comic book. And there have been lots of incredible movies based on comic book characters. But only here do we see the kind of writing, acting, and directing that drops jaws and earns permanent respect.
The emotional content cannot be overstated. The Godfather deals with characters in the mafia. To Kill a Mockingbird has a lawyer and some kids. Logan concerns an aging mutant. One need not be a fan of Wolverine or The X-Men to relate and emotionally invest.
In the near-future, Logan works as a limo driver in Texas, usually carting around rowdy high school kids. He drinks too much. He needs glasses to read. He doesn't wear his trademark mutton chops of old, he doesn't wear spandex tights, and he doesn't hang out with any of the folks with special gifts trained by Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart).
Even so, he still gets recognized. When a nurse from a mysterious facility tracks him down, he resists her pleas to take a young girl (Keen) to safety. For the right price, however, he can be bought.
Meanwhile, strange forces seek this girl. And further meanwhile, Logan seeks his former leader, the aforementioned professor, now living in a state of decline somewhere on the Mexican border.
To preserve the plot, suffice to say that this film takes superhero characters and makes them human in ways bordering on reality to an excessive degree. What happens when the world's most powerful mind begins experiencing dementia? As the aged wheelchair-bound once-leader, Patrick Stewart knocks the proverbial ball out of the park. He's a King Lear for the 21st-century. Floating in and out of cognizance makes him much more interesting than merely being super-amazing at all times.
Similarly, the powers shown by the girl work tremendously on screen precisely because she's not a big strong man with chin in air and hands on hips. So when guys with guns hold up hands and tell her to stop, the visual appeal is that much greater.
It's a violent movie, and satisfyingly so. Yet the special effects serve the story. And more powerful than the action are the characters, for whom we truly care. In fifteen years of writing for this paper every week, I have never once used the word "I" in a review because my subjective opinion is irrelevant, but I do so now in order to say that I learned a lot about writing from this movie, and that's the strongest recommendation I can give.
Hugh Jackman might not win Best Actor for his work. James Mangold might not hold that little statue for Best Director. Stranger things have happened on both counts. Don't be surprised though if the highest levels of formal recognition do go to Logan, after all. Because it really is that good.
Starring Hugh Jackman,
Richard E. Grant,
Eriq La Salle
Directed by James Mangold
Written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green
Runtime 137 minutes