Logan is an interesting concept in the current climate of comic-book movies. A Marvel property under the 20th Century Fox banner that breaks the PG rating mould but makes dark, heavy drama work to the strengths of the material. No universe building or reliance on continuity, but no remake or origin story. The least “comic-book movie” of comic adaptations and yet one of the best movies about a comic book.
Logan isn’t a movie of the Old Man Logan mini-series, but in the same way Old Man Logan and so many other great comics have, it steps outside the established continuity to tell a great story with established characters. Logan is a brilliant send-off to the Wolverine character that Hugh Jackman has tirelessly portrayed for the last 17 years, a solid self-contained movie that satisfies with a legitimate plot arc and ending rather than a teaser or tie-in for what’s next on the release schedule.
Even though Logan isn’t entirely faithful or accurate to the comic-book versions of the characters that appear or any particular storyline from Marvel books over the years, as a fan of the comics I loved this movie for taking the most important aspects of those characters and telling a genuine story in a compelling way, which is ultimately all anyone should ask of a movie.
If you haven’t seen Logan yet, stop reading this review and go book your session at the nearest cinema, because it’s time to pop the spoilers and you really should see it for yourself first.
As I’ve already mentioned, this movie doesn’t have the look or feel of the comic-book movies we’re used to, because although it’s absolutely a comic-book movie, it’s not a superhero movie. While it could be argued that the Warner Bros. DC Comics movies aren’t superhero movies either, they’re superhero movies trying not to be superhero movies, which doesn’t really make them anything other than disappointing to superhero fans. By contrast, Logan is shot as a genuine action-drama and if anything the genre it most takes style inspiration from is horror when it comes to the depiction of powers as the supernatural.
The thriller aspects of this film are so well put together that genuine, and at times intense, dramatic tension can be felt for entire sequences at a time. When Logan is dragging himself through Charles Xavier’s mass paralysis, the audience holds their breath, and when the bodies finally hit the floor you can feel everyone around you let out that subconscious sigh of relief.
So too are some of the action sequences styled more as slasher or monster movie murder sprees, with even the violence and death dealt by Logan and Laura depicted as confronting and gruesome, all choices that help build the strong themes of guilt and bloodshed that are central to the film, even for audiences that don’t pick up on the full meaning of the Shane references.
References in this movie are treated with more respect and finesse than most marquee blockbusters, hints that are presented through storytelling rather than spelled out and rammed down the throats of an audience that already got it the first time. The fact that Charles and Logan are on the run because the Professor killed the X-Men and all of the students at the Westchester School is implied clearly enough despite never being explicitly stated.
In terms of comic inspiration, the look and feel of the movie instantly draws comparisons to Old Man Logan, but the plot and character of Logan are vastly different without either interpretation feeling worse off for it. In the movie Charles killed the X-Men and the descendants of the Weapon X program bred mutants out of existence. We only meet Wolverine, Professor X and Kaliban as adults, and the artificially created group of Beyond Thunderdome style children that make up this iteration of the X-23 program. In Old Man Logan it was Wolverine that killed the X-Men, but the world is more dominated by super-powered characters than before, with supervillains outnumbering civilians for the majority of the series. Comic Logan initially refuses to use his claws, movie Logan has no such hesitation, but due to the added complication of Adamantium poisoning we instead see a Logan that is staring down his own mortality for the first time, no longer the unstoppable force he once was. While these are very different characters in that respect, both are well fleshed out versions of a man that has decades of violent history in his past and a bitter and world weary outlook of how everything he once was has failed him and those he loved. In both cases this is a much more interesting character than we often see in comic-book movies, and the story succeeds in providing a character arc of growth and change from that fertile starting point.
Confusing the continuity of the Wolverine (Origins and The) and X-Men (I, II, III, Days of Future Past and Apocalypse) franchises by being set in a world without mutants but little more than a decade from now, I personally think the movie is best taken out of any continuity, as a stand-alone in the style of any mini-series or graphic novel one-shot. With that said the setting is well picked so as to not be so distant that the “real world” becomes unrelatable and distractingly science-fiction, but there’s sufficient space in the timeline for a slightly dystopian feel and major political events to sit comfortably in backstory and distant memory for the characters involved.
Laura, or X-23 (or X-23 23) seems like the biggest departure from the current comics, but when compared to the bad re-imaginings of characters in Wolverine: Origins or Fant4stic she is a breath of fresh air and although a long way from the All New Wolverine that I love, X-23 is true to the origin of the character, a shockingly young girl created from Wolverine’s genetic material and designed to be nothing more than a killing machine. Despite her impressive abilities and combat sequences, the focus always remains on the character development of a young girl coming of age violently after her own version of the Weapon X experiments and the effect she and Logan have on one another. As the character’s creator Craig Kyle once said, Laura is “a samurai sword trying to become a real girl” and although Logan’s arc is the primary plot of this movie, X-23 is beautifully utilised as the dramatic clash of innocence and destruction. Importantly it is the relationship between Laura and Logan that makes this, in my opinion, the most satisfying death of Wolverine ever, comics included.
— Rick Haseman (@RHaseman) March 3, 2017
Ultimately this movie sucked me in from the beginning and had me feeling everything aimed to, so I have to give it full credit as one of the best movies I’ve experienced in some time. Speaking to viewers that aren’t as deeply obsessed with the characters and comics as me, I was glad to hear that when viewed as a stand-alone movie without any knowledge beyond the basic understanding of the usual Wolverine and Charles Xavier characters (as seen in every X-Men movie and TV series) Logan holds up as an excellent action-drama. I’m glad there was no promise of a sequel (although I would absolutely watch X-23 in her own movie) and hopefully this is the high note that Hugh Jackman can go out on, having explored the best of the Wolverine character before his body finally gives out in the attempt to reach that insane level of fitness. #OneLastTime indeed.