Trying so hard for the R. It's everything I feared about a studio making a lot of money off of an R-rated movie.
DIRECTOR: James Mangold
This is the most off topic intro to a review ever. This has nothing to do with the film, but I feel like I need to say it. I saw my first RPX/D-Box/Rumble-seat/Whatever-your-local-brand-of-special-edition-chair movie with Logan. It wasn't bad. It wasn't twice the price good either. It's a subwoofer under the chair. That's pretty cool. It made bullets scary again. Car doors were also creepy. Also, THAT scene with Professor X? Awesome. So my review for chairs: Chairs are good, but expensive. Good night, everybody!
Let's be very clear regarding my feelings on Logan. I was more hyped for this movie than I've been for a superhero movie in a long time. That first Johnny Cash trailer? Gorgeous. Blew my mind. The reviews for this movie are off the chain. What did I think? It's a really good movie, but it does not live up to the hype. There are so many things that really work in this movie, but there are so many things that just hit "meh" levels. I keep throwing movies under the bus for not being perfect and I really understand that it is nearly impossible to get a perfect movie. It's March! March! This is the perfect season for the B+ movie. (Sorry, Villa Failers. B+ is very good.) Logan is a great B+ movie. I really like it. I'll watch it multiple times. But we need to stop comparing things to The Dark Knight. It keeps getting my hopes up to an unreasonable level. Now I really wish that I went into this movie blind because this would have been an amazing welcome surprise.
The first real beef with this movie is what I mentioned in my "R-Rated" section. Deadpool crushes the box office and exactly what I knew would happen, happened. Do I think that an authentic Wolverine movie would thrive in an R-Rated environment? He's a superhero who stabs people to death and has anger management issues. Yes, an R-rating is appropriate for the character. But I hate the logic that we're going out of our way to make a movie R-Rated. Why can't the movie simply speak for itself? The first word out of the movie is an f-bomb and the first twenty minutes napalms the ground with the f-word. In my playwriting class in college, I submitted something with a ton of vulgar words. It made me feel edgy. What I quickly realized upon first submission is that it just made me sound juvenile and sophomoric. (Only a responsible adult in charge of the youth of America would properly use the word "sophomoric".) James Mangold...never had that self-awareness. Man alive, Logan just keeps swearing and swearing and swearing. I'm pretty sure Stab Man has earned an R-rating from all the head stabbing. You really don't need to have Logan show how grizzled he is with all of the language. I feel like a Puritan here, but it's literally that much swearing. It's Boondock Saints swearing. (I didn't mean to lash out like that. I'm sorry.)
The movie is also pretty dour. It looks that way from the trailer. I had no reason to be surprised. While there are some smirks, the movie almost never outright goes for jokes. That's okay I guess, but this is an action movie. We have characters that have a long history of friendship. Admittedly, these characters are in a bad place in their relationship, but they still do care for one another. A joke here or there would not have hurt. I think the tension just need to be cut once in a while. Jumping back to The Dark Knight, that is a very somber tone, but adding the Bruce Wayne stuff brings some humanity and levity to a very dark palette. Logan really avoids a lot of that. Again, there is some of that, but nothing that made me full on chuckle. I think most of the moments really just came from the actors.
For a movie called Logan, I found the secondary characters far more compelling. Laura and Charles Xavier are really the centerpieces of this movie. Caliban, to some extent, also has a bit of draw. Round of applause for whoever cast Dafne Keen as Laura. She is absolutely haunting. Her performance is understated and eerie. Yes, she's a girl who has claw hands and feet who rips people apart, but the extremes of her choices are what really sell the scary moments. I am reminded of the performance from Let the Right One In, knowing that this innocent face had a monster inside of her. There's a really cool moment (you can see it in the trailer) where the mercenaries are backing up from her. They are terrified and that moment is sold so well in the movie. Add to her is the relationship that she forms with Charles Xavier. I don't think they could have gone with a more perfect casting, which is funny because I never read Laura with the same performance. Also, she's younger. I forgot that X-23 used to be that young. (I'm Marvel nerding at this point. I'll stop.) I also can't stress how much of a focus is put on the Charles Xavier relationship. Sure, some things ring a little false and sacrificed on the altar of "wouldn't that be cool?" But putting Patrick Stewart in this role was genius. Putting the most powerful mind in the sphere of dementia was absolutely brilliant. There's themes of mortality, not wholly unlike No Country for Old Men. This is a character that has always been older in the stories he's presented in (with the exception of the First Class movies), but never really survives long enough to be portrayed as truly feeble. Logan always has been the grumpy old man. We really don't have many revolutionaries dying of old age. It's an interesting portrayal and I love that actors like Patrick Stewart take genre films seriously.
Hugh Jackman, outside of having to deal with some absolutely childish language, is great as usual. There's a reason that Jackman is always invited back to play with the X-Men universe. It's an awesome finale and, admittedly, he gets a little more to play with here. But the fundamentals of the character are still the same beats he hit with the other films. Logan being afraid of connecting to a younger mutant is the exact same emotional throughline that he underwent in the original X-Men movie. I don't think that parallel was intentional because one of the things I absolutely loved about this production was the fact that it wasn't beholden to the other movies.
Let's explore that. The one thing that the X-Men films have done that have made them mildly successful for the most part is that they are very formulaic. The movies have a certain look to them. That look is usually great. It's normally under either the direction or supervision of Bryan Singer. This movie makes the really smart move of just avoiding the old style like the plague. The movie looks great. It doesn't feel shackled to oodles of canon. The story is there and we have to simply assume the previous stories existed, but in no way do we feel like we have to be experts to appreciate Logan. That's a really cool concept. Tethered to that is the fact that many of the cooler elements aren't spelled out for the viewer. There's hints of things that should never be resolved. I love that. The hints just give us a peek behind the curtain. Those elements, if spelled out, can't live up to our expectations. Mangold gets that. I don't want to know what Xavier was talking about when he was coming out of the haze. I don't want to really know what Hypno was about. Who is making those comics? Who cares? That's great.
It's not mindblowing. It is very good though. Any problems I really had with the movie are my overly needy expectations.
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