New Mexico in Film: Logan (Spoilers)
It’s been seventeen years since we were first introduced to Hugh Jackman’s take on the Adamantium-claw wielding mutant we all know and love. That’s almost two decades and ten X-Men movies (if you count Deadpool, that is) and I’m still having a hard time dealing with the fact that this will be Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine. Thankfully in a world overloaded with superhero films and ever expanding cinematic universes, Jackson’s incredible take on this character will respectfully be put to rest on a high note.
Shot partially in the Rio Rancho area of New Mexico, Logan begins with the titular character at a very low point in his life. With seemingly no other mutants left in the world (save for Professor X and Caliban), Logan is without friends or any real purpose. That is until a mysterious woman confronts Logan and begs him to escort her daughter Laura to the United States/Canadian border to escape some very bad men who are hot on their trail. Logan reluctantly takes the job and the first superhero road trip movie begins.
It’s pretty obvious at this point, but Hugh Jackman completely embodies this character and makes it his own. The role fits him like a glove and this tale would obviously not be the same without him. When we first see Logan, he’s a broken man. He’s tired and weak and vulnerable and Jackman’s charm and intensity works wonders here. Even though it seems like he wants to give up at every turn and is not the brave, self-sacrificing hero we’ve seen him act as before, we are still able to connect with him as the sadness that he carries with him is perfectly understandable.
Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier is also incredible. This is easily his largest role in any X-Men film to date and even while the movie calls for him to be cranky and senile and drop a few F-bombs along the way, Stewart brings a sincere warmth to the role. Dafne Keen as Laura is also actually quite good. It’s always an uncertainty featuring a child actor in a lead role, but she nails it. Honestly, her character seemed more interesting to me when she was mute, but when she finally broke and started speaking (first in Spanish, then in English), she delivered her lines quite well. There was a ferocity and an almost animalistic anger in her young eyes and whether the scene called for her to be emotional or off-the-wall insane, she held her own and pulled it off nicely.
Director James Mangold (The Wolverine, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) does an excellent job here. He’s created a moody, bleak and ultimately hopeless world with Logan, but he never sacrifices the human element that’s so important in a movie like this. There’s a slow escalation to the story with only a few carefully placed action sequences which are very exciting and exhilarating. Thankfully, the movie doesn’t rely on CGI and quick editing to elevate the thrills. It’s shot well and coherently and all the action set pieces feel very grounded. However with the film’s restricted rating, we now get to finally see the carnage that Wolverine is forced to dish out. The violence is intense and brutal and bloody. It’s not heroic or glamorized, which only adds to the weariness we see from the main character.
The screenplay (partially based off the Old Man Logan series of comics) keeps the scope of the film small and contained. The world as we know it isn’t at stake and our heroes aren’t tasked with traveling through time to stop bad guys who have the ability to fly. This is a deeply personal story that centers around our three protagonists and whether they will make it to the end in one piece which allows us to care for them more and makes it all seem that much more believable. While the exciting action scenes are very well done, it isn’t about that kind of spectacle. It’s about our characters and their growing relationships with one another and the consistent challenges they’re forced to overcome.
Unfortunately, this movie does feel very long. It doesn’t suffer from any pacing issues, but when our characters do finally reach “Eden” (which is the inciting incident for Logan’s adventure in the first place), there is still a good half hour left, which hurts the overall structure of the film. I also understand why the story went in the direction of including the younger mutants, but that was when the quality of the film took a dip. It was handled well and it didn’t hurt the movie overall, but it wasn’t as consistently strong as the rest of the film. There also seems to be a running theme in Marvel movies where the villain is very underwhelming. Boyd Holbrook did a fine job as Pierce, but I feel Logan lacked a compelling villain to face off against (and that includes the silly concept of him having to fight his younger, stronger clone). Also, as long as the film was, it certainly seemed to end abruptly. We were able to have an emotional goodbye with Logan (and that speech from Shane that Laura gave almost made me man-cry), but the film ends immediately after his death with no conclusion of what happens to the rest of the mutants. It would’ve been fantastic for this film to have an abstract ending that left audiences interpreting it for themselves, but in this case it was just mishandled and lacked any real resolution.
A few small issues aside, Logan is a great send off of Jackman’s take on the character. This is a refreshingly mature superhero film that takes its story and characters seriously and pulls it off in spades. It is a powerful, dramatic film with characters we deeply care for, enthralling action sequences and an appropriately downbeat vibe. It’s exciting and completely satisfying and ranks as one of the best superhero films made so far.
The Verdict: B+
Extra Tidbit: That opening Deadpool II teaser was awesome. I’d personally much rather see something like that at the beginning of a film than wait for any post-credit scene.