Friday, March 10, 2017

Movie Review - Logan

Logan is the latest (and last?) move of the Hugh Jackman/Wolverine franchise.

  I went to see ‘Logan’, the latest installment of the ‘X-Men/Wolverine’ movie series at our local movie theatre with Kathy on the Friday night of its opening weekend. The movie was about a third full and garnered a respectable $85 million for its opening weekend, enough for the top spot on the weekend's box office list and well in line with previous entries from the franchise. The movie was billed as the finale for Hugh Jackman in his role as Wolverine although with all the time jumping and alternate realities the X-Men movie series has gone through I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Jackman reprise this role at some point. The X-Men segment of the Marvel Universe Fox purchased is thriving with a reboot of the X-Men series, the emergence of Deadpool as a feature star, and movies featuring Gambit and X-Force in the planning stages.

  Jackman has done a great job at capturing the essence of the comic book Wolverine I remember – a savage force of nature prone to going on berserker rages yet with a streak of kindness toward strangers and unwavering loyalty to his friends. The kind of guy you wouldn’t want to mess with but not the kind that messes with anyone either. Wolverine was the central character of the X-Men comic reboot of the mid-80’s and the movie X-Men franchise. ‘Logan’ take place in a distant future of 2029 where mutants are all but extinct and not even being born except for a secret hospital in Mexico where experimental mutants are grown in the womb with specific DNA to be used as government weapons. The mutants are born and being trained when they are rendered obsolete by a new method that can clone fully grown mutants from DNA. As the young mutants are being rounded up for execution by the villainous gang called the Reavers the hospital workers help them to escape and they are all headed to a spot in North Dakota that an X-Men comic book used as a safe haven called ‘Eden’.

  Wolverine gets involved when he discovers one of the mutants was created using his DNA which makes her his daughter kind of sort of. Logan has his own problems. His healing power doesn’t seem to be working very well and we discover during the movie he is being poisoned by his Adamantium skeleton and claws. Logan is making money as a limo driver and is taking care of the 90+ year old Professor Xavier who has to be heavily medicated or else he has seizures that cause debilitating pain to everyone within a half mile of him. Professor X is kept in a giant tank in the desert and the pair are aided by the mutant Caliban whose powers to track mutants come at the cost of an albino appearance that causes him to burn when exposed to sunlight.

  After some plot explanation, Wolverine, Professor X, and Laura (Wolverine’s DNA daughter who has her own adamantium claws on her hands AND feet) are discovered by the Reavers and embark on a road trip to North Dakota’s Eden even though Logan knows that the comic book tale is just a tale and there is no safe community for mutants. The chase leads through a convenience store where Laura attacks the clerk and an Oklahoma casino where Professor X has a massive seizure just as the Reavers discover the group. Eventually the group is befriended by a farming family but is found by Reavers yet again but this time the Reavers unleash their new weapon – a freshly DNA-generated Wolverine with all Logan’s powers and no conscience to speak of.

  I don’t want to give away too much of the plot so I’ll just say that after chasing through the United States to North Dakota there remains hope for mutant kind gained at the cost of some painful losses. An entire group of mutants were introduced along with the junior Laura-Wolverine with powers ranging from the fearsome (one mutant can create earthquakes) to the freaky (another mutant can control nature, dissecting one Reaver with a pine needle barrage and mummifying another in grass), to the mundane (the normal assortment of electrical barrages, flamethrower arms, and freeze breath).

The intense savagery of the movie made attempts at humor like the beginning of this trailer seem unfunny and out of place.

  This was a well-made movie with a bent towards gratuitous violence and lots of it. The plot was easily understandable and the fight scenes superb. Hugh Jackman gave a great performance as an aging, poisoned, world weary Wolverine and it was a treat to see Patrick Stewart’s Professor X again even if his part was written to be more of a Shakespearean madman. What I thought the movie was missing was the humorous qualities of past movies with Jackman’s Wolverine. There were attempts at humor with Logan chauffeuring drunk bridesmaids and his scenes with the ever-cantankerous Professor X but they were swallowed up by the dark tone of the movie. The constant violence in the film along with the overmatched and injured Wolverine and with a Professor X on the fast track to senility made the attempts at humor seem out of place and unfunny.

  As well-made as the movie was I have to rank ‘Logan’ in the bottom half of the franchise’s efforts. I like to see my super heroes be super and not shells of themselves. I was looking forward to watching Wolverine going into berserker rages in bars and battling super villains but this movie had the famed Wolverine limping around and dragging himself through fights along with a decrepit Professor X and was not the way I like to see my super heroes. There was one fight scene where a chemically enhanced Wolverine fights like the good old days and that was much more to my liking. Laura-Wolverine fight scenes had a lot of energy but she was so young that her berserker rages seemed more like temper tantrums. I get that the movie was a ‘coda’ for Wolverine but I see no reason he couldn’t have been dying of his poison or had reduced healing powers but still with his full strength and fighting abilities.

  The mutant theme of X-Men has always thrived in dystopian settings where mutants are at war with each other and human led governments but ‘Logan’ takes this theme a little too far in a future where mutants are eradicated except for those conceived in a laboratory. I don’t mind seeing my heroes in desperate situations but I do want to see hope for the future at the end of the day. Logan doesn’t provide much hope for the future of mutantkind. I felt it was a disappointing end to a great character’s story.

So long Wolverine...I was sorry to see you go out this way...