I hate to do this but any review for Logan must include some pretty detailed history between myself and my favorite fictional character in history.
In 1992, I was introduced to Wolverine via the animated X-Men series which aired on Fox 13 on Saturday mornings. I kind of knew what the X-Men were based on the many times I’d passed the comic book rack at Allen’s Super Save grocery store. He immediately became my favorite because he was, in my eyes, the most dangerous mutant on the team . . . and he wasn’t a total pansy like Cyclops.
After a few episodes of the show I began saving my money to buy comic books. The first comic book I ever bought (besides a Ren and Stimpy issue a year prior) was Wolverine #72. The crisply animated character of Saturday mornings was replaced by a feral mass of violence and rough edges. He was drawn (by Dwayne Turner in this issue) as a reflection of his character: with sharp edges and absolute fury in the lines. I really enjoyed reading these books but Marvel decided to mess with me very soon after I jumped in . . . only 3 issues later actually.
In X-Men #25 and continuing into Wolverine #75 Logan was stripped of his adamantium skeleton . . . you know . . . the thing that made him so cool. I had built up this huge fandom for the indestructible mutant because I loved the fact that he just couldn’t lose. (I guess this is like becoming a baseball fan and immediately latching onto the Yankees or becoming a basketball fan and loving the Bulls in the mid 90’s.) I knew my favorite mutant couldn’t lose in a fight against all of my friends’ and brothers’ favorite mutants. (They usually liked Gambit.)
I remember the first time he popped out his claws and we discovered that they were made of bone instead of metal. I was about ready to jump off the boat at this point BUT . . . the genius writing of Larry Hama and the artwork of Adam Kubert kept me coming back because they decided to explore Logan as a frail mortal character now instead of an unbreakable (and, frankly, boring, now that I think about it) Superman-type character.
Well, hundreds of comic books later and suddenly Fox began making the X-Men into movies. I was so stoked the summer of 2000. I’d just graduated high school, and, though I’d shelved comic book collecting largely because it was expensive and the ladies weren’t a big fan of it, I still had a great love for Wolverine and the X-Men characters. As a Wolverine expert, I can tell you that, besides the fact that he was way too tall for the character, Hugh Jackman WAS Wolverine in that first movie. Though the film hasn’t withstood the test of time like some of the other entries in the series, there are a few scenes there that were flawless in their depiction of the Canadian rabble-rouser. That first bar scene when he cuts the dude’s shotgun in half? That was FLAWLESS.
The X-Men movies continued and Jackman’s Wolverine was always the biggest draw. When they rebooted the series with X-Men: First Class, his brief cameo was, for many, the highlight of the film. He totally rocked in Days of Future Past; however, we had to deal with an adamantium-less Wolverine . . . you know . . . the kind of weak one that I had to get used to as a 12-year-old. It worked, and the film was both financially successful and critically acclaimed (it didn’t hurt that Michael Fassbender totally killed it as Magneto in those films).
I will address the elephant in the room that is X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Critics didn’t like it, and I get it: there were some less than awesome scenes in that movie with a horribly-put-together venture into Deadpool and a few other issues. HOWEVER, there was plenty to enjoy about the depiction of Logan in that film. For example: the scene where he was infused with adamantium was spot on, and the earlier fight against a PERFECTLY cast Liev Schreiber was awesome. I kind of wished they would have brought THAT character into the rated R version. So I get that people hated that movie, but I gotta say, it was good enough for me to enjoy and ignore the shortcomings. Sorry, Ryan Reynolds.
Last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse was poorly reviewed but I felt that it was actually one of the best adaptations of the comic book characters to the big screen yet. There was plenty of action where I’d felt that some of the former ventures had been heavy on character . . . but not on explosions. The highlight of this film was once again a cameo from Hugh Jackman. This time they depicted . . . properly . . . the “Weapon X” version of Logan.
Between X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past we were treated to James Mangold’s first outing as director in The Wolverine. The storyline was closely linked to the 1981 mini-series that had Wolverine fighting the samurai clan called “The Hand” in Japan while trying to save his girl Mariko. The movie actually captured a lot of the story really well and the Japanese aspect of Logan was brilliantly portrayed. Again, Jackman was awesome in the role. The movie suffered from a few storyline changes which introduced (unnecessarily) a giant robot at the end. I felt that it was slightly insulting to an audience, who would have accepted Logan fighting Mariko’s father at the end and walking off victorious. I did purchase the unrated director’s cut and was able to get a feel for what Mangold really wanted to do with the character but was held back by studio restrictions. There was blood . . . and a decent amount of it.
Fast forward to this month when I saw Logan and was simply blown away. The indestructable and unkillable hero that I’ve been following for a quarter century now was going to have his swan song and it had received a HARD R rating. When I say I hard I mean hard. I honestly have never seen a bloodier film than Logan. It made Saving Private Ryan look tame. But Mangold didn’t just want to make a Wolverine movie full of gore so that it could be R and then walk away. Hugh Jackman has been playing this role alongside Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier for 18 years now (if you count the filming of X-Men in 1999). Mangold wanted this to be a fitting emotional farewell and he knocked it out of the park.
The only question I have after viewing this movie is, “Why wasn’t Mangold given this franchise with no strings attached YEARS AGO!?” So many of the other films were so heavy on character and then lacked action, or they had too much action and not enough character development (see Apocalypse) but Logan found a way to maximize the action and go more emotionally in depth with the characters than all other X-films put together.
The plot follows loosely the “Old Man Logan” storyline where Logan has grown old. (There were zombie Spider-men in the comics and such, so they pretty much just took the “old man” part.)
The adamantium bonded to his skeleton years before is poisoning Logan as his healing powers start to wane. He lives with a frail and dementia-ridden Professor Xavier played, honestly, by an Oscar-nomination-worthy Patrick Stewart. I’m not just being a homer in saying the man deserves a nomination. He was so believable as an elderly man fighting dementia and Alzheimer’s that I almost started worrying about the mental state of the actor in real life because it really looked like Captain Picard had lost his mind.
The movie was pretty heavy on the language, maybe more so than it needed to be (it did feel forced a couple of times…and in fact the F-word is the first word uttered in the film). The brief female nudity was shamelessly thrown in but the violence never felt out of place. Logan had, by my calculations, been alive for over 200 years and had fought in countless wars and confrontations. In previous films, Wolverine’s claws would come out and then he’d slash at or punch at his foes and we would believe that he’d stabbed them somehow. We were really left to our imagination on a lot of those scenes. Sound effects would be employed in scenes like the Weapon X escape in Apocalypse, but in Logan, he straight up shoves his claws through the faces/jaws/necks of every foe he comes across. It was like the equivalent of John Wick’s head shots only with razor sharp claws on each hand. It was bloody satisfying for those of us who had read the comics for years and then been let down when they made it to the theater only to see razor sharp claws disappear into clever edits and angles so that we couldn’t see what they really did.
If Hugh Jackman’s Logan wasn’t violent enough, we also get to enjoy X-23, a clone of Logan who straight up owns the scene any time she enters the fray (which is often). Heads fly off, abdomens are disemboweled, and, look, just go see the movie. I can’t possibly begin to describe what the action scenes are like in this film.
I guess what made this film great for me relates back to my days reading the comics where Wolverine had lost his metal, lost his healing, and had to draw upon inner strength to accomplish his goals. Logan is old, he’s frail, but he still finds the strength within to fight for what he knows is right.
Mangold was directly linked to the writing of this film and I believe that he channeled his successful Western genre outing of 3:10 to Yuma into making this comic book masterpiece. That’s right: I said masterpiece. Because even if you don’t like comic book Movies, you’ll like this movie. Even if you have only seen one or two X-Men flicks (on FX, on a Saturday, and you only watched through, like, 2 commercial breaks), you’ll like this movie. It transcends the “comic book genre” and stands on its own as an emotion-filled action epic with one of the most tragic heroes ever written.
This, in my opinion, now stands alongside The Dark Knight and Sin City as the standards in comic book filmmaking (and Scott Pilgrim, but that’s a story for another time). I give it a solid A, and that’s not the homer in me, because I’ve honestly given many of the other X-films the lower scores that they deserve. I believe you’ll be hearing about Logan come awards season and that is no easy feat when working in this genre.
Logan always said in the comic books, “I’m the best there is at what I do . . . but what I do isn’t very nice.” Let that quote sink in and keep it in mind when you behold the chaotic beauty that is Logan.