By: Kevin Jordan
As I’ve said on multiple occasions, you probably aren’t going to find more of a Wolverine homer than yours truly. I inexplicably told you to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine twice and gushed about The Wolverine without mentioning how kind of terrible the Sliver Samurai was portrayed (though I stand by The Wolverine being an excellent movie). So, when I tell you the hype for Logan is definitely overblown, know that it comes from someone who would consider buying a life-sized Wolverine statue if he wasn’t married and never wanted to have sex again.
It’s not that it wasn’t a good movie – it was, but something didn’t sit right with me after the movie was over. I’ve had almost two weeks to digest this movie since the screening and I’m still not sure what it is about the movie that left me a little disappointed. Perusing through a couple of the early reviews that are out there isn’t helping either. Those reviews read like your typical film snob reviews – praising the technical aspects and performances without mentioning even a word about the plot of the movie. And you know my priorities – plot, plot, characters, plot, technical stuff (sometimes). What good is making a technically proficient film if that film doesn’t tell an equally proficient story?
(As usual, in order to discuss this movie and my mild disappointment, I must give SPOILERS. Also, nearly every review and soundbite for this movie talks about it being a fitting end for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, so the end is kind of already spoiled.)
Logan picks up Logan’s (Jackman) story at least twenty years from now, which can only be twenty years from the end of Days of Future Past. Logan is scraping by as a limo driver, living in an abandoned factory on the other side of the Mexican border. With his friend Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a mutant who can sense and track other mutants, Logan is also caring for a partially senile Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), keeping him locked up in a fallen water tower to protect the world from Charles’ seizure-caused psychic blasts. Logan’s goal in life now is to save up enough money to buy a boat and go live on the ocean with Charles where they can both die in peace. Oh, and they are the last three mutants on Earth, no new mutants have been born in twenty years, and Logan’s healing powers are fading. That’s seriously the setup for this movie and, yes, I have a lot of questions.
What happened to the rest of the mutants, especially the X-Men? It’s only been twenty years.
Why is Logan’s healing factor failing? Isn’t that kind of a contradiction in terms?
Wouldn’t Deadpool still be alive?
Isn’t it a weird creative choice that one of three remaining mutants has the power to detect other mutants? Also, how did he survive whatever killed every other mutant?
Am I thinking way too hard about a superhero movie?
The answer to that last question would only be yes if critics out there weren’t literally calling Logan an early best picture nominee (seriously – Mark Hughes of Forbes said exactly that).
The actual plot of this movie is that a corporation called Transigen is making test-tube mutants and are trying to recover a bunch of child experiments who escaped Transigen’s facility. Young Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), with the help of a Transigen nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez), seek out Logan to help guide them to a safe haven in the Dakota area. Always, the reluctant and angry hero, Logan rejects them at first, only to be threatened by Transigen’s lead henchman, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Seriously, Wolverine fights a guy named Donald. Also, Donald has a Terminator hand (it literally looks like the one Miles Dyson kept in his vault at Cyberdyne in Terminator 2), as do many of his henchman. When Laura, Logan, and the henchman (and Donald) collide, the hero’s journey kicks off as Laura, Logan, and Charles take off in Logan’s battered limo leaving a pile of bloody bodies behind them.
One of the themes this movie tries to explore is Logan relearning how to care about someone (Laura), except the movie goes out of its way to show us how much he already cares about Charles and Caliban, so it doesn’t really resonate in that way. It’s really more like relearning why life is worth living, done by making Laura Logan’s “daughter.” I use quotes because Laura was injected with Logan’s DNA and given the same adamantium treatment, though she has two claws per hand instead of three (and one per foot). See what they did there? Another theme is the aspect of loneliness, which goes along with that first theme and covers the idea of being the last mutants left on Earth. The biggest problem with these themes is that the movie wants to have its cake and eat it too. All the mutants are dead, except for all the mutants Transigen is creating. Logan doesn’t care about other people except for the other people he cares about. Logan has to learn to want live, but spends the entire movie explaining how he just wants to die. Logan even has a special bullet to kill himself with even though he’s dying anyway. Mmmmm….cake.
Speaking of dying, I spent the entire movie wondering what was wrong with Logan, which might explain why I had so many questions at the end of the film. I really want to see this movie again to focus on what I might have missed because all I could think about was waiting for someone or something to explain why Wolverine’s healing factor was failing. In what is the weakest part of the story, Transigen’s mutant experiment leader, Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), monologues for a while, including this throwaway line “I put something in the food and water to prevent the mutant gene from occurring.” Well, that explains the no new mutant births, but doesn’t really explain existing mutant powers failing or why it doesn’t affect his new mutants. I realize it can be explained away with more DNA words, but it’s very unsatisfying considering everyone would have had the same question on their brains as me prior to that reveal. It’s also supremely unsatisfying that this movie recycled the Weapon X program storyline to justify a super-lethal ten-year old.
Perhaps the worst part of the plot is who Logan has to fight (twice) to save the kids. Take a guess. Nope, try again. Nope, you’re not even close. He fights himself. No, really, he fights a clone of himself. All growed up and everything. I told you, cake and stuff. For whatever reason, Transigen decided to inject children with mutant DNA they collected even though they can literally clone those very same mutants. Of course, Transigen also decided to train little Laura into a killing machine, but forgot to train the rest of the kids they imbued with powers. This is painfully showcased in the climax when all of the kids suddenly forget they have powers and simply run away from the henchman. Even Laura runs, who earlier in the film took out a dozen heavily armed henchman (pun intended) all by herself. Now you can see why those other critics decided not to talk about the plot.
The good news is that the technical aspects do make the movie much better than its plot, including bumping the movie to an R-rating, which should have happened at least three movies ago. Logan’s claws finally draw blood, we get to hear him utter actual curse words instead of Sesame Street curse words, and even Charles gets to let the expletives fly, which you know is what he was thinking every time Logan walked into the room during the entire franchise. The decision to go with a grittier palate rather than a glossy polished look made the R-rated stuff feel organic rather than forced. And, yes, the performances from Jackman, Stewart, and Keen were top notch, including some great new depth to characters we’ve spent nine movies with. Oh – and did I mention the blood? If you thought Deadpool was bloody, Logan matches it in spades, as well it should.
Like science fiction movies, I will always cut a Wolverine movie some slack. I’m not sure that Logan is better than The Wolverine, but I’m sure it’s not worse. And if this really is Hugh Jackman’s last turn as Wolverine, I will be sad because Jackman never disappointed, but this is a good movie to end his run on, even if it’s not even close to a best picture nominee. Truth be told, it never needed to be because it’s freaking Wolverine.
Rating: Ask for a dollar back because a clone of Wolverine was a little too close to evil Deadpool in the Origins movie.