Logan is the R rated Wolverine movie that people were clamouring for, and thanks to the breakout success of Fox’s other X-Men property, Deadpool, it’s finally here. It couldn’t have come at a better time, actually. Less than a year after Deadpool, the Ryan Reynolds hit is still fresh in the minds of many moviegoers, certainly fresh enough to counteract the bad taste left by X-Men: Apocalypse last summer. But does the R rating make it good, or just enhance an already good movie. There’s definitely a difference, and for me it was the former, not the latter. It is NOT an adaptation of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan storyline, in any way, shape, or form – not even a loose adaptation. I’ll get that out of the way first.
Most of the moviegoing public likely don’t care too much about how the last few years of X-Men movies have increasingly turned off the fanbase, but I can speak as one who has been affected by the terrible writing in these movies, and the real lack of coherence. X-Men: First Class was an attempt to reboot the franchise, and it was decent enough, but it was clear from the much-awaited X-Men: Days of Future Past, that there wasn’t a lot of thought generated in keeping the timeline intact, or even caring too much about the integrity of it from the get go. A review of Logan isn’t the place to discuss the multitude of problems with these movies, and in any case, my main problem was that I had already grown sick and tired of having Magneto be the main villain by the time X-Men: The Last Stand came around, so that when the reboot came around at it was now just younger versions of Xavier and Magneto facing off, I was already mentally checked out. Olivia Munn’s appearance as Psylocke in X-Men: Apocalypse is literally the only thing about that movie I care to remember.
So it was, I approached Logan. Would Hugh Jackman’s self-proclaimed last appearance in the role that made him a star actually be good this time around, or would it just be another failure like the last two solo Wolverine movies? It’s funny that a number of the jokes in Deadpool that worked well were those that referenced “Deadpool”’s appearance in the first solo Wolverine outing, X-Men: Origins – Wolverine, As well as being a terrible version of Deadpool, it’s widely accepted that the entire movie is crap. While it tries to bridge the gap between itself and the first X-Men movie in 2000, it’s rife with other inconsistencies, and generally suffers from a very poor script. The sequel The Wolverine was an improvement, notably in the first half, but then falls off the cliff at the midpoint, leading to perhaps one of the entire X-Men franchise’s biggest inconsistency (for me anyway). When exactly does The Wolverine take place? Given that he has bone claws and not adamantium claws at the end of that movie, how does he have the metal ones back for his appearance in Logan? I don’t get it. You could make a case for The Wolverine taking place after X-Men: Apocalypse, but certainly NOT after Logan. Simon Kinberg, one of the X-Franchise’s prime movers (also the awful Fantastic Four) doesn’t appear to completely understand the mess that he and other writers have made of the timelines – given that the movies appear to just be making things up as they go, this isn’t surprising.
By setting Logan in the future, it gives itself the luxury of not having to answer too many of these questions – having said that, it does create a future headache for writers of the X-Men franchise going forward in two areas. The first being that it refers to Xavier committing a terrible act sometime in the recent past that had a hugely negative impact somewhere on the East Coast – you’d think that will have to be shown at some point. The bigger issue here is that retroactively, the movies can no longer have Wolverine in them, simply because Jackman is not coming back to the role. It’ll be interesting to see how this is addressed in future X-Men movies, if at all.
Anyway, is the movie good? That’s all that really matters. To return to the R rating, and how it affected my viewing, I’ll say that it certainly deserves it – there is a lot of claw violence and swearing. The violence is mostly limited to the use of adamantium claws on bad guys, and it’s done well …. but the R rating stops there. Take out some of the gratuitousness of the slashings and stabbings, and the movie itself is just another PG-13 Wolverine movie. I wasn’t swayed by the rating here, or advance comments that this movie reboots the superhero movie. Frankly, it doesn’t. Now don’t get me wrong, I feel that movie about superhumans can – and need to – evolve, but evolution isn’t just window dressing, and I feel the violence and swearing are just that here. It all works, but it’s in the context here that this is the kind of solo Wolverine movie that should have already happened by now. R rated Spider Man or Avengers movies are needless. The gold standard R rated movie about superhumans for me is still Chronicle. Logan doesn’t come close to that for me, because it doesn’t really deal with adult, dramatic themes, other than the broad brush strokes of mortality and aging – it’s “rated R” solely by means of Wolverine violence, nothing else.
I was unconvinced by a few things, and the obvious new franchise element in the second half of the movie is one of them. It felt wholly unnecessary to me, and detracted from the movie. Likewise so did the as-it-turns-out completely ineffectual bad guy role, Donald Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook. Pierce brings a lot of charm and menace to the role early on, but it’s completely supplanted by the addition of a surprise villain in the middle of the movie that was a REAL head-scratcher for me. Can’t give it away, but I found the new character completely ill conceived, and it pulled me out of the movie. Surely, with all the villains that Fox could have potentially used – or the fact they could either have created a new one, or beefed up Holbrook’s role – this character felt like an act of desperation, and I can’t get me head around this choice being just the worst, and laziest, one on hand.
Another thing that bugged the hell out of me, and you’ve probably seen it in the previews, is why the hell there are X-Men comics and X-Men toys being produced in this universe? The implication that the world at large knows of the X Men to the point where there are comics and merchandise for them is completely bizarre and out of left field. Even the Marvel Studios universe doesn’t have that kind of thing. It’s a stupendously odd element, and it doesn’t work for me on ANY level, even on the fanservice level it’s meant for. It’s like the yellow costume being shown at the end of The Wolverine – why bother if it is never going to be used anywhere? I don’t need to read any fan theories that fit the comic book into this universe, it’s just bad fanservice and that’s that.
The violence and performances make the film. Jackman probably has his best outing as the character. The script allows for a lot of moments for overacting, but he keeps himself tight and restrained and is really good to watch in the part. Stewart is good, but the story mostly keeps him imprisoned in “Stay feeble” mode – he mostly entertains when he drops the F-bomb here and there. The big revelation is newcomer Dafnee Keen is the mysterious little girl. She’s all savage fury, and is the standout in the first half of the movie, but then the storyline dilutes her with a mediocre transformation arc and folding her into the new franchise concept. It’s a microcosm of the entire movie for me, and I’m suddenly struck by how perfect it’s release date was.
March, it’s said, “comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb.” Despite the violence in its third act, that’s exactly how I’d describe Logan.
© Andrew Hope, 2017