“Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long.”
Note: just like the tightly guarded production – no spoilers here
Hugh Jackman portrays the lead character Logan (a.k.a. The Wolverine, James Howlett) for the ninth time (not counting Deadpool, which was not a live performance) in 17 years beginning with the 2000 X-Men. Audiences have seen him desperate, but not hopeless and desolate like in this action-filled drama/sci-fi fantasy.
Audience already have hints of this content to come in Jackman’s eight previous appearances (flipping off Cyclops, etc.) as the powerful Wolverine with amazing healing powers, adamantium framework, and those lethal, retractable claws (three on each hand).
Be prepared. Like his memorable exchange with Rogue in his first appearance, this one will hurt “every time.” In Logan, Jackman portrays the familiar challenge of being potentially overwhelmed by evil forces and expands into his personal belief in how the bad now outweighs the good.
He still feels responsible to help people as predictable tragedy from evil corporations drive the main plot, but the biggest differences here are the painful recollections, weakening disease and nationwide conspiracies that produce realistic heartache.
The 48-year-old Jackman does an incredible job both physically and dramatically. His emotions and experience from playing this character really pay off. All Logan’s motivations tie into a key dialogue sequence near the end that ends with a heart breaking zinger from another character. Jackman also gets to critique his own lore with a memorable, but short sequence on the comic books (not actual) about him.
Patrick Stewart also reprises his role as Charles Xavier / Professor X, a powerful telepath and founder/leader of the X-Men mutant group seeking to police the world and bridge the gap between well intending mutants and the well-established human world. His paternal instincts demand respect and attention even when he’s seemingly aimless and frantic.
“Seeing you like this breaks my heart,” Charles tells Logan…this honest sentiment might break yours too, especially since many audiences have already invested in these character at least a few time over the years.
Stephen Merchant completes the beginning mutant trio as the intelligent albino mutant named Caliban. His steadfast demands and unique skills broaden this character who first appeared in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
Donald Pierce, well played by Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl, TV’s Hatfields and McCoys), plays a key antagonistic role. His analogies for Wolverine set the tone for an intelligent, yet brutal affair with some spotty, dry humor. He also leads a special group throughout the two-hour and 17 minute plot.
Richard E. Grant (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) plays Zander Rice while Elizabeth Rodriguez (TV’s Fear the Walking Dead) plays Gabriela. A local family, the Munsons, are led by their patriarch Will, played by Eriq La Salle (TV’s ER).
The impressive young cast performances include Quincy Fouse as Will’s son Nate and Jason Genao as Ricktor, but it’s Dafne Keen who makes the biggest impression in her star making role as Laura. Her screen presence, especially her constant, wide-eyed stares, match her incredible physical abilities throughout the film though her battle cry yells occasionally annoy (similar to a tennis player screaming during every action).
Credit Keen’s stunt double Sienna Novikov for the visceral action sequences. Just as the stakes for Logan and Charles are high, her situations are real and balance the established duo’s diminishing powers with young potential that strikes fear in almost every who witnesses her abilities.
This film has several iconic sequences, especially in interior sequence where two characters watch a famous Western. Audiences familiar with the comic books, pop culture and previous eight X-Men/Wolverine films starring or co-starring Jackman in the same role will obviously enjoy a fuller experience, but Logan stands up pretty well on its own. You can even spot Wolverine’s samurai sword in the set design.
The screenplay moves too fast to become too sentimental and faithfully follows the source material, which will endlessly satisfy veteran fans. For example, Logan grabs some cigars, but audiences never see him smoke them.
Filmmakers set the stage in the dialogue. There are no timeline texts or notable visual explanations so audiences have to pay close attention if they want the most complete picture, which is ideal, but not essential. The stakes are high. Soulless warriors take priority over basic human values and life.
Character development lives paramount here as the filmmakers do an amazing job presenting elements in this 2029 universe. The omitted elements are just as compelling as what audiences see on the screen. These omitted elements also reflect the heartbreaking regret and loss the main characters live with.
Other related themes and elements that reflect societal trends and hopeless futures put a grim light on the proceedings that compounds the already high drama. “There was a time when a bad day was just a bad day,” says one character.
These realistic portrayals weave into relentless power struggles from evil forces create the conflict, otherwise all beings would be able to coexist fairly well. One baddie in particular makes his presence known early as the more powerful antagonist reveals himself later.
The story and screenplay of Logan is co-written and directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, Identity, Kate & Leopold, Copland) who also serves as executive producer and also directed the last Wolverine solo film in 2013, The Wolverine.
Scott Frank (Out of Sight, Minority Report) and Michael Green (TV’s Heroes) also contribute their considerable talents to the screenplay. Mangold also recruits several of The Wolverine crew members for Logan including composer Marco Beltrami (3:10 to Yuma) for the outstanding musical score.
Stan Lee serves as an executive producer, but no cameo this time though he does show up in the special beginning sequence right before this highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) film, which is rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity plus death and trauma among young characters.
Filmed in Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans, Louisiana, Logan is also showing in IMAX theaters. A black and white version is planned for a future release later this year or in early 2018.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler