directed by James Mangold
(Twentieth Century Fox, 2017)

I feel like I'm supposed to feel positively toward Logan because it's edgy and takes chances and pushes its characters to the brink.

I don't. I admire the performances of the actors in this film, because they give it their everything and do a great job with a punishing script. But I don't like what it does to characters I have come to love (despite the hit or miss quality of previous films in the X-Men and Wolverine series).

Logan, drawing from several comic-book stories and creating the rest from whole cloth, is an R-rated endpoint to the stories of Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Charles Xavier, aka Professor X (Patrick Stewart). Set in the near future, it draws together the threads of the previous trilogies, ignoring certain contradictions between them to concentrate on the lone wolf of the series, Wolverine, who was probably the most powerful of the mutant superheroes and who never fit in among them.

It's 2029, and Logan is working as a limo driver in the Deep South while also caring for an old and decrepit Xavier across the border in Mexico. Logan, with the help of Caliban (Stephen Merchant), keeps Xavier secluded and sedated to prevent a psychic catastrophe like the one, only briefly mentioned, that apparently caused the deaths of the other X-Men.

But then Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) comes calling with the child Laura (Dafne Keen) in tow. Laura is a survivor of a mutant breeding and brainwashing program run by the government, and she's on the run from rogue agents with Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) leading the charge and Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) pulling the strings. More to the point, she's part of the X-23 mutant series and is Logan's daughter (although it's never made clear in the movie if she's a clone [like in the comics] or the spawn of some woman he met along the way). Either way, she has likewise had her bones coated with nigh-indestructible adamantium, and she also has claws, although in a different configuration than her dad's. (Which does lead to a niggling problem; Laura is 12-ish, so her bones are still growing, which means her skeleton will splinter as it tries to expand into the unyielding metal framework. Oops.)

The movie is about Logan's efforts, albeit unwilling at first, to get Laura to safety. Along the way, he and she both kill a lot of people, and they cause the deaths of a good many more simply by getting close to them and involving them, however tangentially, in the pursuit.

Logan isn't the first mainstream comic-book movie to earn an R rating. Watchmen, from DC, and Deadpool, also from the Marvel line, did it previously, and in both cases, the ratings made more sense. In Logan's case, it seems like the studio simply wanted to play on Deadpool's success, but the rating isn't used as effectively. Here are the major hallmarks of this particular R:

- Logan and Laura kill often, with impunity, and with a lot of blood.
- Logan and Xavier curse a lot (which is in character for Logan but not so much for the upright professor of prior films).
- A party girl in Logan's limo flashes her boobs because, um, it's an R-rated movie so there have to be boobs, I guess.
- Beloved characters die, unpleasantly, because it's edgy for them to do so.

This movie is, by all accounts, the last appearance of both Jackman and Stewart in these roles. Personally, I wish the characters had gotten a better sendoff; I'm not so much troubled by death as I am by being forced to pity characters who were once so iconic.

However, it's telling that, as much as I disliked the plot of this film, I was impressed by the performances by Jackman, Stewart and Keen, all of whom bit deeply into the violence and despair of their stories. They did great jobs with the material they had to work with, but it's not the material I wish they and director James Mangold had mined.

review by
Tom Knapp

24 June 2017

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