Movie Review : Logan (2017)
The Marvel vs DC Comics cinema rivalry has always eluded me, just like the other thing people argued about before rivalries over film adaptations of comic books were a thing: iPhone vs Android *. I was debating which studio produces "objectively better" movies with fellow critics the other day and the consensus was that Marvel movies are safe and cynical cash grabs that are test screened to death and that DC Comics films were artistically ambitious disasters. Each have their respective comfort zone, which never stopped them from waging war over box office real estate since Marvel kicked things off in 2002. Batman v. Superman : Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad were brutal flops in 2016, so could Marvel finish the job and chase DC Comics from the movie business with their romantically marketed "last Wolverine movie" Logan? Is it as good as people have been telling you, though?
Let's try to answer this together.
Logan is based on an ongoing comic book series titled Old Man Logan, which features an alternate version of the character that is old **. The screenplay is 100% original, though. In this alternate reality named Earth-807128 by Marvel, Logan (the jacked Hugh Jackman) is old and taking care of Professor X (the immortal Patrick Stewart), who's even older and suffering from dementia, along with another mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Together, they keep old Xavier trapped inside a smelting plan in Mexico while trying to figure out what to do with him before he causes an extinction level event with his brain. They're minding their own business, being miserable and all, until the day a random woman interrupts a funeral *** to request Logan's assistance for something only HE can help with. Of course, he doesn't want anything to do with that because he gave up on humanity. The only problem is that trouble hasn't given up on him.
Not sure a conventional review would 1) reflect what I felt towards the movie and 2) contain any insight about Logan you'd actually enjoy, so let's try and answer all the questions I had before AND after my viewing. I feel it would be more appropriate.
Is Logan a good movie?
The short answer is yes. Wolverine is a character defined by his brooding nature and rejection of his mutant heritage. This is what people like about him. He's a badass existential antihero and Logan is the first movie where he's forced to confront who he is. X23 (Dafne Keen) is basically his infant female genetic double who behaves towards him the with the same levels of aggression he behaves towards people, except she needs him to survive and get to safety. I thought it was clever for a superhero movie.
It's not a great movie, though. There is no credible antagonist, which I wouldn't have minded if there were no antagonist at all. The guy with the gold chain **** (Boyd Holbrook) is the definition of an empty rifle. He looks intimidating, acts intimidating but the extent of his character development is getting knocked out and driving through America with a convoy of private soldiers. And don't get me started on lame-ass Mengele (Richard E. Grant) who's supposed to be the real enemy and appears thirty seconds in the movie. Logan would've been better with no tangible antagonist at all.
Is Logan the best superhero movie ever made?
Fuck no. That movie can't hold a candle to The Dark Knight, which had one of the most terrifying antagonists ever. It's not even top 5 if you ask me. The problem is that it's not THAT different from your usual superhero movies. Sure, it's grittier. It's stripped from the goodie-two-shoes-saves-the-universe logic ususally embraced by Marvel and explores questions like mortality, survival, family and legacy, which are more interesting and interesting.
Logan is an honest attempt at making the best superhero movie ever made. It just doesn't quite get there. It's too busy celebrating the inner (and outer) violence of Wolverine to go the extra mile with its own storyline. There was a lot of noise about Logan being rated R for violence and there is a lot of it in the movie. The violence shown did not subvert any of my expectations, though. I expected slews adamantium claws murders and it's exactly what I got. And I felt mildly guilty watching dozens of nameless people getting slaughtered on screen because it's what a studio expected me to desire. I guess what I'm saying is that Logan is too busy celebrating its own baditude to bridge the gap from good to great.
Did I like it?
I guess? I wasn't enamored with the overall product at all, but there are several aspects of the movie I really liked. The portrait of a pre-apocalyptic wasteland America was successful, I though. There are still cities and normal people on Earth-807128. It's just possible to manage your way around them. It's a plausible depiction of a not so distant future, unfortunately *****. I liked the self-aware bits about comic books, too. That was clever. The parts about self-determination were a little heavy-handed, which is too bad because it's not addressed all that often in superhero movies. Logan is not unpleasant by any means, but it's not the transformative superhero experience we've been sold.
What the fuck is up with that poster?
I don't know. It looks like a poster for Planet of the Apes XVI.
Why did nerdy middle-aged men liked Logan so much?
Fuck, I don't know. I've heard crazy, crazy testimonies about Logan moviegoing experiences and they all come from men aged between 30 and 50. I've read a man's Facebook status update proudly admitted he cried during the viewing and that it was a first for him. Some people called the last shot the "best last shot in history of cinema" and, you know, it's not. Not by a freakin' mile. I refuse to believe these people already had a strong emotional relationship with the character because not that many people read comic books before they started being made into movies and that Wolverine wore a yellow spandex suit and a mask on his face during the comics.
So, what the fuck?
I don't know what Logan meant to all these people, but I supposed they really wanted to like it. I suppose there was a demand for a movie about an aging superduper manly guy with super powers going through personal stuff while murdering nameless mercenaries on screen. I mean, it's cool but Logan is 30% adamantium claws murders, 20% driving, 20% interactions with neutered villains and 30% original, bounday-challenging material. And I'm being generous here. It's going to sound super condescending but I think the target demographic here related to an aging guy in control of his destiny making piece with the legacy he leaves behind, just like aging men have to make piece with not being free anymore and embracing their responsibilities. It's the only answer I can find to this outpouring of emotionality Logan has been received with.
So, I wouldn't QUITE call Logan a solid movie, but it gets close. It's an interesting, stylish, but inherently flawed movie based on an interesting concept : superheroes facing their own mortality, which triggers a very human and "normal" questioning. I believe people got a kick out of that. It's not a transcendent theater experience, so I would suggest you wait for video on demand before investing money into this one. It's a perfect cozy Friday evening movie with the girlfriend. Of course, I wasn't the target audience for Logan per se: I don't have any kids, I'm not a casual moviegoer by any means, but I can appreciate the direction it's going in. Marvel has been defecating studio-formatted movies on our cinema screens for over a decade now and if they're going to continue to do so, I believe movies like Logan are a step in the right direction. It's not quite there, but it could get there if you know what I mean.
* Before you ask, none of the two is "better" than the other. They're simply two different smartphones designed for two different people. I suppose it is impossible to understand unless you actually OWNED both, which I did. The Android is for tech-savvy people who like to have a conscious relationship with their phone, customize its function and use shady third party apps. iPhone are for people who don't care about their smartphone experience because it is pre-planned for you. I know that because I'm a happy and well-informed iPhone user.
** I would like to your face if I pretended to know anything more about the said comic book.
*** Don't worry, this isn't a spoiler. Old Logan is a deluxe Uber driver in this alternative reality and was just chauffeuring an old lady when it happened.
**** His name is Pierce, but it's a detail hovered over so quickly by the movie I had to Google it.
***** I can't believe I just said that about a superhero movie.