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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Logan: A First Reactions Review



           Last night, long-time X-Men and Wolverine movie lovers in New York City were treated to an early screening of the much awaited "Logan".  I was fortunate enough to get access to the screening and to put it lightly, my expectations were high.  After all, this was going to be Hugh Jackman's FINAL appearance as the iconic character that he has been bringing to life for over 17 years and 8 films.  This was a film I was ready to judge harshly:  Would it fizzle out as X-Men: Last Stand and X-Men Apocalypse had?  Or would it rise to the high esteem of The Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past?  I'm happy to report the latter!  As a lifelong fan of the character, I have been waiting as everyone has for the perfect Wolverine story and this might be it in my book.

            Over the years since 2000, Hugh Jackman has been the quintessential Wolverine/Logan/James Howlett that has been as identifiable and fan-beloved as Christopher Reeve as Superman or Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man.  Over the course of 8 films, Jackman has had the opportunity to play the character in different mindsets, different eras, and taken him on several different arcs.  While some of his outings as the character have been better than others, no one can dispute Hugh’s love for the character or his commitment to always bring audiences the best adaptation of the character that he can.  And I can say, unequivocally, this is Hugh Jackman’s single best performance as the character in “Logan”.  Over the past 17 years, Jackman has always understood that the essence of this character is always wrapped in tragedy.  Even if we may get to see him expressing humor or experiencing happy moments in his life, he masterfully shows a sense of the tragedy he has experienced throughout his life while also waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop and for things to go bad again and that is what has made this character so interesting to keep coming back to in every new installment in the X-Men franchise.  Of course it’s cool to see him beat the snot out of guys in action sequences, but it’s how his journey constantly evolves and takes him to new emotional depths and getting to see his character be bent and in some cases broken that has kept audiences so invested in his story.  “Logan” is the 17 year pay off for this character and does not disappoint.



            In 2013, The Wolverine debuted and was, for me, the best film of the X-Men franchise because it did what I feel Superman: The Movie and Batman Begins had done before it:  It told a story that was completely in service to the character.  And Logan follows in these footsteps even more so.  To keep this as spoiler free as possible, I will provide only a slight gist of the plot:  The film takes place a few years after the future sequence at the end of X-Men: Days of Future Past.  The world is a much gloomier, darker vision of what we thought it would be at the end of Days of Future Past and Logan is the sole caregiver to Charles Xavier.  Logan is no longer the reluctant hero who hates and fears what he is and the people he could hurt.  He’s literally given up on hope and is just looking to live out the rest of his days until he ultimately dies.  He’s not angry, he’s not frustrated.  He just doesn’t care, and this sets the stage perfectly for where the story takes him and how his character will go through an extremely profound change by the film’s end.



            The supporting cast in Logan is arguably the strongest I’ve seen of ANY X-Men franchise film.  Every performance is so solid and well performed that I literally cannot find any fault or different castings that I would have preferred.  The biggest thing is that I did not feel any character was superfluous and unneeded.  While this is very much Hugh Jackman’s movie, the two performances that stand side-by-side with his would be Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier and Dafne Keen as Laura Kinney/X-23.  Stewart’s performance really stands out because we see Charles in a physical and mental state that we have never seen his character in before, and it’s the bending of these characters almost to the point of breaking that will leave audiences so emotionally invested in their journey over the course of the film.  And I really do not want to spoil anything for anyone, so all I will say is that I truly believe this will leave millions of audience members across the world becoming huge fans of X-23.  The team of antagonists led by Stephen Merchant is also very strong and compelling as they do not steal the show, but help the story to unfold and progress naturally.



            Okay.  Now let’s address the elephant in the room:  The action.  As everyone knows by now, Logan is the first R rated film that Wolverine has been in.  While we’ve seen gory elements with the Extended Cut of “The Wolverine” and seen some dicey moments from him in “X-Men: Apocalypse” and other films, it goes without saying that “Logan” takes it to a WHOLE other level.  The best I would compare it too is “Deadpool” as far as the blood, gore, and dismemberment, but “Deadpool” uses it far more humorously so it doesn’t resonate with you as harshly what is happening to the people he’s killing.  “Logan” pulls no punches when it comes to the brutality of the action sequences, but I want to make it very clear that the movie doesn’t just do this to abuse the R rating.  While the violence can be a bit overwhelming at times during the course of the film, I feel that it does work in service to the particular story they are trying to tell with the character in this go-round.  Wolverine has lost so much at this point in his life that he literally has no hope and absolutely zero sympathy for anyone else other than Charles and Laura, and his brutality speaks to this.  I truly believe that this will be the level of Wolverine-action that fans have been waiting to see for 17 years.  With each new installment, Wolverine’s fights have gotten closer and closer to the character in the comics and until Logan, I think “The Wolverine” came the closest.  But Logan seals the deal and gives us the definitive Wolverine action we’ve all wanted for so long.

            For the fans out there hoping Logan is going to be a straight up adaptation of the comic storyline “Old Man Logan”, I would say don’t go in with that expectation.  This film utilizes certain elements of that story, but crafts a completely new and original story that I dare say you may end up liking even more.  We still get that classic Western-style genre film in this, but this is very much a story that is in service expressly to the character of Wolverine and finalizing his journey.  And on that level, the film executes that perfectly.  I do not believe we could’ve asked for a better and more emotional final outing for Hugh Jackman as this beloved character.



            I just want to end this review with this:  generally, I don’t like reviewing a film right after I’ve seen it.  I feel a lot of us walk out of comic book movies in the “honey moon” mindset.  We romanticize a lot of things and tell ourselves that a movie is far better than they are because we are so jazzed up from the movie we just got to experience.  I really like to watch a film 3-4 times before I cast judgement, but I know that a lot of fans out there are anxious to know how good the film is and since I got to attend a special early screening which Hugh Jackman was present at, I wanted to share my experience with you.


            I sincerely hope this First Reaction Review has made you feel good about the film and more anxious than ever to see the film.  Remember, Logan opens everywhere March 3rd.  Snikt snikt!


Written and Edited by: Witt Reese. Co-Edited by: Jack Flowers. Published by: The Nerd Hub

All Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox

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