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Movie Review

Logan

Logan
Hugh Jackman stars in "Logan." Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Films.

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Rated R for violence, bloody images and language including sexual references. One hour, 43 minutes.
Publication date: Feb. 27, 2017
Review by Peter Canavese
Released: (2017)

Much of the comic book crowd (and 20th Century Fox executives) probably hoped Hugh Jackman would eternally come back to Wolverine, the mutant he's now played for 17 years over nine films. But time and death stalk every man, and nothing is forever: a theme of principal interest to the creative team behind “Logan."
 
“Logan" marks the third and final solo film for the long-running Marvel Comics character introduced to screen audiences in the 2000 film “X-Men." Director James Mangold (who helmed previous installment “The Wolverine") returns, bringing with him a Western sensibility honed on his 2007 remake of “3:10 to Yuma." Screenwriters Scott Frank, Mangold and Michael Green take very loose inspiration from a comic book run known as "Old Man Logan," but only a few plot points carry over: a futuristic setting (in this case, 2029) that ages our hero, his mentor Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and the notions of Logan having a child and a cross-country road trip to undertake. Beyond that, the writers give themselves the freedom to invent.
 
There's a new corporate "big bad" called Transigen Research, a company weaponizing mutant children. Circumstances conspire to place one of those children -- 11-year-old Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen) -- in the care of ever-reluctant hero Logan, a.k.a. James Howlett, a.k.a. Weapon X, a.k.a. Wolverine.
 
When Transigen's dirty worker Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his band of Reavers come a-callin', Logan, Xavier and Laura flee for their lives, hitting the dusty road in search of a fabled haven called Eden. The mute Laura suspiciously shares much in common with Logan, most notably adamantium claws and barely contained rage. And so "Logan" becomes an unconventional-family drama with three generations of mutants forced onto a road trip, although “Little Miss Sunshine" this ain't.
 
A closer analogue is the 1953 western “Shane," which Mangold quotes liberally. The concept of a "modern Western" interpolating machine guns and the like is hardly new, but Mangold plays it to the hilt, and the style suits Jackman's tightly-wound loner (who looks uncannily like latter-day Mel Gibson at times here).
 
What's best about “Logan" is its chancier approach to a genre franchise picture. Mangold heads in the exact opposite direction from Bryan Singer's tiresome epic spectacle “X-Men: Apocalypse." Although it doesn't go too far out on its mutant limbs -- the brief still prioritizes violent action, here of the brutal, bloody sort found in graphic novels -- “Logan" wears the age of its characters as a badge of pride and an invitation to dramatic ambition. Wolverine and Professor X are shadows of their former selves, fighting off age-related ailments and their sense of heroic teamwork curdled into guilty feelings and strained familial duty.
 
Jackman and Stewart sink their teeth into material that's often poignant, turning in series-best performances. Mangold, too, finds inspiration in the moments between these characters, framing moving (in both senses) images such as Logan tenderly carrying his father figure up a flight of stairs and to bed. As a comic book film, “Logan" seems certain to please its core audience, especially with its R-rated violence and profanity allowing for pure, uncut Wolverine. For the broader audience, there's a resonant motif in “Logan" that times have changed for the worst, but this dystopian world revives the humanity in these characters, a development that's all for the best.