Logan Review: Hugh Jackman & James Mangold’s Mutant Masterpiece

Logan has always been a character in the X-Men universe that is known for his hard-drinking, foul-mouthed language and lots of slicing and dicing of his enemies. Yet, he’s never been able to fully be that character in all the X-Men movies and in his two previous solo Wolverine efforts. The last film, The Wolverine, was a fantastic flick. Yet, it still seemed as if star Hugh Jackman was being held back in his effort to push the envelope.

With writer-director James Mangold’s Logan hitting theaters, Jackman can finally let loose and be the Logan/Wolverine that he and X-Men storytellers have been hinting at since 2000. He’s brash. He’s depressed. He wallows in liquor. He’s aging (for some unknown reason), bitter and fires off swear words as fast as those blades fly out of his hands when violent challenges confront him.

Oh, and he finds a whole lot of heart in the form of a little girl who needs him.

We meet our favorite mutant as the story commences and the world is pretty much as it is now, albeit a decade in the future. Mutants have been widely dispersed and slowly but surely vanishing from our world. Logan is making his living as a driver for hire who spends his days shuttling prom goers and high rollers alike. Where once upon a time Professor Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart) took Logan in, he now has taken to caring for the elderly mutant mentor. They, along with another mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant), are in hiding, just over the border in Mexico. Logan routinely brings the former head of the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters medication that keeps him from having seizures that cause seismic repercussions that injure and even kill people around him. There seems to be no such thing as a safe distance from these episodes, but as long as Charles continues his meds, things appear to be under control.

Fate intervenes into this trio’s relatively quiet life when they meet a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen). She is being pursued by some nasty fellows and lands in Logan’s charge — whether he wants her there or not.  Logan and Professor X learn a few things about a highly unethical clinic south of the border that has been creating mutant children in a laboratory. Laura is a product of one of their experiments. She is like a daughter to Logan in that she has the same mutant powers as he, complete with blades that emerge from her hands and an uncanny ability to heal. Danger is everywhere, but there is the supposed promise of safety in the Dakotas. If only she could get there.

Professor X and Logan get swept into this cause and find themselves on the run with one goal — get this girl to safety.

This film is Mangold’s epic masterpiece. It is action packed with wildly creative sequences that use Jackman’s talents to the fullest. Those of us who have adored the actor’s characterization of Wolverine for a decade and a half now as well as neophytes to this world will both be compelled by this so-called final chapter in Logan’s saga. We cheer their successes. We mourn their setbacks. Marigold’s penned a script that delivers not only action that is exquisitely choreographed, but moments of pure bliss that combine humor and heartfelt human connections that ground the piece firmly in a dramatic milieu.

This emotional pull, which has been somewhat missing in all the X-Men movies that came prior, brings a power that spans the human spectrum in terms of our feelings, optimism for a better future and also a stunning look at the fragility of life itself.

Logan is a heart-driven piece of art that chronicles the human condition in a way that transcends the superhero genre. It will appeal to audiences beyond those who normally treasure the Marvel-ous world of heroes and villains. This is an astounding cinematic experience that should find itself mentioned among the best of the year when all is said and done for 2017.

Jackman, for his part, seems to know that the end is near of his phenomenal run as Logan and gives every ounce of his soul. He delivers levels of authenticity that have only been hinted at for the last 16 years. The actor is as razor sharp as his character’s claws. And dare we say… if this film was released later in the year when “Oscar season” is the topic du jour, we could see his last go around as Wolverine scoring him a Best Actor nod. Yes, it’s that good.

Mangold and Jackman make quite a pair. Their kinetic chemistry was teased quite effectively in The Wolverine. And in Logan, it explodes off the screen. Mangold has achieved something extraordinary with his latest film. He has brought elements of what makes the cinematic experience such a gift to a genre film that gives it layers of resonance normally reserved for films from Hollywood’s past that have been long lauded in film classes and history books. Simply put, Logan reminds us why we adore the magic of the movies.

Grade: A