Donovan Maudsley - 4B X-Men-ing
Posted on: March 10, 2017

Crafting Hugh Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine was no small order. Jackman has become heavily associated with the role over his 17 years playing the mutant brawler. He was one of the highlights of the original X-Men. The second movie’s plot largely grew out of his mythos. He’s appeared in or been alluded to in every single movie in the franchise.  The comic character’s appearance has even been slightly altered to reflect Jackman over the years. Jackman and Wolverine are largely inseparable in the eyes of fans around the world. This makes the fact that Logan is an absolute triumph even more impressive.

Director James Mangold, a veteran of the western 3:10 to Yuma, and Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, created an intimate and heart wrenching experience. Based on the gritty Old Man Logan comic series, and taking cues from many classics, Logan is essentially a Western featuring superheroes. Set in the “not so distant future,” as with most X-Men titles, Logan kicks off close to the Texas-Mexico border (where there is no wall) and paints a bleak future for mutant-kind; there aren’t any. The X-Men franchise, and superhero movies as a whole, are typically filled with many larger than life heroes and villains, but Mangold chooses to tell a more intimate story.

The story centers around three mutants in an unforgiving world. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine is joined by Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. Stewart has also been tied to his X-role since 2000. Stewart was the original choice for Xavier, going all the way back to 1997, and doesn’t disappoint in his final outing. Time has taken its toll on Charles; his mind isn’t what it used to be but his gifts are as powerful as ever, which is a dangerous combination. Stewart’s dual portrayal of the character, half raving lunatic/half wise and determined mentor, is commendable.

The true show-stopping performance, however, is given by Dafne Keen as Laura. A willful young girl bearing a striking resemblance to Wolverine, Laura essentially hires Wolverine to take her to North Dakota (which is a long way from Southern Texas). Keen is only 11 years old but delivers an amazingly nuanced performance in her first feature-length role. She continually holds her own in scenes with Jackman and Stewart, and really steals the show in the movie’s final act. It’s a real risk for a studio to invest so much in someone so young (anybody remember a little movie called The Phantom Menace?), but Keen delivers on every conceivable level. She’s not even old enough to watch the majority of the movie!

I have a soft spot for westerns, mostly from watching classics with my grandfather when I was a kid. Like I said before, Logan is really just a western masquerading as a superhero movie. 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier was really proof of this concept; a superhero spy thriller. With comic-inspired movies dominating the box office more and more every year, there needs to be some sort of evolution beyond “good guy fights bad guy and wins.” By expanding their stories into difference genres and crafting exceptional stories to go along with their amazing effects and big budget set pieces, superhero movies can escape the formulaic descent that many critics and audience members are predicting.

Coming back to Logan though, the movie really delivers on many levels. Those looking for an all-out action flick won’t be disappointed. Others seeking a deeper story and a more emotional experience will not be disappointed either. Logan is a true triumph and a terrific send-off for both Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. I think that we can expect big things from Keen in the future. As a final note, I truly enjoyed how they created a worthy nemesis for Wolverine. The newer X-Men series has yet to find their centering force the way that Jackman has been for 17 years, although I’m hoping for big things from Tye Sheridan’s Cyclops in their next outing.


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