Director: James Mangold (Cop Land, Girl Interrupted, Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, The Wolverine)
Screenplay: Michael Green, Scott Frank, James Mangold
Producers: Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner
Starring: Doris Morgado, Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Richard E. Grant
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 135 min.
At this point, the superhero genre has devolved into a yearly battle for delivering ever-more bombastic movies. Sometimes they have interesting stories but mostly it’s about big action sequences smashed between some quirky dialog and maybe an inkling of story. Some of these movies are more fun to watch than others but of the comic book adaptations of the last few years, the most interesting work is being done on the small screen – until now.
The marketing suggested that Logan, director James Mangold’s second Wolverine movie, might be in a different class than the rest and this time, the marketing didn’t lie.
This superhero/action/western hybrid unfolds in 2029. In this future, Logan is aging, healing slower than before and caring for Charles Xavier. Their not-so-peaceful living arrangement is up-ended even further when Logan is approached by a woman who wants him to take a little girl named Laura to South Dakota. That meeting sets rolling a whole load of trouble in the form of Donald Pierce, Dr. Rice and an army of mercenaries determined to get their hands on the girl at any cost.
It sounds like a fairly straight forward plot and it is. Logan has all the trappings of a chase movie. What makes it great is the story that Mangold and screenwriters Michael Green (Kings, American Gods) and Scott Frank (The Lookout) embed into the very fiber of the movie. The result is a great story of family, friendship, and sacrifice which happens to include a ridiculous amount of action, violence and a peppering of science-fiction. This is definitely not kid-friendly. Logan is not without a plot hole here and there but none of them are glaringly problematic and quite honestly, they’re more than made up for by the emotional weight of the story.
In part that comes from well-written characters and in part from great performances. Hugh Jackman, making what is likely his final appearance as the character he completely embodied since day one, goes full tilt here delivering a performance that is both physically impressive and emotionally powerful. As far as bad guys go, Boyd Holbrook is as good as they come and he leads a brilliant cast of supporting characters. The real discovery here is relative new-comer Dafne Keen who is wonderfully expressive as Laura.
Mangold takes the story to Texas and Mexico and the setting lends itself well to both to the western themes which permeate through the movie while also becoming a great character of its own.
Logan works because it focuses on story first and the superhero trappings second. In doing so, Mangold has delivered the first comic book movie that reaches well beyond the built-in fandom and appeals to a far wider audience. This is the first superhero movie I full heartedly recommended to my dad.
Is this the future of the comic book movie? Unlikely. Though I wish it was because Logan is, by far, the best comic book/superhero movie in years.