Posted Mar 02 2017

Logan - This X Movie Rocks The Post-Modern Western

Dir: James Mangold

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant

First off, there’s an awful lot to like about Logan. But – second off – it’s not all the movie it could be. As with so much of James Mangold’s work, it promises more than it delivers (for reference see his previous, The Wolverine.) Here his desire to reinvent the superhero movie as the modern day (Future Days?) western is admirable. But the film spells out its own limitations. It strives to be Unforgiven, but it keeps – very literally on screen – echoing Shane. Now Shane is a really good movie. But Unforgiven is a great movie. Consequently, Logan is a very good movie. But…

It makes sense that Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine, seventeen years into the gig, should want to emulate Eastwood’s finest, given the question of where do superheroes go to die? is a beautifully enticing one. As with gunfighters of the old west, how does a man find peace in his final days after a lifetime of bloodshed and violence? And for its faults, Logan is a movie that doesn’t shy away from the notion of bloodshed. This is as brutal as anything comic book we’ve ever seen on screen before. And all the stronger for it,  given that this is a story about responsibilities and the consequences of actions. Technically, we’re in the relatively near future, but we may as well be in the dying days of the old west, as a world and life-weary Logan slowly finds himself poisoned by the adamantium in his system, but still trying to protect an ailing Charles Xavier, the greatest mind in the world now riddled with dementia and pills trying to control both. Mutants are almost the stuff of comic book mythology until a young girl appears and says “Shane, come back…” She doesn’t actually say that, but she may as well.

Mangold’s movie is a very noteworthy attempt to let the superhero movie grow up and to find it a place in the overall lexicon of American cinema. And a great deal of it succeeds in doing both those things. Jackman has never been better, not just in this role, but in his entire career. Stewart too plays Prof X as a grace note, finding real strength in his lack of same. Mangold’s visual sense is better than he’s previously displayed, using his landscapes to help define his people within them. The film takes a few too many detours however, notably a Wolverine on Wolverine subplot that takes away more than it adds.

But ultimately, it's ambitions outstrip it’s execution. As noble an effort as it is, it’s more Shane than it is Unforgiven. Which is good…but…


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