★★★ / ★★★★
An argument can be made that “Logan,” directed by James Mangold, is not just for fans of the previous “X-Men” and “Wolverine” movies. The plot does not revolve around attempting to save the planet from destruction in the hands of Mutants or non-Mutants nor does it center upon fighting for the future of those with special abilities. It is not about finding one’s identity outside of one’s Mutant abilities either. Instead, the picture is about aging and mortality. Thus, its target audience skews toward a later age group, which makes sense because viewers who are likely to find meaning and establish an emotional bond with the film are those who have grown older alongside the aforementioned series, especially fans of Hugh Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine. If this project is truly Jackman’s final turn as Logan, it is a strong exit because it stands out from the movies that came before.
There is an enveloping late ‘70s minimalist vibe to the project, fascinating because the story takes place in 2029. There is a whole lot of yellow dirt, western films playing on television, focus on unpolished areas of towns. But upon closer inspection, futuristic elements can be found in the background. Ostentatious special and visual effects are kept at a bare minimum which creates a gritty and natural feel. It is essentially a raw chase picture where Logan, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and a mysterious girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) make a handful of stops along the way, but the journey serving as a giant metaphor toward our impermanence. There just so happens to be action sequences placed in between.
The decision to amplify and show the violence straight-on is a fresh take on the genre. Although Tim Miller’s “Deadpool” employs violence as a source of humor from time to time, this work utilizes violence to underline the idea of maiming and killing others, whether it the hands of a Mutant or non-Mutant, being a brutal thing. Eventually, around the halfway point, I caught myself not wanting to see any more metal claws being shoved through someone’s skull or a person’s throat being slashed clean. This artistic decision provides more gravity to an already layered and textured material.
Perhaps least intriguing is its portrayal of villains. Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his leading errand boy Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) do not get enough scenes, or richly-written scenes, to show their motivations. We learn only how monstrous they are through a video flashback. Outside of this recorded video, when the antagonists come face-to-face with Wolverine, there is a noticeable lack of intrigue. I wanted to have a chance measure Dr. Rice’s cunningness and intelligence and to determine Pierce’s personal motivation. Even the company they work for remains a mystery.
“Logan,” based on the screenplay by Scott Frank, James Mangold, and Michael Green, serves both as strong entertainment and as an insightful exploration of how it might be like to notice one’s physical and mental deterioration. During the final third of the picture, well before the expected final battle, I felt as though the story of the remaining X-men was complete. Here is a movie that underscores a distinction between closure and an ending.