RECAP: Logan

Logan (2017): James Mangold

Playing Wolverine for the seventh and final time (in a feature role), Hugh Jackman wanted to end his career as most folks’ favorite mutant with a slash. Can Wolverine go out any other way?

Joining Jackman, and also for the last time, is Sir Patrick Stewart as Xavier. These two actor/character combinations began life on film in the previous century, before 9/11, GMO plants, and Donald Trump. In other words, a world ago.

Wow, they delivered a great movie.

ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: In the future the X-Men have disbanded, leaving Wolverine (just “Logan” now, thanks) to care for a dying Xavier and help a new mutant. 

Hero (9/10)

“Fuuuuuck.” That’s Logan’s, as Wolverine is now known, first word in Logan, spoken as he awakens in the back of a limo parked alongside an El Paso highway.

Hugh Jackman returns for the last time as Wolverine. This will be a different mutant movie, a fact not hidden from the get-go. Logan stumbles from the limo, which he drives professionally, to find four local toughs trying to steal his hubcaps. He asks them not to because their tire irons will strip the chrome.

Guy's face looks like the surface of the moon.
Guy’s face looks like the surface of the moon.

One robber shoots Logan with a shotgun. Logan drops to the ground like a sack of potatoes and the criminals continue their work. Those famous healing powers appear dormant. Until Logan pops back up. Grizzled, grey, coughing, bleeding through his dress shirt, Logan is still alive.

The toughs shoot at the limo. Logan takes a bullet…for his car, definitely a first in a Hollywood movie. Then the criminals damage the limo, and that makes Logan very angry. The claws come out. He brains one guy and disarms another, in both senses of “disarm”.

Like I said, a different mutant movie. With the success of the R-rated Deadpool, studio heads allowed Mangold to unleash a vicious Hugh Jackman for his final turn as our favorite clawed mutant. And thank goodness they did.

After the El Paso scene we watch Logan repair himself. He flexes out bullets from a torso more scarred than not. Blood oozes from him, but he has no time to stop that before putting on another white shirt.

Alcohol bottles of varying size and emptiness are never far from Logan. In one moment he can’t get a claw to come out until he uses his hand to slide it out. He constantly coughs and limps.

Logan is dying, and for some time we don’t know why. He’s not the only mutant dying. Logan hides out in Mexico, keeping Professor Xavier drugged and locked in a fallen water tower. The two of them have an albino named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) to play their maid.

Logan is a tale of aging and dying. Melancholy drapes over every scene, enough to make the gorgeous Mexico sunshine seem oppressive and sad.

Villain (2/10)

Boyd Holbrook plays Pierce, Transigen’s chief of security. We first meet Pierce when he steps into Logan’s limousine. Wearing red-tinted sunglasses, he could be Gambit. I suspect the resemblance was purposeful.

Pierce compares Logan’s El Paso rampage to the fictional Freddy Kruger or the extinct tiger. Since Freddy and tigers do not exist in 2029, Pierce concluded the rampage belonged to Logan. He was right.

Transigen is tracking an escaped piece of property (actually, a child) and one of its nurse employees. Laura, the child, and Gabriella, the nurse, have contacted Logan to drive Laura to Eden, a refuge for mutants in North Dakota. Pierce wants them back because he’s paid to do so.

Paid though he is, Pierce appears to enjoy hunting down mutants. He’s keen to meet Xavier, probably a worldwide legend in 2029, and meeting Logan is like meeting, well, Hugh Jackman in real life.

Celebrity mutants aside, a smile is never far from Pierce’s face. I remember him as a gum chewer, though I don’t think he ever chewed gum. He has that demeanor. Capturing Caliban and forcing him to track Logan was especially fun for Pierce, who tortures the albino by exposing him to sunlight.

forgot this guy's name for awhile
forgot this guy’s name for awhile

Owning a mechanical right forearm can boost anyone’s confidence, as it does for Pierce. He unleashes X-24, young Wolverine, as if he were a well trained house cat and not the most efficient killing machine yet made.

It seems the only person Pierce fears is his boss, a lithe scientist named Dr. Rice and head of Transigen’s mutant creation division. Rice pulls the pursestrings, after all. Rice dresses down Pierce after the former arrives in the field for the first time. Pierce hangs his head.

Though he drives the initial chase, when Rice arrives Pierce has to take a backseat. He’s eager to throw men at Laura in Mexico and comes at them with a harpoon in North Dakota.

Pierce’s death must rank highly on creepiness and and gruesomeness scales. The children he’s helped torture surround him and drag him to the ground. The grass begins to envelop him like a mummy’s rags. The ice breath girl breathes lightly on him, enough to make it hurt. The boy with electric powers zaps him a bit, more than a tingle. So many children attack him that it’s hard to tell what kills him. We’re glad to see him go.

Action/Effects (6/10)

Logan leaves it all on the floor in Jackman’s last go. By “it” I mean blood and limbs.

Laura (Dafne Keen) unites with Logan and Xavier in their Mexico hideout. Pierce follows them there, and he brings a platoon of goons with big guns. Bad news for the muties. Logan finds Xavier and drags him to the limo for the getaway. What about Laura? Xavier asks. Logan wants to leave her.

Too late. Pierce and company surround Logan and Xavier. They have a tet-a-tet. Pierce sends three men inside the compound to capture Laura. The audience, Logan, and possibly Xavier don’t know what Laura can do.

Pierce knew Laura from their Transigen days, yet it seems he didn’t know what she could do either. Laura, inside and enjoying a bowl of cereal, calmly watches her would-be captors approach on a monitor. She knows they’re real, not a TV show; her face exudes concentration.

The scene cuts to the outside, Logan’s point of view, watching the building. All the men are silent. We hear distant gunfire, screams, silence. Laura, still clutching her beloved bag of her only possessions, walks through a gate. She throws a severed head the rest of the men.

Out pop Wolverine-like adamantium claws (two instead of three) from her hands, and Laura immediately she attacks three more men, slashing at them to afford an escape climbing over exterior walls. Men shoot until Pierce stops them. “She can heal,” he says, nudging the men to chase them.

Laura drops her bag and kills three more men to get it back. Logan joins the fray, deciding that he’s on her side I guess. One of the goons harpoons Laura and two more drag her away. Out pops a toe claw. That’s a new trick. Laura whips her body around, slashing and dicing for days.

Some of the other goons surround Xavier in the limousine. Logan breaks form helping Laura to aid the defenseless Xavier. Logan cuts his way to the driver’s seat and peals out. Laura sprints and leaps on the roof and falls through the sunroof.

Pierce brought trucks. They start up and chase the limo. Logan needs to get away fast. He drives the limo, one for which he took a bullet in El Paso, into the perimeter fence. A trick we’ve seen a thousand times fails. The fence wraps around the limo, forcing Logan to reverse.

The chain link and razor wire wreckage ensnares two motorcycles. Two more guys leap onto the car. Laura stabs one in the eye through the glass. Logan successfully drives through a gate and toward the train tracks.

Oh, hey, a train’s coming. Pierce is in pursuit. Logan whips the car around the train engine and to safety. The train is a mile long. It’s enough for now.

Brutality is not spared in Logan. The titular hero is bloodied for most of the film, and his face resembles the landscape of North Dakota. We’ve seen Wolverine fight before, and this time we don’t see as much of it. However, I can’t get enough of that Jackman feral scream.

Sidekicks (8/8)

Patrick Stewart breaks from his career as a dapper, cool-headed British aristocrat to play a raving near-lunatic. Reprising his role as Professor Charles Xavier, Stewart first appears on screen in a dinky wheelchair, zipping around his rusting chamber and moaning snippets of unrelated speech.

And he has hair! Xavier growing hair is either a great thing or a terrible thing. Given his mental state in the movie, I’d lean toward terrible. Logan oversees Xavier’s pill regimen and administers shots to keep seizures at bay.

Logan‘s Xavier is angry and desperate. He wants to live on the ocean with Logan, in a Sunseeker boat, but neither has the money to buy one. Logan’s working on that with his limo career.

Xavier raves about a new mutant in Mexico, one coming their way. Logan doesn’t believe him. Mutants haven’t been discovered in 20 years.

Pretty soon Logan meets the new mutant. When Pierce shows up in Mexico with an army of goons, Logan is keen to leave and take Xavier with him. He leaves Laura. Sitting in the back of the limo, Xavier nags Logan. “We can’t forget Laura,” he says again and again. Logan won’t listen. I get it; Xavier’s annoying in that moment.

But he’s right. His mind might be fading, and when it does it causes people nearby to lose brain function, but he has moments of clarity. Once on the road Xavier stuffs his pills in the limo’s cushioning, freeing his mind. Witness a scene on the highway in America’s corn land. A quartet of horses escapes and skitters about the highway, dodging automatic trucks. The regular humans cannot control the animals. Xavier easily calms their minds and returns them to safety beside the road.

At the home of the Munson family, owner of the horses, Xavier rests in his bed that night, after a delicious meal and full mental clarity. It is “the most perfect night I’ve had in a long time,” he says, “and I don’t deserve it.” Xavier remembers why he was on those meds in the first place. His mental attack in Oklahoma City wasn’t his first. The Westchester Incident, alluded to throughout the film, was a far deadly of Charles’s “episodes”.

Few scenes in the X-men franchise are as touching as this one. Xavier recalls his hurt and his joy all at once. He speaks to his last living friend, Logan, who has crept into the room. But it’s not Logan. A young Wolverine, X-24, puts his fist on Xavier’s chest. Claws out, lights out.

Xavier bleeds out as the real Logan returns to fight his younger, stronger clone. At the same time, Canewood’s (a GMO corn-growing company) hired goons arrive to hassle the Munson family. X-24 attacks them and Logan uses the distractions to bring Xavier to a truck.

It’s not enough. Xavier dies. Logan buries him in the woods near a pond. He wants to speak great words for a great man. All he can mutter is that at least Xavier is by the water. Logan always let his claws do the talking.

I was surprised Xavier died. Once he did, I knew that anyone else could go. Xavier was an epic character, but he did not receive an epic sendoff. That’s the power of Logan, that even the best of us can die mundanely, in our beds, recalling past failures.

Of course, Xavier is not the only person aiding Logan. Laura is the real hero of Logan, but it’s his name on the marquee and not hers. Maybe next time, kiddo.

Laura is mute for the first two-thirds of Logan. Her nurse handles her for a time, long enough to deliver her to Logan. Xavier “speaks” to her. We don’t know who she is or what she can do, only that Xavier is certain she’s a mutant and needs help.

In Mexico we see what she can do. Laura does not fear three armed men weighing a combined 800 pounds trying to capture her. She slices their heads off.

Laura is Logan’s daughter from a test tube. He doesn’t want to believe it. Laura communicates with her claws for most of Logan, exactly the way Xavier says he found Logan long ago, like an animal.

Laura pilfering new sunglasses
Laura pilfering new sunglasses

She warms to the world quickly. At a gas station Logan and Xavier watch a video of the inside of Transigen. Children are made, trained, murdered. Dr. Rice speaks to a nurse, ordering her to consider the children as things. While watching this video the silent Laura rides a mechanical pony outside the store, one of those quarter-per-ride deals. Coupled with her origin and the just-finished Mexico attack scene, we might as well be watching The Omen riding that horse.

But Laura loved the ride. She steals a toy horse from the gas station, along with sunglasses. Later, at the Munson house, she’ll hear music for possibly the first time. Her transformation from kid who’s never seen the sun to petulant, ear-budded youngster is swift.

When Laura finally speaks it’s in Spanish, then English. She’s a crafty one. All she has to live for is a dreamed place of mutant Eden. When Logan tells her Eden is a fake place brewed from the pages of real X-Men comics, she refuses to listen: it’s real and she’s going.

Adamantium claws, healing powers, ferocious nature: Laura’s cut from Logan’s branch all right. It’s enough for us to know her well. We already know Logan from many previous films, but Laura doesn’t. She’s silent for a while, studying her father. She watches Logan intensely as he refuses payment for driving her to Eden.

Laura wants Logan to follow her into Canada. Logan won’t. We know why. “Bad shit happens to people I care about,” he says. We remember that he killed Jean Grey. “Then I’ll be fine,” Laura says. That quip cut Logan.

Laura seems at ease on the battlefield. Ease of practice if not soul. Wolverine Jr. fights like a young snake bites–with everything, and all at once. Laura stabs her opponents multiple times, as if she’s unsure who will regenerate as easily as she does. Somehow she learned flip kicks and roundhouses. She’s a young girl so we can buy that.

Henchmen (1/8)

Pierce and Rice have and endless retinue of black-clad, part-mech warriors to track Transigen prey. A bunch of bearded white guys, most of them leave the movie after a claw to some part of their heads. Called reavers, Transigen’s security force resembles angry microbrewers.

Dr. Rice, whose dad put the metal claws in Logan
Dr. Rice, whose dad put the metal claws in Logan

They are mostly around to menace the mutants with bullets and to die. They excel at dying. Logan and Laura kill at least 20 themselves. That’s a lot of life insurance policies for Transigen to pay. The company’s overall insurance premiums will rise next year. Dr. Rice never mentions that. Movies are never concerned with escalating life insurance policies, and they should be. Let’s change the game!

Stunts (4/6)

In Oklahoma City the mutants meet Pierce and his band of mad men. Logan goes out for one minute to buy a truck with cash and no papers, and next thing you know his buddy Xavier is being attacked by five goons.

How does Logan know? His world shakes. Everyone’s world shakes. Xavier is having a seizure and it’s causing everyone within 100 feet to lose mobility.

The filmmakers stepped up their game with these Xavier seizure scenes. The camera quakes, mimicking what a seizure might be like. It bothers Logan, but everyone else more so. We watch him stagger to the elevator and press for the right floor. The elevator works fine.

Outside the hotel room is a Transigen thug guarding Xavier’s hotel door. Logan can heal faster, though not as fast as usual, so he can move when regular men can’t.

Five men are coming after Xavier and Laura. The first guy gets brained. Logan enters the room. The next guy is clawed in the chin. A third guy is stabbed in the back of his neck. Logan moves in slow motion, but the regular men move in slower motion.

Two men aim their weapons at Xavier, who can’t move either. Logan struggles to reach them. Laura, on the floor, army crawls toward her attackers. The camera shivers. Logan stabs one man in the side and another in his back.

Slowly, soooooo slowly, Logan moves a plunger full of anti-seizure liquids toward and into Xavier. The madness ends, but those Transigen spooks are still dead.

Great scene amongst many. Logan surprises with its savagery despite leaning on two aging characters. The best can still surprise us even in advanced age. As Xavier corrects a man, “I’m a nonagenarian.”

Climax (6/6)

As they promised, the children leave Eden for Canada before dawn. America is not safe enough. Camp New Mutants goes for a forest trek. Logan’s left behind, but they left him some of that medicine to help him heal faster and a note begging him not to take it all at once.

Behind the children are Pierce, Rice, and a million mercenaries. Logan runs after them, out of breath for most of the journey. He’s too late. The roundup has started.

The children run through the forest. They have powers, they know, but are too frightened, mostly, to use them. A girl with icy breath uses it on an attacker’s arm, freezing it and shattering it. Another girl appears to be Plant-neto. She uses thousands of wood splinters to penetrate a mercenary and explode him from the inside. These tricks won’t be enough. Transigen brought too many goons.

Down the hill a scream sounds. Logan has injected the entire vial of temporary healing medicine. The shout is loud and enveloping. You know Logan is about to wreck some fools.

Logan runs up a hill. Claws out paws out. He slices through seven men in one take, including a Superman-like launch into one man. A huge gun on a truck bed stops the tirade.

Laura is surrounded by several men. Logan pops in to kill one man and use his gun to take out the truck gun. Both Wolverines ravage their would-be captors. Laura runs up Logan’s back to launch into an enemy. Each time Laura lunges at a bad guy evokes those overdramatized special attacks in fighting video games. I expect the world to slow down as she does a flying lotus kick or something toward a hapless enemy who didn’t press the right counter button combination fast enough.

Most of these goons don’t survive the strike. Problem is, there’s an endless supply of them. Logan’s medicine wears off. He’s haggard. The children, except Laura, are rounded up with guards standing by. Logan tells Laura to go be with her friends. She’s hesitates. “You’ll know when,” Logan says.

Logan hobbles to meet Dr. Rice. They don’t know each other, but Rice’s father was the man who put adamantium inside Logan. The same adamantium that’s poisoning him now. So that’s why he’s dying.

Rice wants to control mutation. He’s helping put mutant genes into the GMO corn Canewood’s stuffing into the world’s fizzy drinks. Murdering kids for a few extra stock points. He agrees with Logan that his father was an asshole.

“I don’t like guns” Logan draws one and shoots Rice in the head and Pierce, standing by, in the mechanical arm. Laura knows that’s when. She attacks two guards by the other children. One kid electrocutes a jeep, killing others.

Pierce is injured but not enough to prevent him from unleashing rehealed X-24. Logan is no match for this. He’s stabbed in the back again. Logan rips off a metal door to block X-24’s attacks, driving the door onto his opponent’s neck. X-24 tears apart the door.

Laura leaps in to strike X-24. She gets atop him and stabs his chest like she’s chopping onions. Blood and snarls are everywhere. Pierce stumbles nearby to harpoon Logan’s leg. Crawling, Logan rips off the harpoon’s hook part.

One of the kids uses his mutant power to lift an armored truck and smash it on X-24. That buys enough time for the other children to gather around Pierce. Grass grows beneath Pierce to wrap him like Gulliver on Lilliput. The other children add frozen breath, electric shocks, and other touches to help kill Pierce. One of the creepier deaths in superhero history, certainly.

X-24 breaks apart the truck and finds Logan. With his claws in Logan’s shoulder, he drags him to a log and impales him on it. Ready to deliver the death blow, X-24’s head is blown off by Laura, who shot him with Logan’s adamantium bullet.

Laura cries beside Logan, who refuses aid. This is it. Logan smiles. “This is what it feels like,” he says to his daughter. Logan, Wolverine, James Howlett dies.

Like Xavier, Logan is buried near water. Laura stands at her father’s feet and delivers the Shane speech. “There aren’t anymore guns in the valley.” As the children file away to Canada, Laura takes the cross at Logan’s head. She kneels. She turns the cross to an X.

LOGAN

God damn that ending was the shit.

Jokes (0/4)

A movie with Stephen Merchant in it didn’t make me laugh much. I liked the moment when Laura speaks, unloading days, months, years of pent-up anger in a torrent of whizzing Spanish. Spanish is a great language for rapidly throwing out words.

They still have paper comics in the future.
They still have paper comics in the future.

Setting (2/4)

Beautiful, bleak, sun-baked Mexico. Logan and Xavier hide out there for a few years as Xavier’s world-famous brain deteriorates enough to be classified as a weapon of mass destruction. Xavier and Logan want to buy a Sunseeker boat and live on the sea, but they don’t need any more sun.

Where Xavier hangs out
Where Xavier hangs out

The hideout evokes Logan’s and Xavier’s life stage. Rusty, decrepit, and dirty, the old metal shacks and walls are as yellow as the costume of comic book Wolverine. Trains run daily on the tracks nearby, shaking the entire complex. Xavier grows potted plants in a fallen water tower that evokes the memory of the original Cerebro machine cooked up in Days of Future Past.

Harrah’s casino and hotel near Oklahoma City is also a location. It’s a casino. The hotel is nice.

Munson’s farm provides a pleasant, middle-American respite from the craziness of the road. You know how road trips can be. Their farm is the last outpost of regular farmers amongst the massive GMO cornfields of Canewood, the company putting mutant DNA in your sodas. In one scene Logan and Pa Munson go out to fix the water. Two enormous corn reapers crawl through the night sky. Small brains and big bodies, Munson compares them to dinosaurs.

Eden. Logan brings Laura to Eden. Actually, it’s the other way around in the end. Eden might be a paradise, but it’s a lookout tower perched above a precipice that resembles the South Dakota Badlands and was filmed in New Mexico. Not North Dakota at all.

Hell, I’ve never been to North Dakota. I don’t know what it looks like. Could be forests near the Canadian border. Doubt it, but could be. I do know that the forest was beautiful and primeval, exactly the environment Wolverine enjoys. Green and lush, the woods provided a space for bloodletting.

Commentary (2/2)

Logan‘s main characters are breaking down. They aren’t the only things. Xavier and Logan watch on a phone an important video that establishes Laura’s background. In the middle of the video the battery dies. In Mexico, Logan tries to drive his limo through a fence. Instead of busting through as we expect, the fence ensnares the car.

See? Stuff doesn’t always work like you think it should. Logan can’t even get his claws to fink all the way out. Not only are Logan and Xavier dying, mutants as a whole are. Laura is the first mutant in 25 years to communicate with Xavier, and she’s got him aflutter.

Logan could only die in such a world. Companies are spreading mutant genes to the whole populace through GMO corn. Wolverine was the first modern mutant, but he lives in a world that no longer needs him or considers him an outlier. Even his job–driver–is outdated in a world of computer-driven trucks.

One key question will endure from Logan. As his life ends, Logan looks at his baby from an unknown lady and says, “This is what it feels like.” Was he speaking of familial love or death? Or both? I think both, but the line is ambiguous enough that any answer can be correct. That’s part of the power of Logan‘s final moments.

Maybe you found it too much that Logan’s killer was himself. I was fine with it. Seemed like the only way for him to go out.

Offensiveness (0/-2)

Logan, unlike most X-Men movies, ignores the lives of mutants living amongst non-mutants. In 2029 mutants are about gone and generally forgotten. This movie is the story of aging, ignoring inclusiveness.

Others

  • I can’t say exactly why, but Laura’s two-blade hands creeped me out. Was it because I’m so used to Wolverine’s three-claw situation? Each blade is sandwiched between two fingers, making for an aesthetic symmetry. Laura misses that middle blade, but that somehow leaves me dis-eased. The toe blades were boss.
  • Logan’s face resembled “North Dakota’s” (actually New Mexico) landscape. Compared to early Wolverine he’s unrecognizable.

Summary (41/68): 60%

A phenomenal ending for an all-time great comic book character, Logan should resonate as the best X-Men movie. It doesn’t have the star power of the ensemble pieces, but Hugh Jackman made Wolverine who he is. Would the series have been as successful without his presence as the feral warrior with regenerative powers?