Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant
Rated R for Strong Brutal Violence and Language Throughout, and for Brief Nudity
"Logan" has been making waves in the entertainment world for two reasons: its R-rating and its bleak tone. It earns a lot of the buzz in both departments, and while I applaud the filmmakers' decision to go for the R-rating and have nothing against a superhero movie with a bleak tone ("The Dark Knight" is unequivocally the best superhero movie ever made), neither means much if the film isn't very good. And sadly, "Logan" just doesn't live up to the hype.
The year is 2029. Mutants have essentially disappeared from this slightly dystopian world. Logan (Jackman), the man with unbreakable bones and metal claws who once went by the name of Wolverine, has resigned himself to drinking and caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Stewart). Xavier, Logan's mentor and savior, is on his last breath of life; dementia is intermittently wreaking havoc in his brain, which has caused the government to label it as a "weapon of mass destruction" since his seizures are deadly for those around him. While working as a limo driver, a woman pleas for him to help her. Some very nasty people are after her daughter, Laura (Keen), who happens to be the first mutant born in the last quarter century. Logan wants nothing to do with her, but when he, Xavier and the shy albino Caliban (Merchant) are attacked by a smooth-talking psychopath named Pierce (Keen), he doesn't have any choice. Now he and Xavier must take Laura up north, where there is rumored to be a safe haven for mutants.
This is a dark, brooding film. Its aim is to be intense and melancholy, and on that level I suppose it succeeds. This is a cheerless affair, with the lead characters alone and dying, and their road trip punctuated by acts of astonishing brutality. This could be a very powerful film, if there was anything behind the words. But there isn't. The characters talk a lot, but they don't say much of any substance. As a result, I was simply bored. There was just nothing to grab onto. The characters, for all their dialogue and attempts at introspection, remain stick figures and the plot is thin.
It's a real shame, then, because stars Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have worked so hard to make the film work. They give it their all, but neither can make up for a ponderous script that thinks its deeper than it actually is and a story that doesn't grab us. Still, there's something to be said for seeing Patrick Stewart telling Hugh Jackman to fuck off. Newcomer Dafne Keen is impressive, too. As the very violent Laura, it's actually a little shocking to see how aggressive she is (however, her stunt work is clearly CGI. Slowing it down to add a little weight would have made it more credible). Boyd Holbrook is deliciously vile and Stephen Merchant adds some gallows humor to the film.
One of my frequent criticisms of the superhero genre is that it requires that viewers already have an established relationship with the characters. They're made with the die-hard fans in mind, and only them. While "Logan" doesn't overdose on the fan service like "Deadpool" or "The Avengers," it's not going to be as interesting for someone not steeped in "X-Men" lore. I am not, and as a result I can only review what I see on screen, and the result just didn't work for me.
The superhero genre has typically been seen as kid-friendly. They're violent and filled with special effects, but an absence of blood and extreme profanity has given them that image. So people are wondering if the R-rating is just for show or if it's really that violent (another example of how worthless and irrelevant the MPAA is). People are wondering if it's appropriate for kids, and the answer is no. This movie really deserves the R-rating. Limbs are sliced off, Logan does things with his knives that put Freddy Kruger (who is explicitly referenced) to shame, and Laura racks up the highest body count in frenzied attacks that are pretty shocking. It's like "Kick-Ass" without the satirical bent. Finally, the downbeat tone and themes of death and loss are likely to go over kids' heads. This movie is made for adults with a certain level of sophistication and maturity.
But unfortunately, "X-Men" super fandom is a prerequisite.