‘Logan’ review: Hugh Jackman goes out on top in final turn as Wolverine

Logan

The world finally has an R-rated version of Wolverine that does everything right.

If you love Wolverine, then you should run out to see Hugh Jackman’s final turn with the character in Logan. It’s a smart film that doesn’t skimp on action, it’s filled with heart, and the performances by Mr. Jackman and Patrick Stewart as Professor X are top notch.

There is much to say about this movie, but instead of doing up two different reviews I think I’ll just share a portion of what I wrote for Conservative Book Club and then ask  you to kindly check them out for the full version.

I wrote shortly after the film’s release:

The world has seen Hugh Jackman play the Marvel superhero Wolverine for 17 years, but it appears as though the actor saved his best performance for last. Director James Mangold’s R-rated Logan hauled in $247.3 globally its opening weekend, and for good reason — it’s a superhero movie that transcends the genre.

What is perhaps the most fascinating about Logan is that while it is chalk full violent deaths, underneath the blood and gore is a film that promotes selfless sacrifice, unconditional love, loyalty, family, and the possibility of redemption for all men — no matter how fallible they may be. Bad characters die, but the film’s message on many levels can be considered “pro-life.” Good samaritans risk everything for children who are treated as expendable tools, while the life an elderly and infirm man is fiercely protected by the protagonist.

Logan (story by Mangold, screenplay by Scott Frank) takes place in a future where all of the X-Men in the 20th Century Fox franchise are dead — wiped out in large part due to the decaying mind of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Wolverine and an ally named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) have been driven underground along the U.S. border with Mexico, although the hero is able make enough cash to get Charles seizure medication by working nights as a limo driver.

Everything changes for the trio when a nurse smuggles a genetically engineered child known as X-23 (Dafne Keen) out of captivity before she can be killed by the villain Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Her goal is to transport the girl a rally point in North Dakota where children with similar capabilities will attempt to cross the border into Canada. Logan, with his failing immune system and broken body, is coerced into the quest by Charles and the surviving shards of virtue buried deep within his own adamantium bones.

“You know, Logan, this is what life looks like: a home, people who love each other, a safe place. You should take a moment and feel it,” Xavier says when they are eventually given food and shelter by a family of farmers.

“Yeah, it’s great,” the reluctant hero sarcastically replies.

“Logan! You still have time,” Xavier implores.

Check out the rest over at CBC.

 

Advertisements

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ may be the most important superhero movie ever

‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ may be the most important superhero movie of all time. I don’t say that lightly. Those whose blood pressure is starting to rise should take note: I didn’t say it was the “most fun” or “action packed” movie of all time — I said it may be the most important film ever.

Right out of the gates director Bryan Singer lets the audience know he’s created a movie about big ideas. When the first thing a director asks is “Does free will exist?” he’s given himself a tall order to fulfill:

Charles Xavier: The future…a dark desolate world. A world at war. Suffering and loss on both sides. Mutants and the humans who dared to help them fighting an enemy we can not defeat. Are we destined down this path, destined to destroy ourselves like so many species before us? Or can we evolve fast enough to change ourselves, change our fate? Is the future truly set?

Everything from the visuals and the narration to the music by John Ottman says: “This movie has gravity. Leave now if you just want a mindless popcorn flick.”

Charles Xavier

How many of us yearn to be able to go back in time and visit our younger selves — to talk some sense into them? What price would you pay for a single attempt to impart wisdom and knowledge on your reckless youthful counterpart — who wouldn’t listen to anyone — because maybe, just maybe, he’d listen to you? What if you could go back in time and convey something to your younger consciousness that would save all sorts of pain and suffering that you — although you wouldn’t ever admit it publicly — caused friends and loved ones? What if you’ve created a “dark desolate world” for yourself, but you knew there was a moment in time that could set things on a very different path? Would you risk ripping your consciousness into a million pieces for a chance to travel through space and time to set things right?

These are all very deep questions, and the actors tasked with making it all real to the audience do a magnificent job. James McAvoy, Hugh Jackman, Peter Dinklage, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Evan Peters and basically the entire cast all do a commendable job. Everyone who was required to provide emotional weight to movie comes through in the clutch, and the end result is a movie worth watching many times.

Charles Xavier Young Old XMen

In addition to the covering free will, ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ covers redemption. The turning point in the film (major spoilers ahead — you have been warned) comes when young Charles finally comes face-to-face with his older self.

Young Charles: So this what becomes of us. Eric was right. Humanity does this to us.

Old Charles: Not if we show them a better past.

Young Charles: You still believe?

Old Charles: Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. Sometimes we need a little help.

Young Charles: I’m not the man I was. I open my mind and it almost overwhelms me.

Old Charles: You’re afraid, and Cerebro knows it.

Young Charles: In all those voices…so much pain.

Old Charles: It’s not their pain you’re afraid of — it’s yours. And frightening as it can be their pain will make you stronger if you allow yourself to feel it. Embrace it. It will make you more powerful than you ever imagined. It’s the greatest gift we have that can bear pain without breaking, and it’s born from the most human power: Hope. Please Charles, we need you to hope again.

Can you forgive yourself for all the mistakes you’ve made? Can you forgive your friends and loved ones for the pain they’ve inflicted upon you? Can you forgive humanity for all the injustices it’s inflicted upon itself? Can you find strength in pain and then use that strength to make the world a better place? These are all questions asked by Singer, and the end result is a movie that aims — and largely succeeds — at affecting those who are willing to let it do so on the deepest of philosophical levels.

Charles Xavier Days of Future Past

In short, the evolution of Charles Xavier over the course of the film from a broken man and into the hero who would lead the X-Men to a better tomorrow is nearly flawless. Along the way you might even forget that you’re watching “just” a superhero movie and find yourself welling up inside. For much of the movie you don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Yes, fans “know” how it’s going to end (another movie is on the way, of course) but the writing, acting and directing are so good that it’s easy to get lost in it all and say, “Wow, they might not pull this out.”

Luckily, Professor Xavier regains his hope at a pivotal point in the film.

Hank McCoy: There’s a theory in quantum physics that time is immutable. It’s like a river — you can throw a pebble in and create a ripple, but the current always corrects itself. No matter what you do the river just keeps flowing in the same direction.

Wolverine: What are you trying to say?

Beast: What I’m saying is, what if the war is inevitable? What if she’s meant to kill Trask? What if this is simply who she is?

Charles Xavier: Just because someone stumbles and loses their way it doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. No, I don’t believe that theory Hank, and I can not believe that is who she is. Ready the plane. We’re going to Washington.

If you get a chance to see ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’ in theaters, I would highly suggest making the trip. It’s rare for a movie to work on so many levels, and the fact that it’s an X-Men film makes this longtime Marvel fan very happy.

Editor’s Note for regular readers: I know I mentioned not being able to pay to see this movie, given the storm clouds hanging over the director’s head. I went to the movie theater with every intention of paying for Godzilla and then walking into X-Men: Days of Future Past, but the theater turned out to be about the size of my bedroom. There was no way I could pull it off without creating an awkward scene, so I allowed a friend to pay for me. I still don’t feel right about it, so if Mr. Singer’s legal issues do not turn out in his favor I will make a donation that would in all likelihood meet his accuser’s approval.

‘The Wolverine’ does Logan proud: Hugh Jackman atones for ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’

Wolverine Hugh Jackman

Logan may not rest easy at night, but Hugh Jackman can. It’s official: He has now atoned for 2009’s ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine.’

In 2009, the brilliant minds at Fox decided to put Deadpool, “the merc with a mouth,” into a Wolverine movie … only they sewed his mouth shut and did away with one of the coolest uniforms in comics. The movie was a letdown, so one can’t blame an American audience for being coy on the opening weekend of ‘The Wolverine.’ Regardless, it still did pretty darn well; fans have been given a quality product.

Hollywood’s summer tentpole strategy continued to suffer in North America with the muted debut of The Wolverine, but the X-Men spin-off more than made up for it overseas.

The 20th Century Fox pic opened to $55 million domestically and roughly $86.1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $141.1 million — easily covering the film’s $120 million production budget. Internationally, it posted the strongest opening ever for an X-Men title.

Wolverine certainly isn’t a dud in North America and still claimed the No. 1 position, but came in at least $10 million behind expectations and well behind the $85.1 million opening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in early May 2009. It opened on par with last summer’s X-Men: First Class, an origins pic versus a sequel.

Word of mouth will help ‘The Wolverine’ out, which is a good thing because it’s obvious that Mr. Jackman loves the character. He’s not getting any younger — a bitter pill to swallow when playing a guy who doesn’t age — but at least the success of this film will guarantee him a few more times running around on screen as the mutant.

Perhaps the smartest move director James Mangold did was to scale everything down into something that wasn’t a typical “superhero” movie. It’s a Samurai flick. It’s a Japanese mob story. It’s a character study. And yes, it just so happens to have super-powered mutants doing what you expect super-powered mutants to do. There’s a crisscrossing of genres that really works, which is impressive because it could have gone horribly wrong.

In short, Wolverine has retreated into the forest after the events depicted in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand.’ Having killed the woman he loved, Jean Grey, he attempts to deny who (and what) he is — a soldier. The result? He’s a man without a purpose. He wants to die — or so he thinks.

Logan is eventually tracked down by a mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima). She tells him that a man he saved during World War II, Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi), is dying and would like to see him one last time. Logan relents, and the two are off to Japan. From there the plot unfolds with Wolverine having to play protector for Yashida’s granddaughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto), all while trying to keep himself alive; his healing powers have mysteriously been suppressed and the bullet holes and blood loss take a toll on his body in ways he’s never experienced.

With all of this going on,’The Wolverine’ is at its best when it’s getting inside Logan’s head. I always pictured a Wolverine film to be reminiscent of ‘Rambo: First Blood’ instead of fare meant for “pop-corn” sensibilities, (e.g., ‘Iron Man 3’). Wolverine is a tortured soul, and it was nice to see him in a film that slowed things down to explore the mind of a soldier who is struggling to find peace. In between satisfying action scenes (the bullet-train fight in particular), fans finally get to see Logan’s psychology explored in ways that do him justice.

‘The Wolverine’ is not without its flaws, but it’s hard to deny that Hugh Jackman worked overtime (physically and mentally) to make up for ‘X-Men Origins.’ Fans might not have a healing factor like Wolverine, but this latest effort will rebuild a lot of trust with skeptical moviegoers.