“I always know who you are. It’s just that sometimes I don’t recognize you.”
Logan is perhaps one of the most interesting, endearing, and popular characters in the Marvel universe. Wolverine has the distinction of having been created by someone other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While they invented the X-Men team from which the adamantium-clawed warrior was born, he was actually created by the team of Len Wein and John Romita, Sr. in the mid 1970’s. Since that time the character has taken on a life of his own, a life that is as much owed to actor Hugh Jackman as anyone else. The funny thing is that Jackman is really nothing at all like the comic book character, who was actually quite short. But it’s Jackman who has come to personify the wirily Cannuck. He’s appeared, if only briefly, in each of the X-Men films except for one and two less-than-stellar Wolverine films. It all comes to a rather fitting close with one of the best Marvel-character films to date. Logan is pure comic book film noir and an emotional ride from start to finish.
This is the first of the X-Men films to take place entirely in the future. It’s 2029, and there are very few mutants left in the world. Charles Xavier (Stewart) is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and is being cared for by Logan (Jackman). Xavier must be drugged to keep his failing mind from creating destructive shock waves around him. But Logan is no longer the powerful mutant he was for so many years. His healing power doesn’t completely work, and now he’s covered in scars and wounds that haven’t completely healed. The day of the mutant appears to be coming to a close, and both Logan and Xavier look like the last struggling remnants of a dying race. But that’s not completely true. Logan is confronted by a woman who is running from some bad guys. She has a young girl named Laura (Keen) who she wants Logan to escort to a set of coordinates where there are other young mutants. When they are attacked we discover that the girl is a mutant and nearly like Logan. She has two claws in her arms and one in her feet. Weapon X-23 came from the same program that created Wolverine. Now Logan must protect her from the army of soldiers who want to retrieve her. Unfortunately, he doesn’t feel like he has the energy or will for the task, particularly after he discovers the coordinates came from an X-Men comic book and are unlikely real. Charles understands even in his irrational state and presses Logan to save the girl.
That’s when Logan turns into a bit of a road film. Logan, Xavier, and Laura make for the coordinates with the bad guys hot on their trail. Of course it’s not good news for the people they encounter along the way, and the cost of this journey is high both in body count and the toll it is taking on the fading Wolverine. What they find is best left for the moviegoer to discover on their own.
This is the Wolverine film most of the fans have been waiting for. It is based somewhat on the Old Man Logan comic story arc, but don’t go expecting to see that story. This is more the spirit of that tale, and while the character of Logan is very much in keeping with that story, this goes in completely different directions. This is as much the story of Weapon X-23 from the comics as it is Old Man Logan. At first I was a little disappointed that the movie was so much about that particular story until I began to realize how much it brought out the heart of the failing Wolverine character. Young actress Dafne Keen doesn’t say very much for the entirety of the movie, and it’s not really even her character that provides the heart. It’s what she stands for in Logan’s eyes that makes this all work. It’s that internal struggle against the beast Logan has always considered himself to be and that inner need to do something good. Logan fights against his own better angels only to discover that he needed both his angels and demons to make his difference.
Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart deliver some of the best performances of their careers to this movie. The relationship between these characters makes the film, and the actors dig into every reservoir of chemistry they’ve ever had to bring us quickly into a world we never get to see set up. If ever there were Oscar-worthy performances in a comic book film, both of these thespians deserve the consideration it is unlikely they will receive. The film uses a few memories from previous films to help cement that bond, but honestly, it wasn’t necessary. The two play this father-and-son-like relationship out to it’s highly emotional end. And make no mistake, this is the end of the road for both characters. As much as I would like to see them play these characters for years, it just wouldn’t feel right for any of them to appear again.
You couldn’t script a better goodbye for both Logan and Xavier. But James Mangold managed to do just that. He worked with Jackman on the better of the two earlier films, and the two obviously developed some chemistry of their own. You get the idea that both of these men understand who this character is at his core. More than that, they’re fans themselves who have developed a bond with the character and the fans, and you can see it was important to both men to deliver something special. Ryan Reynolds wants very much to team Deadpool with Wolverine in an attempt to make up for the mess that was the Origins film. I understand why he’d want to do that, and for a long time I was hoping it would happen. Not anymore. Once you’ve seen Logan, you won’t want it anymore, either.
The film also sports a rather stunning world that none of the previous X-Men films managed to capture. This bleak future time and place is what I earlier referred to as comic book film noir. It’s the kind of atmosphere you almost expect to see in black & white, and now you get a chance to see it in that light. Unlike the recent Mad Max film which I felt lost something in its “Chrome” edition, Logan looks rather sweet in that format. Color doesn’t really play a part in this movie, while reds particularly had import in Mad Max. Here it’s the mood and atmosphere that matters, and I was eager to see a black & white version. The film is also a bit of a spaghetti western in the best traditions of Sergio Leone. Logan has a lot in common with Eastwood’s Man With No Name. He’s a reluctant hero who is pushed into battle by evil forces around him. Logan no longer wishes to be a hero. He’s drowned himself in booze and self pity. The last thing he sees in himself is a hero. That’s a lot of style and atmosphere for a comic book movie. Some will be disappointed at the bleakness and rather somber mood. This isn’t The Avengers. But this is an example to the folks at DC on how to do a dark and moody superhero film the right way. You’ll leave with some unexpected emotions, and it might even take you a while to decide how you really felt about the movie.
Logan is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There are two presentations to talk about here. First the theatrical color film: The Ultra high-definition image is arrived at by an HEVC codec with an average bitrate of 55 mbps. Colors are very much muted here. You get far more in texture and a pretty stunning level of detail. f/x blend about as flawlessly as any comic movie I’ve encountered. There’s a visceral grittiness here that takes full advantage of beautiful blacks that provide inky depth and wonderful shadow definition. It’s the actual shadows here that I always believed would make this a good black & white film.
The Noir Edition: Here you sacrifice some of that razor sharpness and texture for heightened atmosphere and texture of an entirely different nature. Here shadows dominate. This is not a high-contrast black&white image but rather something you might find in the old gangster pictures. I found this presentation accented the performances which were already pretty solid. The bit rate here was a notch higher in most places. Certainly there are missed moments. The green fluid isn’t green and some of the bruises don’t show as well. But you get incredible atmospheric moments. A great example is a scene of Laura looking out of a rain-drenched car window as a Vegas-like strip of casino lights pass by. It’s just one of those moments that reach down and grab that mix of movie-goer who loves comic films but also has a spot in their heart for the vintage filmmaking of decades ago.
The Dolby Atmos presentation defaults to a nice 7.1 track. This audio presentation movies through all of the possibilities. There are crucial quiet moments that require an almost dead silence. There are also the high-octane action sequences that put your system through all of its paces. It’s here that surrounds zip and zing bullets every which way. It’s here that the subs reach out and remind you why it is you paid for a good woofer. But the quiet times are just as important and both are well-served here. Dialog comes through just as the release of those claws. The score rides that same rollercoaster of aggressive action and quiet contemplation throwing out just the right emotional beats.
There is an Audio Commentary by Director James Mangold. He delivers some good stuff here but I would have really loved having him joined by Hugh Jackman. This was very much a collaboration and just the banter would have been golden.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray copies of the film. You get four discs here. Two UHD 4K discs deliver both versions of the film. I’m very happy that the Noir version is also being provided in 4K.
Making Logan: (1:16:05) This feature-length making of piece covers 6 parts with a handy play all option. The segments cover: story, cast, production design, score, stunts and a wrap-up piece. There’s plenty of behind the scenes footage here. For a somber film there appears to have been a generally upbeat mood on the set. There are some emotional moments with the cast and particularly Jackman who is coming to grips with ending his time as Wolverine after so many years.
Deleted Scenes: (7:45) There are 6 with an optional play all. There is also an optional commentary by Director James Mangold.
I love the character, and even more I love what Hugh Jackman has brought to him. It’s a real disappointment to me that Wolverine never got to team up with the other Marvel heroes. He had some wonderful adventures with Spider-Man in the comics and spent many years with the Avengers. I’ll regret never getting a “fastball special” or to see those interactions. But it’s too late for all of that now. Mangold and Jackman managed to bring out two very conflicting feelings. This movie will leave you wishing for more but glad it’s the end. “This is what life looks like.”