The X-Men film franchise is one of the most lopsided film series out there. The first two films helped to define modern superhero cinema. Origins was mediocre at best, terrible at worst. First Class helped to restore my faith in the franchise, while Apocalypse was a massive letdown. I’ve come to learn that it may be best to go into an X-Men film with no expectations to help lessen any potential disappointment. I forewent that that rule with Logan. I’ve been 100% hype for that film since the very moment rumors of an Old Man Logan film started making their way to the internet. I was not disappointed.
The timeline in the X-Men films is so convoluted and filled with inconsistencies that it almost doesn’t matter when or how this film takes place. It’s 2029, mutants are a thing of the past, Logan is a bitter old man and a heavy drinker, and Charles is kept locked up in a collapsed water tower. It’s a tragically bleak setting with a compelling backstory that doesn’t get fleshed out in heavy-handed dialogue. Instead, audiences are left to connect the dots as characters engage in conversations that have a real-world, organic feel. There are no moments where the film breaks character to tell you something. Every bit of dialogue that is spoken is said to someone who has lived in this world – someone who is familiar with what has happened over the last decade. Viewers are visitors in this world, and it’s a harsh world that won’t welcome in anyone with open arms. But those who take the time to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and its history will be well rewarded.
It’s been 17 years since the X-Men film franchise debuted and, since the initial film, each movie has been a (mostly) family-friendly PG-13 (Deadpool excepted). With Logan, fans are treated with the brutally hard-R rated film they’ve been waiting for. Seventeen years is appropriate timing for an R-rated goodbye to the two best roles in the franchise, even if it is hard to say “goodbye.” Logan takes full advantage of its elevated rating, featuring some of the most graphic scenes in a comic book film not based on the works of Frank Miller. But the brutality, the graphic violence, the language – none of it ever feels forced. As organic as the dialogue is in the film, the violence on display feels equally appropriate.
As rewarding as it is to see The Wolverine in his full glory ripping through body parts with his adamantium claws, there’s a contrasting balance as the weight of his exploits weighs heavily on him. He has long ago reached a point where this violence is something so ingrained in him that there’s nothing but a buried conscience and aching bones keeping the claws in. The graphic action sequences and the aftermath that follows is a poetically beautiful visual of this ongoing, internal struggle that just happens to be fun to watch.
There’s a beauty in the subtler aspects of the film. When it’s not gracing you with sharp dialogue and viscerally brutal fight scenes, Logan navigates deftly through the film’s narrative by omitting direct exposition. The film tells you more by saying less. Important plot points and backstories are often not told directly to the audience – they’re hinted at with offhand remarks or background noise that feels natural. It never dumbs things down to let you know what happened, it expects you to embrace this world enough to just know.
While several of the previous X-Men films have been enjoyable in their own right, it’s sad see that the franchise waited until the two greatest players said their goodbyes to offer a truly great film. It is a well-crafted experience that will challenge the idea of what makes a comic movie great – taking viewers on a journey through their emotional range before leaving them seated in silence as the cinema fades to black. There may never be an X-Men movie that achieves the same level of greatness as Logan. And that’s okay.
Good – 3 / 3