director: James Magnold
writers: James Magnold, Scott Frank & Michael Green
starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen
genre: Action | Comics | Drama
released: 2 March 2017 (Australia, Germany & Greece), 3 March 2017 (USA)
If it weren't for 'Deadpool' we might not have gotten anytime soon a R Rated 'Wolverine' film. Something that had been requested by fans for a while and that would give the necessary freedom to the production to breath, be gritty and violent as is the character's nature and history. But, was the R rating the only issue the 'Wolverine' films were ever plagued with and did it matter in the end?
Set in an alternate future from the other 'X-Men' movies and timelines. Wolverine/Logan (Hugh Jackman) is old, jaded and making ends meet by driving a limo in a world without mutants. He has by his side the mutant Caliban and the Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who they both take care of from his dangerous health condition and mental state.
When a mother finds Logan and asks for his help in saving a little girl, he will be put at crossroads of choosing to mind his own business and keep his last friends safe or do the right thing and in the process let everything come tumbling down.
It's amazing how a little freedom can go a long way for the creativity of a studio project. How well constructed clichés and by the book formulas can turn repetitive themes, plots and characters enjoyable again. Honestly, it's not surprising that this happened as cliches are cliches for a reason. It's because they have worked again and again on audiences who love a happy ending, but just would like it slightly tweaked every now and again. And within 'Logan' there are as many cliches and tropes to go around, but none worthy enough to complain about, point out and critique.
Everything in the film from the 'Eden' location the main characters search for (Waterworld), to the father daughter story that is rough around the edges (Kick-Ass, Man on Fire), to bringing into the fray elements that will pay off later (Chekhov's Gun) are all elements that while viewing the film you won't be bothered by. As the way the plot moves forward and maneuvers itself feels natural due to the handling and tone of the film, despite the manufactured way that things were set up. And the main reasons why this ease of absorbing the known elements we've seen before and don't mind them can be attributed to a few main factors besides the obvious of production value and cast and crew quality and talents. The three main factors are the R rating, the standalone story and the focus on a main trio of known, but highly lovable and cool characters of Logan, Professor X and Laura.
The R rating in particular, as mentioned in the prologue is what probably gave this product some needed breathing room, where in the previous films it felt as if the production was gasping for air (The Wolverine) or trying too hard to serve too many masters (X-Men Origins: Wolverine). And as I described it to a good friend of mine, the R rating didn't change so much the big action moments or the dramatic set pieces that could have existed in the same way without the R rating. However, the small moments that are added due to it, such as minor dialogue moments, extra nuances, themes and moments of violence that set the tone of the film and contribute to making it into a much more visceral and interconnected film. Instead, of having a production where crucial moments are cut short or lacking realism due to a camera pan or cut away when the violence starts or even for the dialogue to feel contrived due to one less f-bomb here and there. Additionally, director James Magnold and Hugh Jackman went the Ryan Reynolds route (source) and took a nice paycut for the R rating to be accepted by the studio. Showing its not all about money and that these people do also care about the art and the story.
The other reason why this film was able to succeed was its standalone story that didn't have a origin to tell, a sequel to follow it or a previous film to tie up loose ends. You just knew who the main characters were, the universe its set in and accepted the facts and took it as a 'What If' story. Just like your typical comic book mini series from Marvel or DC. Something fairly common in the comic book industry and easy to copy. Now that we see the success of it, hopefully we can see it happen more often. At least with the perquisite that the intellectual property is already well known to the masses. As we have to remain realistic that Hollywood is still running a business and doesn't rely only on the hardcore comic book crowd to make money off these films.
Finally the third big reason the film manages to be this great cinematic experience is the focus on the main character trifecta. To start off with Hugh Jackman who was the ideal man originally to play Wolverine from the very first 'X-Men' film and maybe still is to the end of time. The fluke decision of his casting was a godsend. With him having all the natural attributes to play the character by being charming, rugged and an incredible actor with a wide range of talents. Here, in his last performance as the Wolverine he's consistent, passionate and shows how important star power really is. Then there is Professor X played by Patrick Stewart who takes a slight detour from what we were normally used to his character. Professor X is now a little more human and emotional due to being closer to the end and with his health condition in the film. The baggage this character carries around during the film adds more mystery to him and a dark history that he didn't previously have. Bringing him a lot closer to Wolverine that we ever could have expected. Moreover, the Professor in the most crucial way is still passionate about always trying to save one more person that is persecuted by society. With his life's work being payed off with Logan's actions in the film. Completing the trifecta is Laura/X-23 played by Dafne Keen who in the film is a force to be reckoned with and who's story is well told with enough exposition to leave a little mystery and at the same time not for the audience to be spoon fed. In terms of action the actress Dafne Keen handles it perfectly with her team up's with Logan being worthwhile and doing an adequate job when it came to the dramatic material.
Additionally, the effects are noticeably great, albeit a couple of green screen shots when the characters are within vehicles and are moving around. And also, the alternative future isn't too futuristic for its own good. It's setting and tech is down to earth and not dystopian. These factors play a huge part in the film. Not being too much like 'Days of Future Past' and or a future out of 'Blade Runner'. As the importance of the film is in the characters and their journey and not the backdrop they are in that thankfully came second.
Regarding the villain or villains in the film, it is indeed its weakest point. Not so much that they are horrendous or that they don't play a crucial role to the plot. They are just not emotionally integral to the characters personally and are not the villains of the gray nature that would have made them more alluring and interesting. In 'X-Men 2', Striker worked as a villain because of the personal connection to Wolverine coupled with the insane performance by Brian Cox. Here, the lead lackey and his employer are merely there so the plot can move forward and for bad things to occur for our main characters. What makes the film great is because the bad things they put into motion our incredibly interesting and engaging for our main characters. Such as Logan confronting Laura and being torn up about the issue and if he should give a damn about life anymore, while Professor X being pushed to the edge (won't say any more that that) and more bad situations that cause incredible moments of action and confrontation that are just worth our time.
If you were late to the Wolverine party then this is the best one to see and if you are a fan on the fence after previous disappointments then there is simply no good reason not to see it. Finally, if your looking for something exhilarating and even moving at times 'Logan' has you covered. Being one of the must see blockbusters of this year and the adult comic book film you will feel proud of.