By Michael Kaye
Has it really been 17 years since the first X-Men movie? That was a long time ago, but it feels like yesterday when we all heard the news that then unknown actor Hugh Jackman was bringing the character Wolverine to life. I remember all of the complaints, such as Jackman being too tall, or that nobody thought he was tough enough to do the character justice. Well, as it turns out, he was one of the best things to happen to the X-Men franchise, so good that he was able to make even the worst films like The Last Stand and Wolverine Origins watchable at the very least (thank God Jonathan Youngblood and Ty Williams suffered through that so I didn't have to). But eventually Jackman's going to need to put the claws away, but not before one last solo outing in director James Mangold's masterpiece, Logan.
Here's the story. In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
Yeah I'm not burying the lead on this one, I freaking LOVED Logan! If it's true that this is really the last time we'll see Jackman's portrayal on the big screen, then this is one hell of a way to go out. I could go on for hours about this movie, but I want to keep things nice and short by mentioning just a few highlights.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
First off, the cast is great. Hugh Jackman has literally been the only actor to portray the titular character in live action since the first X-Men movie. That's arguably the longest that any actor has portrayed a comic book character on the big screen as far as I know. This is easily the best performance of his career, bringing much more vulnerability to the character than we've ever seen before. This is the version of the character that everyone has been waiting for, so thank you Deadpool for allowing this movie to be rated R. Speaking of Deadpool, make sure you get to the theater early enough for something special. Patrick Stewart also reprises his role as Charles Xavier, and he does an amazing job. I don't think I was prepared for this version of the character, who had a very dry, yet vulgar sense of humor (perhaps Deadpool had too big of an influence on the X-Men universe). For those of you who are fans of X-Men Evolution, then you'll love the inclusion of Laura Kinney/X-23, played brilliantly by Dafne Keen. Some might argue that she's a little too young, but that wasn't really a problem for me, in fact it made her arc that much stronger.
James Mangold did a much better job directing this movie than he did The Wolverine. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed that movie for the most part, but things really started to unravel by the time we got to the third act. That wasn't the case this time around. At a runtime of roughly 2 1/2 hours, I never really felt any rough patches in the pacing. There's a reason this movie needed to be R-rated, and that's because you have a main protagonist with adamantium claws that could cut off limbs, and in order to stage that properly without cutting corners, you're going to need to show some blood. And boy howdy do they do that in just the first 5 minutes alone!
But there's more to this movie than just the action. It's also incredibly well written, with Mangold penning the screenplay alongside Scott Frank and Michael Green. They had a difficult task ahead of them, and that was grounding the character without necessarily going too far into "Nolanization." What I mean by that is as much as this film could be considered a drama for it's mature themes, there's still plenty of room for levity, especially with Professor X's grumpy old man routine. Even the main antagonist Donald Pierce is written as a slimy, arrogant douchebag, and I could tell that Boyd Holbrook was having the time of his life playing that character.
One thing that might have been a little bit heavy handed was the recurring meta reference to the X-Men comics. Fortunately it works a little better in the movie than in the second trailer, and I commend the writers for trying it in the first place, but we could have gone without it.
Finally, the music by Marco Beltrami was perfect. He seems like Mangold's go-to composer, having previously collaborated with him on the remake of 3:10 to Yuma and The Wolverine, and here he does some really nice work. When I was watching the movie, it felt less like a traditional superhero film, and more like a sci-fi western, which is right up my alley. The bad news is that "Hurt" doesn't necessarily appear in the film proper, but the good news is another Johnny Cash song is used instead called "The Man Comes Around."
Logan is the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight. It might sound like I'm overhyping the movie, but trust me, now that the Academy can accept up to 10 best picture nominees, we could be looking at the first genuine Oscar-caliber comic book adaptation. As sad as I am that this really is the last time we'll ever see Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart portraying their respective characters, we should all just celebrate the 17 year legacy they've left behind.
Now I want to hear from you guys. Have you seen Logan, and if so what did you think? Also, what do you think is next for Fox's X-Men universe? Will another actor step into the role that Hugh Jackman is leaving behind? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned as always for more awesome content coming your way!