Berlin Film Review: ‘Logan’

Logan
Courtesy of Fox

The third 'Wolverine' film brings the saga to a satisfying finish, as Hugh Jackman's mutant slasher finds his powers on the wane.

Logan,” the third and final chapter in the “Wolverine” series (though it’s the 10th — count ’em — “X-Men” film, and not necessarily the last), opens in 2029 on the outskirts of El Paso, where Logan (Hugh Jackman) steps out of the beat-up limo he now drives for a living to confront the goons who are trying to strip the car. To say that Logan looks the worse for wear would be putting it mildly. He’s a drunk, with mottled skin and his trademark sci-fi muttonchops grown into a scraggly beard. (The beard looks like a virus that’s going around, as if Jackman were warming up to play Mel Gibson.)

Optics aside, it’s Logan’s mutant prowess that’s really been tamped down. In any previous installment, a skirmish with mere mortals wouldn’t have been much of a contest, but Logan’s razory knuckle-blades no longer pop with the same alacrity, and though bullets don’t kill him, he doesn’t quite bounce back from them either. (Later that night, he has to force them out of his chest.) Is Wolverine growing old? Yes, but it’s worse than that. After all these years, his admantium enhancements are poisoning him, a process that can be delayed with the right serum but not reversed. Then again, it would be understandable if he were also feeling a touch of “X-Men” fatigue.

As a movie, “Logan” takes a cue from its hero’s slowed-down metabolism of invincibility. Directed by James Mangold, whose last feature was “The Wolverine” (2013) — one of the most dynamic entries in the “X-Men” cosmos — the new film doesn’t try to be a shoot-the-works, how-crazy-are-his-powers grand finale. It’s a scruffy dystopian road Western that takes its time in a way that most slam-bang superhero movies don’t. And the analog pace and elemental story work for it. Each time the violence explodes, it’s slashingly satisfying, because it’s earned, and also because Mangold knows just how to stage it.

“Logan” doesn’t get lost in CGI overkill or annoyingly messy Tinker-Toy franchise plotting. It’s a wholehearted drama made with a shot language that looks nearly classical. It must be said, however, that the story often feels stitched together from other films, a quality made explicit when the characters watch an extended scene from “Shane” on TV. “Logan” isn’t as darkly exciting as “The Wolverine” was. With its hero suggesting a broken-down cousin to Mad Max, it’s like “The Road Warrior” meets “Shane” meets “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (yes, there’s a “bad” Wolverine). But that turns out to be a recipe that brings the saga to a satisfying close. Just about every fan of the “Wolverine” series is likely to feel well-served, and you can do the box office math from there.

The best thing about “Logan” is that it’s one of those movies about a grown-up killer who becomes the mentor and protector of a child, yet it manages not to be cloying. The kid, in this case, is 11-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen), a dark-eyed urchin of silent ferocity who comes under Logan’s wing (or maybe I should say his blade-claw). Wolverine, we’re told, is one of the only mutants left. In “Logan,” they’ve faded away and become cultural relics, and that’s one of the sources of Logan’s weariness. He keeps Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now 90, hidden on a rusted-out farm below the Mexican border, where Professor X is subject to brain seizures that paralyze everyone around him by making the air molecules pulsate with menace. But then Laura shows up, dumped into Logan’s life by a Mexican nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) from a local clinic. She’s a mysterious girl, who says nothing but carries herself with a confidence that’s unearthly. She’s like a version of the Feral Kid from “The Road Warrior.” You could also say that she’s a chip off the old blade.

Keen, in her movie debut, has the orbs of a staring bird and an air of preternatural awareness. She could be the junior sister of Rooney and Kate Mara, and that’s because she holds the screen with her solemnity. Logan agrees to drive her to Eden, a utopian refuge for mutants in North Dakota — though, as he discovers (in one of the film’s few funny gambits), Eden originated in the “X-Men” comics, which in Logan’s mind means that it has to be a made-up place. For most of the movie, he, Laura, and Professor X are on the run from Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his goons. That’s the whole plot, but Mangold strikes a nice balance between road-movie ambling and eruptions of feral suspense.

It’s Jackman who holds “Logan” together and gives the film its glimmer of soul. He has been playing this role, more or less nonstop, for 18 years, but he seems startlingly not bored by it. Better still, he’s a more refined actor now than when he started, and in “Logan,” he gets to play something rare in comic-book cinema: a powerhouse of animal rage who is slowly, agonizingly slipping away. By the end of the movie, he gets his muttonchops back and reminds you, once more, of what’s great about this character — his hellbent quality, embodied in those flesh-ripping kills that are his way of making good on a mutant destiny he never asked for. No “X-Men” movie will ever be great (the material is too derivative), but Jackman, though he’s the Superman of the bunch, has gone deeper into the alienation than any other mutant in the series. The end of “Logan” is genuinely touching, as Jackman lets you feel the character’s strength and pain, and — finally — his release.

Berlin Film Review: 'Logan'

Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (noncompeting), Feb. 16, 2017. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 135 MIN.

Production

A 20th Century Fox release of a Marvel Entertainment, Kinberg Genre, Hutch Parker Entertainment, The Donners’ Co. production. Producers: Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner. Executive producers: Joseph M. Caracciolo Jr., Stan Lee, Josh McLaglen.

Crew

Director: James Mangold. Screenplay: Mangold, Michael Green, Scott Frank. Camera (color, widescreen): John Mathieson. Editors: Michael McCusker, Dirk Westervelt.

With

Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Doris Morgado, Boyd Holbrook, Stephan Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Mary Peyton Stewart.

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  1. Michael says:

    Once again you give away key plot points in your review! You are an embarrassment to Variety and your industry and need to be fired ASAP. Just give up writing reviews and start writing feature articles. Then you can give away spoilers all you want. Pathetic!!

  2. loco73 says:

    OK movie, but not great. It was lacking in many aspects. A relatively effective ending for Wolverine…but nowhere near what it should and could have been! The trailers are better than the movie… 7/10 . “The Wolverine” is a before movie …and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” suddenly doesn’t look too bad now. For me “Logan” is right now at the bottom of the Wolverine movies…might see it again to hopefully get a better vibe..

  3. Terra says:

    This review upsets me greatly. I came looking for a review to decide if I wanted to watch this in theater or wait for the dvd/br/digital releases.

    Now instead of just finding out if its goo, I found out how it ends. Thanks a lot, never coming to this site for reviews again.

  4. Ian Hall says:

    It’s a road trip of violence, gore, bad language and redemption. Patrick Stewart looks as if he is exploring frailty ready for King Lear and Jackman gives an air of vulnerability missing so often in films of this genre. Dafne Keen looks to have a good future before her.

  5. JASON ROSS says:

    Read the piece wary of spoilers, began to get comfortable and suckered in by the prose and then in the last four words you blow the films ending.

  6. Mike Trutt says:

    Owen Gleiberman, you used to be one of my favorite movie critics (and in fact you were one of my favorite reasons to read Entertainment Weekly for many years), but I’m going to have to skip reading your reviews from now on for fear that you will be ruining the movie for your readership. That was way too much detail! You’ve given away for too much about this film.

    I know you’ve been working in this industry for ages, so I feel silly lecturing you about your job, but please read your review again and try to put yourself in the mindset of someone who is looking forward to seeing the movie, and is hoping to get only your general assessment of whether it measures up as an interesting, well-made, well acted film.

    One small specific tip:
    If you find that you’ve begun a sentence with the words, “By the end of the movie…”, that might be an indication that you’re disclosing too much detail.

  7. Dean prow says:

    This review is a disgrace.you have completely ruined the ending for anyone who reads this.

  8. Robbie says:

    Okay, it’s unacceptable as a film reviewer to spoil the ending of a movie without declaring “spoiler’s follow”. Glad you enjoyed the movie and thought it would be fun to ruin it for everyone else. It’s also unacceptable for Variety to PUBLISH the review without editing the article to address these concerns. Thank you, from the bottom of a fan’s heart, for ruining a movie I’ve waited two years for.

    Show some respect for your readers. Christ.

  9. And by the way folks, I hope you’ve learned by now that if you do not want to know the ending of a movie before you see it, avoid reading reviews by this clown. He loves to give spoil the endings and does it again here.

  10. Leonard Nimoy is alive and well and living in my basement says:

    Quite a feral review from a feral movie critic who should learn not to overuse the word feral in his reviews.

  11. Paully says:

    These Wolverine films have been great. Surprisingly maybe the best Superhero spin offs..

    • tjchurch2001 says:

      Outside of “X-Man Origins: Wolverine”, which the actor in the title role has admitted was (forget verbatim) not the film any of the fans of the character or prior films wanted to see…. Though it did bring about “Deadpool”, which turned into a monster hit while also proving Ryan Reynolds should have never left comedy. (Neither of the “Two Guys…” will ever be as big a star as the boyfriend of the “Girl”, Nathan Fillion.)

      • Damon Tammas says:

        You must have been really really stoned when you wrote that one, sheesh. Deadpool was an absolute ‘monster hit’ not only in the “Marvel Universe” movies, but box office period. Nathan Fillion has faded into a has been who ruined his one hit tv show with money grabs and backstabbing his co-stars, and is now the sad weatherman dating someone his daughters age on Modern Family (which should seriously be put out of it’s Misery now).

      • Jk says:

        Nathan Fillon a big star? LOL. Ryan Reynolds is back in the A list, with a hit movie and a golden globe nominated turn. Fillon has nothing now, nothing LOL

  12. popoxazuy says:

    any body can make $8668 in one month on the internet .

    see more site-*-**-*-*-*-*http://tinyurl.com/money-job-1-com

  13. Bill B. says:

    No interest in this character at all, but this does sound more interesting than usual and the trailers looked pretty good too. Still, I’ll wait for Blu-Ray/

    • tjchurch2001 says:

      If it were legal in the Trump Presidency, there would not only be immigration issues, but truly trying to “make America great again” by ridding of idiots like you (or at least silencing you in places/occasions like this).

      If you have “no interest in this character”, & the article title tells you its a review of a movie with the characters name as the title, why read it (if you in fact even did)?! Even more, why post a comment on the article to “voice” your lack of interest in the character, & yet contradicting interest in the movie & plans of how/when to see it?!

  14. James Hughes says:

    “as Jackman lets you feel the character’s strength and pain, and — finally — his release.”

    You did not just spoil the end of this movie.

  15. Just saw it last night. I personally loved it. I wish they could have done a “healthy” Logan movie first in the same style before this one, but oh well. I am happy with what I got.

    Disney take note. This is how comic book movies SHOULD BE MADE!

    • Chris says:

      I think you mean warner brothers take note given that every D.C. Movie since dark night rises has been awful. Disney will never make an r rated movie and they don’t need to they have the formula for marvel movies.

    • Cass says:

      Disney can’t ever make an R-rated comic like that, dumb dumb. lol Why expect it?

      • Wayne says:

        Derivative? How exactly? Everything borrows from what came befoee–it’s how you handle the material that matters.

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