Logan spoiler-free review – the best film from a Marvel comic to date
The superhero landscape is renowned for being at its absolute best when a gritty and bloody approach is adopted. While DC mastered the gritty approach via Christopher Nolan, Marvel’s efforts (both MCU and those Marvel properties under other studios) have only succeeded (ridiculously well) in the gritty arena on Netflix, until now. While there have been previous R-rated Marvel films before now (such as the glorious 2004 The Punisher), the recent rampant success of Deadpool has altered the landscape, proving to studios that R-rated superhero films can and will make money, and please fans immensely at the same time. It’s allowed studios to wade into R-rated waters more boldly, one of the results of which is Logan – the third solo Wolverine film to date and the last to feature Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.
The marketing leading up to the release of Logan promised a very bold and different kind of Wolverine film; this would be old man Logan, layered with a young X-23 storyline. Realism would be the foundation upon which the narrative was built and brutality would be its engine. With that came a rampant excitement from fans and therefore a mountain of weight on the film’s shoulders to deliver. Thankfully, Logan stands tall in the face of those expectations, fully living up to the hype; this is an outstanding film. It’s not only the best X-Men film to date by legions, but it’s also the best film ever made from a Marvel comic book, in my view. Although not part of the MCU and instead having been made by 20th Century Fox, it vastly outstrips anything that the MCU has provided to date, all of which is far too upbeat to allow for the kind of wonderful feeling that only true grittiness can provide.
While presenting a narrative that features Logan as an old man is in and of itself a bold and intelligent move, what truly makes this film shine is the fact that it fully sets up X-23. Introduced in NYX #3 in February of 2004, Laura Kinney (X-23) is a clone of Wolverine, who holds the female equivalent of his powers; she heals and she has retracting claws, but hers are two blades on each hand, as well as one foot claw on each foot. One of the best renditions of X-23 was Marjorie Liu’s series, which began with Volume 1: The Killing Dream. I read The Killing Dream prior to seeing Logan and I came out of the cinema very glad that I had done so.
Not only is Liu credited at the end of the film (among others) with a big thank you, but there are key parallels to her run in Logan. These include Laura having killing dreams, an evil version of Wolverine plaguing her and more. With the X-Men franchise growing stale (hence this being Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart’s swan song) and female superheroes on the rise, the decision to move the X-Men franchise forward with X-23 instead is one of the smartest decisions ever made in the world of cinematic comic books. Furthermore, the creators were lucky enough (or perhaps meticulous enough) to have struck gold with Dafne Keen, who brings a refined acting style and brutal animalistic quality to this young version of Laura.
Almost all of the cast are exceptional. Particularly Keen, as mentioned above, but Jackman and Stewart also bow out of the franchise with expert grace, and Boyd Holbrook crafts the best villain out of the antagonists by far. Regarding the remainder of the cast, it may just be me, but when I see mundane British actors placed in films such as this, it immediately lowers the feel of the film a little for me; it turning from polished blockbuster into feeling like something we’d catch on TV, over here in the UK. I’m not fond of the move and this film has Stephen Merchant playing quite a large role as Caliban. To be fair to Merchant, he does a fine job in the role, even if the character himself is – in Caliban’s own words – “little more than a glorified truffle pig”.
Logan is raw, powerful, relentlessly brutal (the violence truly is astonishingly pleasing to behold), enormously touching and even quite narratively crafty. I spent the entire film mouth agape, glued to the cinema screen, which speaks volumes about the ingenuity of Mangold’s film, which he took the auteur approach with; directing, writing the story and writing the screenplay. Throughout his career, Mangold has made minor gems like 3:10 to Yuma and Walk the Line, as well as helming the previous Wolverine film too, but all of that falls away in the place of Logan, which is his very best film to date. It echoes the kind of brilliance found in the game The Last of Us; that paternal bond between Father and daughter, which nothing else can rival and which makes for truly heart-wrenching viewing when anyone attempts to tear that bond apart.
If we never see a full X-23 film after this, it would be a one of the greatest cinematic crimes of the modern age, because Mangold has managed the spectacular by turning a very flat franchise into something so brimming with explosive potential that it holds scope to outstrip anything that either the MCU or the DCEU is managing at the moment. My only concern is whether they will have to recast Laura, for the next film. On the one hand, Laura in the comics is much older, so it would be great to see that on screen, but on the other hand you would lose the greatness of Keen. And if you wait for Keen to grow up, then you would delay the franchise by years. So perhaps recasting is the way forward and the impending result is something that everyone should be very excited about. Go and see Logan, revel in its mastery, and make sure to pick up Marjorie Liu’s X-23 along the way, to prepare you for the potential of what lies in Laura’s bright cinematic future.
Image credits: 20th Century Fox