My first X-Men flick. Looks like I started at the right time.
Prior to yesterday, I hadn’t seen a single X-Men film. Aside from Deadpool that is, which doesn’t really count. Neither the characters nor the universe have every really appealed to me, and eventually there was too many films for me to be bothered to go back and catch up. Even an apparent badass such as Wolverine generally raised little more than a shrug. A virtually indestructible bloke whose main ability is to slash at people? Nah, not for me. To round it off, unlike most other high profile comic book franchises, I’ve never once had someone tell me that a particular X-Men flick is a “must see”. Then Logan was announced.
When the buzz began, I still wasn’t into it. I assumed it was a sequel to a bunch of films I hadn’t seen, and therefore didn’t pay it much attention. When it became apparent that this was an R-rated, non-Disney standalone picture, however, my interest was piqued. After a decent enough trailer and exemplary early reviews, I decided there was enough intrigue in place to finally break my X-Men duck, with above average expectations in tow.
Did it live up to the hype? The answer, thankfully, is more yes than no. The primary positive is writer/director James Mangold’s decision to go all in on the action front, with Logan and friends adopting a frank, no-holds barred attitude when it comes to brutality. This is probably the most violent comic book feature since Dredd (if you haven’t seen it, please do so), and a nice change of pace from the sleek, flashy bullshit associated with the traditional Marvel turnout.
The first hour or so is the highlight, with a witty script and neat, in-depth action arrangements complementing cool uses of the established character abilities and overall universe. The “reveal” of Laura (not really a reveal as it’s in the trailer) is beautifully built up and executed like a slap (or stab) to the side of the head, as is the shimmering hotel sequence spearheaded by Patrick Stewart’s marvellous Charles Xavier. Marco Beltrami’s score deserves a mention here, as does the overall sound design; both manage to beef up proceedings considerably during these early stages.
The cast plays its part too, with leading man Hugh Jackman, Stewart, Stephen Merchant and Narcos’ Boyd Holbrook all bringing something unique to the table. The standout is, of course, newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura Kinney. I’ve seen some reactionary chat along the lines of “Will Logan be the first superhero movie to be nominated for Best Picture!?!?” (no), but if Keen got a surprise nod in the acting categories, it genuinely wouldn’t seem like such a terrible shout on first viewing (though it’s obviously too early to say).
What holds Logan back from being the “masterpiece” many are prematurely claiming it to be is the fact that the quality dips noticeably as the film goes on. For a start, like all superhero films clocking in at two hours and twenty minutes, it’s twenty minutes too long. The “rest and recuperation” section drags, as does its neighbouring, all-too-standard sacrificial lamb sequence. There’s also no primary villain; rather a trio of antagonists, and while Holbrook’s Donald Pierce shows promise early doors, the character fades badly, only to be supplemented by a nothing British scientist and a lazy “anti” character, who I won’t spoil but you’ll know when you see him. This makes for a fairly weak finale action-wise, though the emotional ending rescues things to an extent.
All in all, I’d recommend Logan to any high-octane film fan. X-Men and Marvel fans I’m sure will be all over it regardless, but if an X-Men virgin and regular critic of the genre such as myself can enjoy its hard-hitting set pieces, interesting character development, and freshly dark tone, then that can only be a good sign.