I finally got the Blu-ray and watched Hugh Jackman's last run as The Wolverine, and I am here to confirm that it is indeed an R-rated superhero film. I also believe that it is an ideal R-rated superhero film. Mainly because it doesn't stop at being R-rated, and it doesn't stop at being a superhero film. It understands that those things alone cannot a great film make, and like its hero, it does not stop.
|My copy also came with a black and white "noir" version. Looking forward to watching that.
I always find that the best superhero flicks are what you might call "superhero plus." Examples: Guardians of the Galaxy; superheroes plus space opera. Ant-Man; superhero plus heist film. Captain America: The Winter Soldier; superhero, spy film. It's a good way to make your comic book film stand out in this tired and over-saturated market, and the further you veer from "superhero" to "plus" the more naturally original the film appears to be. And now, here's Logan -- a western film, in everything except the almost throwaway fact that Logan is a superhuman mutant.
He's not even invulnerable anymore as the Adamantium that makes up his skeleton is leeching into his body and poisoning him, slowing his healing abilities and sticking him with a bad cough to boot. Now he limps through the film, scarred, weary, and haggard. Almost not even recognizable anymore -- almost. Logan is so different from what we've seen of him before, but truly it's more as if we've never seen him accurately before now, and this bitter, grimacing old man with bloodshot eyes is the true and honest version of Logan -- one the PG-13 movies were forced to hide from us. Even in those toned-down flicks Hugh Jackman has never taken a misstep playing his iconic character, and with his dedication everything he does as Logan is guaranteed to be optimal; here, even going so much darker and deeper and pushing the boundaries further than ever, it is no different. He is Logan, through and through. Maybe I should feel more impressed as it is an impressive performance, but it is also no surprise.
|With the realistic futuristic tech and the fantastic aging makeup, it truly feels like a film from the near future.
I was impressed, however, by Sir Patrick Stewart's equally aged and reshaped Charles Xavier. My logical mind knows he is a superbly talented actor perfectly capable of complex performances. The rest of me completely bought that there was a feeble old man with dementia on the screen. With the combination of the performance with the makeup Charles is suddenly so much more than the honestly flat and uninteresting straightforward mentor he used to be. Now he is sad and complicated and a magnificent mixture of harrowing and funny. The all-important make-or-break element of the film was the little girl Laura, played by Dafne Keen. With great screen presence she pulls off the part from the beginning, and from there only continues to add to the impressiveness as more about the character is continually revealed. The animalistic intensity of her fighting -- on par with Wolverine's -- is excellent and sells the risky character.
|And with how reliable Jackman is, and how necessary the R was, she was probably the film's only risk. Paid off.
The dark horse for favorite character is the villain, Pierce, played by Boyd Holbrook. In such a hard and intense film is nice to have that one character who's determined to enjoy himself, and that's what this guy is. He likes the sound of his voice, and he likes his mechanical hand, and he likes his villainous position, and he's out there to make the most of it all. This might be an apt description of the actor as well -- and I'd say they both succeed. At any rate he's an easy-going, casually antagonistic kind of character that finds a delightful balance between charming and sinister. I found myself looking forward to his appearances and growing happier whenever he survived another scene. When Richard E. Grant showed up playing his superior, I was afraid he'd be replaced as the main villain and forgotten, but that doesn't happen, though Grant gets his time to shine creepily as well. Also worth a mention is Stephen Merchant as Caliban. I imagine I'd appreciate the part more if I knew the character previously, but the value of his inclusion was not lost on me.
|Just keep on rockin' that neck tattoo, bud! (between starting this review and finishing it, I've seen him in two more movies, but no I'm not obsessed why would you think that.)
With no rating holding back the filmmakers from exploring the deep recesses of these characters and shaping a unique heart out of the mature fodder, the film's themes and emotional focus take on unusual shape. It is, again, much more western than anything else, and the issues at hand follow that theme. Though in our world the story wouldn't make news, the stakes -- personal, fleshed out, and tightly focused on -- seem huge. Bigger and more important even, than the traditional end-of-the-world plots of the X-Men of yore. The destruction is small but the impact is massive. And you don't need an R-rating to get that, but it certainly does seem to come naturally with it. Kudos to the writers and director James Mangold for knowing what the movie needed to be, and sticking with it to the end.
The easiest way the film could have been distracted was in the action. Instead, it may have been its greatest strength. Firstly they really make up for the seven movies where Wolverine wasn't allowed to stab people in the head. I never knew how much he needed to do that until now. Then they also remember to match the action with film's scale and emotional center. Small destruction; massive impact. Check. Also not forgotten is the film's most basic roots -- superhero film; western film. With those genres it's the action that sells and they deliver on those promises. It's something they needed to do, but it's also obviously something they wanted to do. The action sequences and fighting -- while always connected to the plot in significant ways -- are hugely important elements, and great care and attention was given to them. Each sequence was unique. The choreography was spectacular. And the filming captured it deftly for maximum entertainment.
|Visually unique and beautiful, but perhaps more importantly, visually memorable.
That goes for the whole movie in fact; the cinematography added beautiful interest to a story that on paper might give the impression of being boring. But with the characters there's always something to think about, with the cinematography there's always something to look at, and with the action there's always something to be wowed by. I have one grievance and that was the brief nudity -- in a movie that was otherwise refreshingly R out of necessity, it was irritatingly unnecessary. Otherwise the filmmakers stayed on target to keep the movie focused on what was important, and the result is a structured and concise work of art, moody, gritty, and full of heart -- with a massive impact. Logan and Hugh finally get the movie they deserve. Our happy fate is that we get to watch it.