Dec 14, 2020
Tom’s Unpopular Opinion: Logan is overrated
To this day, I can recall the low expectations I had for the first X-Men film released in 2000. With a modest budget, a director not known for doing superhero/action movies, and a cast largely unknown to me, as well as those really boring costumes, I went into the theater expecting if not the worst, then at least a mediocre time. And you know what? The movie didn’t suck. 2000’s X-Men is not a great movie by any stretch, but unlike, say, Josh Trank who seemed embarrassed to be making a superhero movie, Bryan Singer respected the source material and leads like Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart elevated the film. The rest of the cast did alright too, especially that boy from Oz, Hugh Jackman, who hadn’t even been the first choice to play Wolverine. I still wonder what would have happened to the franchise as a whole if Dougray Scott hadn’t been prevented from getting the part due to scheduling issues involving Mission: Impossible 2. If Scott had appeared in two successful movies in short succession, would he now be stuck with gigs like CW’s Batwoman?
Jackman reprised the role eight times, as part of ensemble casts, cameos, and ultimately three solo films. The first is pretty much universally panned and is best known for the terrible take on Wade Wilson/Deadpool, while the second is considerably better, although not what one could call held in high esteem. And then there’s Logan, the last film that where Hugh Jackman played Wolverine.
This one is praised to high heaven by nerds everywhere. But me? I’m simply not impressed. I’m not saying it’s a bad film or an even mediocre film. And if you forced me to rank it compared to the other movies in the franchise, it certainly wouldn’t be near the bottom. But for it to receive massive accolades from nerds and critics alike?…
…Eh, I just don’t see it.
So let me first start off with the positives. Marco Beltrami’s soundtrack is shway, and I also liked the look of the film, as a sort of “soft dystopia” if you will, not unlike what was seen in Looper. It’s not quite the total collapse of society that we see in movies like the Mad Max franchise, but things certainly feel like they’ve gotten worse for a lot of people. Or maybe that’s just what Texas always looks like; I’ve never been. The technological advances, like the animated billboard and autotrucks feel authentic, as do the military grade prosthetics.
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart deliver arguably some of the greatest performances of their lives. Their poignant portrayal of two men facing imminent mortality and having to live with a lifetime of failure and regret is tremendous, and some of the finest work of their respective careers. Xavier is a man clutching at any straw for hope, and for the possibility that his past failures can somehow be redeemed in the existence of Laura. Meanwhile, Logan is just marking time as he waits to die, and the best he can hope for is to get Xavier somewhere remote to protect the world from his friend’s decaying brain.
Dafne Keen as Laura/X-23 does a decent job. She certainly comes across as scary as hell when she cuts loose. I also appreciate how she seems to lack basic social skills, which is what you’d expect from a person raised in a lab. And I have to say watching her in action is a joy to behold. I don’t know if it’s wire-work or CGI, but her flippity-bouncy moves look pretty sweet.
Stephen Merchant also delivers a solid performance as Caliba, the poor bastard stuck in this horror show of a future with a set of powers custom-made to facilitate the needs of the bad guys, and a skin condition that give them a perfect way to torture him.
The film is well-acted and well-directed. And yet… I have issues. A lot of issues. Let’s start with the the plot. The film takes place in 2029 and there have been no new mutants born for twenty five years. And right away, there’s my biggest stumbling block, because that means Days of Future Past doesn’t count.
You see, with Origins and X-Men: Last Stand, I had largely written off the X-Men franchise and expected it to ultimately fall into the hands of Disney, as by that time Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk had been released, and even though the latter film had issues, there was some quality stuff there. Honestly, I think most nerds were praying Fox would let the rights expire so we could get some good X-Men movies. Only… we wound up with a pair of very good good X-Men movies in First Class and Days of Future Past…
…both directed by Bryan Singer, who proved to be quite adept at producing a higher budget superhero film. Days of Future Past felt like the end of a franchise, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan both reprising their roles alongside Michael Fassbender and James MacAvoy. It was a truly ambitious movie and a hell of a lot of fun. And now with Logan’s info bomb that no mutants have been born in 25 years, my favorite movie of the series doesn’t exist. But Tom, you might say, what if Logan happens after Days of Future Past? It doesn’t matter if it does. Check out the end scene of that film:
You see what I see? Kids! Kids of all ages. At least in Days of Future Past, we had a time travel plot to explain everything. What do we have in Logan? The hubris of a director who chooses to ignore any film that interferes with his vision. Logan to me feels like that nonsense Paramount pulled with their Star Trek franchise, in that it’s an alternate timeline, one where 1) for some reason no more mutants were born after the second film, and 2) Xavier had a seizure that killed all the X-Men. Did you like Storm? Dead. Iceman? Dead.
Sprite Ariel Shadowcat Kitty Pryde? Dead. All those students running around? Yeah, they’re gone, too. So if you’re alright with your favorite X-Men dying off-screen in some ignoble fashion, then good for you. And yes, I’m aware that this film was inspired by the Mark Millar/Steve McNiven “Old Man Logan” story, but telling me the plot takes inspiration from a work by a guy who seems to enjoy deconstructing superheroes even more than Tom King (and yes, I know Alan Moore started it. The difference is Moore did it well) does not endear me to the film.
But okay, let’s set aside the films before it, and ignore how this story came to be. Let’s focus on the movie itself, shall we? The plot breakdown is that Logan has to drive Laura to Canada where she’ll supposedly be safe, and along the way he has to fight various bad guys. What bad guys? Well, there are the Reavers…
…but they’re essentially claw fodder for Logan and Laura to wade through. Then there’s Dr. Rice, the criminal mastermind behind the facility where Laura and the other kids were born and raised…
…and he really doesn’t do a whole lot other than be a stereotypical villain with a British accent. Me, I’m old enough to remember when my villains were from all over Europe: Goldfinger, Drax, Stromburg, Blofeld. We didn’t discriminate. And then there’s… X-24.
So, this is the best they could come up with: a clone of Logan. They couldn’t get Liev Shrieber back to reprise the role of Sabertooth? X-24 doesn’t even get a cool costume, and that’s just sad.
The point is, this movie has no compelling villains. No Hans Gruber, no Ming the Merciless, no Red Skull or Loki or Magneto. Just a boring bunch of dudes without any significant motivation beyond greed and mindless bloodlust. But Tom, you might say, the villains are secondary to the drama at hand, of Xavier’s desperate need for salvation and Logan’s need to remember the man he was, while they transport a girl and her friends to freedom. And that’s… actually a compelling argument. Points to you, viewer who went to see the film for more than just seeing Wolverine splittin’ wigs.
I suppose then it depends on how much you care about Laura, Wolverine’s sister/daughter. And sure, it was lots of fun watching an adolescent carve up dudes, but as the film progressed I was thinking if she’s got adamantium in her bones and claws, does that mean she’s stuck at that size forever, like Claudia from Interview with the Vampire? Is she going to die of adamantium poisoning as well, so she’s just a dead girl walking? Wouldn’t it have been smarter to give her the adamantium when she was an adult, because by then she might be better “tamed”, rather than giving a feral murderkid more effective weapons and defenses? Oh, was I supposed to suspend my disbelief and set aside these queries? Silly me. Still, I do admit watching her get impaled was fun. I think there might be something wrong with me.
Let’s break down the plot a bit more, shall we? The location where the kids find sanctuary are listed in an X-Men comic book. Who put the coordinates in the comic? That’s never revealed. Is it important? Well, yes, I think it is. Who publishes this comic? Marvel? Are there superhero comics in a world full of mutants? There’s a deleted scene that shows the possible writer, but it’s still a bit ambiguous. Am I nitpicking? Perhaps, I don’t know. The comics just feel like an unnecessary plot point. But it could have been worse, because in a deleted scene, one of the children is playing with Wolverine/Sabertooth action figures.
Logan gets the kids to Canada, where apparently the socialist utopia will take them in with open arms and in no way, shape, or form subject them to inhuman experiments. The lab in Mexico is still operational, albeit generating a different “product”. So what’s to stop the mad scientists from churning out X-25? Logan really hasn’t accomplished much outside of saving a few kids who at best have uncertain futures ahead of them. And once any Mounties show up, what’s to stop Laura from going all murderface on them? She’s not the most stable individual, regardless of the life lessons Charles has attempted to instill in her.
Speaking of the kids, one of my cats has a chip in her, and if I chose to activate it I could use an app on my phone to track her via GPS satellites. This technology has been around for years. You’d think the mad scientist might consider it prudent to do the same to his multimillion dollar living patents. Second, in the event said patents went all murdery, you’d think the scientist would also have developed some means of controlling them, like, I don’t know, bombs in their skulls or the like. Or a means to deliver punishing or lethal does of electricity to them, as was seen in Marvel’s first Civil War comic.
But Tom, you might say, can’t you just enjoy the film for what it is? Sure I can. I liked it, never said I didn’t. I feel that writer/producer/director James Mangold really put his heart and soul into the project. And I like Mangold’s other work; Ford vs. Ferrari is a great film, and as far as reports he’s working on a new Indiana Jones installment, I think they could do far worse. I simply don’t think this film is nearly as compelling or as well written as some across the internet seem to claim it is. To get where you have to be in the story, 1) something has to have caused no more mutants to be born in the past 25 years, 2) there cannot be any more X-Men anywhere, 3) Wolverine has to be dying of adamantium poisoning, and 4) Xavier has to be utterly helpless. All the dominoes have to be lined up to produce this story. Still, I suppose there are worse ways to go than this.
The ending is a heart-breaking tear-jerker. In a way, it’s a far better ending to the franchise than Dark Phoenix, which in the end turned out to be a movie no one wanted—either the studio who now owns it or the fans still suffering from the Apocalypse hangover. If you love this movie, then more power to you. For me, it’s maybe a solid seven out of ten. Thanks for reading; catch you next time.