CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The problem with most superhero movies is that they are, to be blunt, boring. There's some talky-talky stuff, pretending to be character development, that just takes up time until the main event -- a titanic clash of the superheroes. Buildings topple, bridges collapse, oceans heave - but it's all a titanic bore, because we know that when the super-battle ends, nothing has changed.
But "Logan," starring the terrific Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine, turns the formula upside down by focusing on real emotion between interesting characters - spiced up by terrific action scenes.
This fresh and affecting movie focuses on Wolverine, one of the most popular X-Men characters. For those keeping track, "Logan" is the 10th installment in the "X-Men" film series, which is the seventh-highest-grossing film franchise (prior to the release of "Logan") of all time, having earned more than $4.3 billion worldwide, according to Wikipedia.
"Logan" is the third - and supposedly final - spin-off film featuring Jackman as Wolverine. The previous movies were 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "The Wolverine" in 2013. "Logan" director James Mangold gained experience in this universe by co-writing "The Wolverine."
"Logan" is blessed with two of the best actors in the "X-Men" movie universe, Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Jackman excels at conveying the tortured pain and rage at the core of Logan, aka Wolverine, a mutant with adamantium claws and the ability to heal injuries.REVIEW
Who: With Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen. Directed by James Mangold.
Rated: R (for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity).
Running time: 135 minutes.
When: Opens Friday.
Stewart's gravitas defined Professor Xavier, a mutant with amazing mental powers and the founder of the X-Men, in the early "X-Men" movies. James McAvoy has also played the role in some "X-Men" movies. (To find out the twists and turns of what's happened to the X-Men in the movie and comic book universes, click the links.)
There's no sign of the Xavier's school or the other X-Men in this latest movie. Logan, Xavier and a mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are living in an abandoned Mexican factory. Caliban and a grizzled, alcoholic and ailing Logan care for Xavier, who needs medication to control his dangerous mental seizures.
The group stays in seclusion until the arrival of two unexpected people - X-Men foe Donald Pierce (Robert Boyd Holbrook), who has a Southern drawl and a mechanical hand; and a strange young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), whose mutant abilities are similar to Logan's.
Laura was among group of children turned into super-soldiers through strange experiments. Donald wants to use the children as weapons, so Logan, Xavier and Laura leave their sanctuary and hit the road in the hope of getting Laura to safety.
The core of "Logan" isn't CGI fights, but the father-son bond between Logan and Xavier. Xavier has always been the protector of his mutant charges, but here the roles have reversed, and Logan is Xavier's caretaker. It's a touching and heart-rending relationship.
I can't say enough good things about Keen, a young actress who more than holds her own with her experienced costars. It's a tough role because her character, Laura, doesn't speak for much of the movie. "Logan" is Keen's first feature film.
While "Logan's" emotional core is important, there are plenty of exciting, well-directed fight scenes in which Logan turns into a killing machine, his claws tearing into the baddies like a demonic rototiller. Laura fights alongside him, and Keen is great in the action scenes.
"Logan" does have a few head-scratching flaws. I was confused about how Xavier went from raving lunatic to lucid road-trip participant, and it was odd the way that Laura went from seemingly mute, to speaking Spanish (she had Spanish caretakers), to speaking flawless English.
"Logan" has been billed as the last appearance of Wolverine. In this age of reboots, recasting and remakes, we can never say never. But if this really is Jackman's last big-screen adventure as Wolverine, it's an excellent and fitting finale.
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