Hugh Jackman bares claws for the last time in “Logan”

Photo Courtesy

Rob Carraher

The superhero genre from a realism approach isn’t a new technique, but because of content, it is often hard to capture. Christopher Nolan changed the game with his rendition of Batman, but no other director has been able to hit that chord quite right since then.

James Mangold’s latest outing, “Logan,” realizes the humanity aspect of the character Wolverine in a way that maybe even Nolan was unable to do with Batman. This dark take on the X-Men mainstay uses an excellent script and vision by Mangold, coupled with a seasoned cast of veterans to truly bring these characters to life in one of the most engaging superhero tales every made.

“Logan” takes place in the near future where mutants are dangerously close to becoming extinct. James “Logan” Howlett (Hugh Jackman) is quickly deteriorating in health as a result of adamantium poisoning. While battling substance abuse, Logan is now spending his time as a hired driver and taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in an abandoned Mexican smelting plant just across the border. He is approached by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who is on a search for a girl by the name of Laura (Dafne Keen).

Logan is soon tasked with protecting the girl as he and Xavier find themselves being pursued by Pierce. It becomes apparent that Laura is Logan’s daughter and as they search for safety, a bond among Logan, Laura and Xavier is created.

“Logan” thrives on simplicity. It doesn’t try to build an elaborate plot, only to be riddled with holes by the time its crescendo is reached. Though there are some questions left to be answered, Mangold has constructed a tight-knit script with thoughtful purpose and an original twist on the superhero genre.

The audience understands where “Logan” is going, but remains engaged for the entirety of its 2 hour journey. Even more impressive is Mangold’s ability to incorporate relevant current issues without it becoming overly political. This makes Jackman’s Logan that much more stoically heroic.

Dare it be said that Jackman pulls off an award-winning performance in “Logan.” It is not likely that he will acknowledged come the end of the year, but if nothing else, he should be in the conversation. His portrayal of an embattled man, weary from many years of mutant power bearing, is subtlety extraordinary. Some of that is attributed to superb writing, but Jackman nails it.

The same can be said of Stewart’s Xavier. If it is true that these two actors have played these roles for the final time, they certainly put everything they had into these performances. Their on-screen chemistry is on point, and worthy of the emotional tribulations delivered to viewers.It would be a shame to not mention Keen’s performance as Laura. Few children can throw punches with the big boys and be nearly as effective. Keen does just that. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her land more big time roles as a result of her work here.

Though the film’s sound effects and soundtrack are above average at best, the limited use of visual effects displayed are top notch. The film prides itself on not over using green screens as many of its franchise predecessors have done. Never once, does it feel like what is being seen on screen was created in a visual laboratory. That is a refreshing experience in an era where everything is over-hyped with the latest CGI technology.

The film is extraordinarily violent, and the special effects to exhibit said violence is hauntingly real. Because it isn’t as amped up as many of the other action films that will come out this year, it won’t be recognized for its precise work. But it should be.

What honestly sets “Logan” apart from many of the other genre films is that it truly cares about how it looks. The color matches the tone of the film, which is somewhat drained of life. Mangold had a dark vision for the film, and though much of “Logan” takes place during the daytime, his camera still creates an aura of direness. It would be easy to compare Mangold’s directorial work here to that of Nolan’s in his Dark Knight trilogy. Though such a comparison isn’t completely off base, it does a disservice to the originality of Mangold’s work. Just as Jackman should be considered for awards at the end of the year, it wouldn’t be farfetched to put Mangold in the same conversation.

Although dark, and at times hard to handle emotionally, “Logan” is the perfect example of how to capitalize on a realistic approach to the superhero genre. Films like “Logan” have been presented in many ways, but never quite the way Mangold does here.

Through his simple, but effective plot, Mangold brings this drab tale of wolverine to life with the likes of Jackman and Stewart. His vision is one that will likely be mimicked by filmmakers for years to come, but “Logan” will be very hard to top.