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Thursday, March 9, 2017 12:04 am

Jackman finds the humanity in Logan

Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen in Logan.

 

It comes as no real surprise that director James Mangold draws comparisons between the X-Man character Wolverine and the classic Western gunfighter Shane in his latest film, Logan. Among all of the outcasts he’s rubbed shoulders with in his long comic book history and the various mutant movies he’s appeared in, Logan has come off as an outsider among outsiders, a loner who’s learned over his century-spanning existence that there is no permanence where human relationships are concerned, reluctant to form even the slightest emotional connection with anyone. Shane, the Man with No Name and Wolverine are all cut from the same cloth.

Taking place in the near future of 2029, Logan finds himself on the run with an elderly Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and unwanted passenger in tow. With mutants having been hunted to near extinction, our hero and his mentor have been in hiding in Mexico where the powerful telepath suffers from occasional seizures that paralyze and can kill anyone in close proximity. The third of the trio is Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl with powers much like Logan’s, who was created in a laboratory in Mexico specializing in experiments with mutant DNA. Much to his chagrin, Logan has been coerced into watching out for her and taking her to a sanctuary in North Dakota by Professor X, a trip that has more than its fair share of bumps in the road.

Though overlong, Mangold does a fine job creating and sustaining an air of melancholy throughout the film, both in tone and the physicality of the locations in which it takes place. Like Logan, whose healing abilities are waning, the place where we first find him and many of the stops along the way have seen better days, tattered, worn, rusted-out places that speak not of history but of decay and the inevitability of death. Equally nihilistic is the violence that permeates the movie, a savage, brutal approach that leaves nothing to the imagination and leaves Logan blood-soaked after every throw-down. This may be off-putting for some viewers, but it speaks to the true nature of the character while Jackman and Mangold take the time to show the cumulative effect it is having on him both physically and psychologically.

As always, Jackman is great fun to watch here, especially in his interactions with Stewart and Keen, most of which are of the prickly variety as Logan and Professor X have spent far too much time together and know each other too well, while the feral nature of Laura makes for less-than-civil conversation. The central trio drives the film, and these three are more than up for the task, as the emotional bond that forms between them is palpable and genuine. This is never more obvious than in a dinner sequence between them and a family they’ve helped on the road and who’ve invited them to their home. These quiet moments are not only dramatically effective but they underscore the tragedy of the characters that have never been allowed to find any peace, always ostracized from the norm.

That the film is named Logan and not some third variation to include Wolverine (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Wolverine were the two previous spin-offs) is telling. Having sought his true identity for years, our worn and tattered hero finally comes to terms with who he is and what he is capable of, not as a weapon but as a man. Logan is far more fitting a name for this tragic loner, rather than an exploitive moniker used to sell toys and comic books.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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