‘Blu-ray or Bust’
LOGAN (2017, R, 137 minutes, MARVEL STUDIOS/20TH CENTURY FOX)
It isn’t often said that a trilogy in Hollywood ever ends on a high note. For decades, the formula was “great first film, okay second, what the hell did they do with the last one?!?”.
Even the original STAR WARS trilogy ended on a questionable note (see: EWOKS). By the time we got to THE MATRIX: REVOLUTION, the characters were growing tiresome, and the narrative seemed overwritten and bloated. The original X-MEN films held true to that great/okay/WTF formula.
Then there is Wolverine—also known as LOGAN. Hugh Jackman has played the character in seven previous films, and he saved his best performance for last. In ORIGINS, the widely panned first stand-alone Wolverine film, the character was young, fresh, and surrounded by way too much CGI and comic book lore. And, the movie wasn’t all that great. The director’s cut of the second installment, THE WOLVERINE, kicked the first film’s butt. Solidly.
Keeping with the same writers and director for LOGAN was absolutely the smartest move the studio made. Despite the decades that have transpired timeline wise, James Mangold has created an end to a trilogy which transcends the previous incarnations. By rushing gleefully forward with an R-rating, it also cements LOGAN as one of the grittiest, most effective superhero films of the last several years.
Taking place in 2029, mutant-kind is nearly wiped out. The infamous Wolverine is an alcoholic limousine driver, saving his money for a boat that he can live on well away from land and pesky humans. His homestead is a dilapidated smelting plant in Mexico, where buddy Caliban (the effective and honestly funny Stephen Merchant) takes care of a mentally unstable Charles Xavier, who is kept in a fallen water tower. Yes, our heroes have fallen on desperate, hard times. Enter young mutant “Laura”, played with amazingly graceful ferocity and innocence by newcomer Dafne Keen, who has the same abilities as Logan—with a few shifted blades. She is being hunted down by the bad guys that grew her, and needs adult bodyguards to escort her to a safe mutant zone in Canada. Enter our retired heroes, who are stuck with the job of protecting her.
All this may lead you to believe this is just another X-MEN movie, but it really isn’t even a superhero film. It is a western, it is a buddy film, it’s a road trip from hell. It is a “father” connecting with a “daughter”, it is travelling with a crazy, old man (Sir Patrick Stewart does things with his portrayal of Professor Charles Xavier that you have never seen before, and it seriously kicks ass), it is horrific and beautiful and darkly funny. There is also very little CGI, making every bit of the violent story that much more believable.
And you absolutely must watch the “noir” version of this film. Bleeding all color from the movie, the black and white treatment—included with the theatrical release on Blu-ray—lends a haunting feel to the proceedings which will linger long after the film is over. Watching the regular release, with the excessive gore (excessive for a “superhero flick”), is an entirely different experience. The noir version gives you stark contrasts between the light and the dark, and the shadows from which the characters act is even more dramatic and effective.
The special features are more than you would expect (and all in color…)—not only do the actors speak well of each other—they always do, but it is easier to believe with this cast—but you also get a peek behind the story, screen tests, and how the film relates to the comics the story borrows from. We also get an unnecessary explanation as to why this film had to be released with an R-rating. Honestly, this was long overdue—the character of Wolverine was always the most violent of the X-Men. He has blades that slide out of his hands, for crying out loud—how did it take the studio that long to realize there had to be buckets of blood involved?
Jackman has indicated that this will be his last portrayal of the iconic character (unless there is a possibility of a crossover with Ryan Reynolds’ DEADPOOL). If it is, it is a hell of a way to end a seventeen-year portrayal.
Film Grade: A
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Most definitely