I wanted to enjoy Logan. I tried really hard to like it. I just can’t. It was an interesting, but ultimately unsatisfying film that not only failed in most of its self-contained aims but also creates significant, unaddressed discontinuity with the previous films and, thus, creates an incredibly unsatisfactory ending for the franchise. As Mara Reinstein of Us Weekly noted, “Just because a comic book flick takes the dirt road less traveled doesn’t mean it’s a cinematic work of art.”
Spoilers ahead, but I am not going to create hidden text.
Logan was a unique treatment for a superhero movie with some wonderful acting, direction, editing, cinematography, fight choreography, and an attempt at a great score that was too on-the-nose to be truly great. However, I did not enjoy it. It lifted directly from classic Western film staples such as True Grit and the frequently referenced Shane without adding much in the way of its own voice beyond a disharmonious juxtaposition with a Marvel a la Netflix (i.e. gritty and hyper-violent) superhero. As Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune notes, “Logan is deadly serious, and while its gamer-style killing sprees are meant to be excitingly brutal, I found them numbing and, in the climax, borderline offensive.”
This video-game violence merged with a largely unexplained, unexplored, and plot-hole ridden post-Mutant world when combined with the core father-daughter relationship conjures images of James Mangold playing hours of The Last of Us. Sadly, where that game excels and this film fails is in creating believable character reactions and relationships in the face of continual threats to survival. Not only did this version of Logan seem to negate all of Logan/Wolverine’s character development in the previous films, but it also treated Laura like a convenient prop that could be molded into the shape of the story rather than an actual child with an independent personality or massive and consistent psychological issues. The treatment of Laura reminded me very much of Hit Girl in Kick-Ass, but with less development and even fewer references to the psychological toll of being trained and forced into becoming a child-soldier. To top this all off, Logan and Laura spend very little time communicating or even interacting beyond killing together, making the ending seem incredibly forced - it didn’t help that she is a native Spanish speaker but opts to call her father “Daddy” instead of “Papá.”
Beyond the relationships, the plot itself makes very little sense both within and without of the context of the previous movies. No one even attempts to explain what happened to the vast population of mutants (the Westchester incident is described and there were only seven deaths, so it clearly wasn’t just that) and it seems unlikely that no one caught on to the main villain’s plan given the large scale implementation, which would have taken place over decades and involved research, funding, testing, oversight, etc. Consider also that this is a world where telepaths exist and, if you think of previous movies, where mutants are involved in multiple industries and the government.
The villains themselves broke one out of the attempted gritty-Western semi-realism. Richard E. Grant’s underdeveloped sniveling, sneering Dr. Rice; the brainless, slick-haired X-24; model-come-‘actor’ Boyd Holbrook’s more design than character Pierce was little more than the prettiest (and therefore most capable?) thug; and the gang of largely inept yet stylized thugs brought some of the worst elements of comics/superhero movies to completely throw off the attempted tone and largely serve as a reason for watching a young girl commit violence so often that it numbs the audience as well as dilutes and confuses the repeatedly stated message of the film.
Beyond the three main characters, everyone else was disposable, including the Munsons who are brutally murdered as a device to prove how “bad” X-24 is, but who are never mourned on screen, let alone referenced or discussed throughout the remainder of the film. The one potential exception to the expend-ability of these non-central characters is Stephen Merchant’s Caliban. Caliban is possibly the most interesting, best developed, and even best acted character in the film (yes, he rivals Sir Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier in decline through the lens of Waiting for Godot). Merchant, who usually plays irredeemably unlikable characters, counter-intuitively brings the most realistic humanity this film offers while playing a mutant.
Sadly, this same complexity and nuance of writing was not afforded to most of the cast - including its title character who seems to go through the same development from self-interested, just getting by, damaged asshole turned father-figure, hero, and asshole-with-the-heart-of-gold that we saw in X-Men (2000), only this time Logan is even less redeemable, grayer, and dirtier. Logan stating that his nightmares consist of him “hurt[ing] people” would be more believable and sympathetic if we didn’t watch him show no concern for his fellow man throughout most of the film, such as not helping the nurse or leaving a child to die/be captured and tortured.
Edit: All this aside, the first scene with Charles is masterful, and it is f***ing awesome that the new superheros introduced in the film are a group of ethnically diverse, Hispanic, undocumented immigrant children.