The high ratings for this film are based entirely on its sombre tone. That's a great novelty in a 'superhero' movie, to be sure. But it merely masks the film's emptiness - its painful lack of ideas, lack of character development, and total absence of plot.
Jackman's performance? As someone once quipped, his emotional range runs the full gamut... from A to B. He looks grumpy and depressed in every scene. In every shot. Patrick Stewart is somewhat more nuanced, though he too is hamstrung by a script that gives his character the emotional depth of a cartoon. Dafne Keen does a great job as Laura, but her character has only attitude - which incompetent screen writers often mistake for character.
Visually, the film is bland. I hear there's a black-and-white version. It's always a bad sign when a film's creators can't make up their minds on such a key issue. A film is either shot for B&W, or it isn't. (In the case of Logan, the photography lacks the dramatic contrasts and strong composition that might favor a noir-ish B&W presentation.)
Logic holes abound:
* After being raised in a cage, Laura turns out to be a competent driver. What's more, she has no trouble reaching the pedals, presumably on account of some stretching power that's not mentioned elsewhere in the film.
* Laura is mute for half the film, for no apparent reason. Then she can only speak Spanish. Then fluent English. No explanation.
* Laura is often feral, as you'd expect of someone raised in a cage by sadistic scientists. Yet she acts like a normal child most of the time. Ditto for her friends. This quality does not 'develop' as a result of events in the film - it simply materializes when needed.
* Laura drives at random, ends up at a completely out-of-the-way building. And meets all her friends. When was this arranged? How did she learn navigation while locked in a cage?
* Logan and Laura have a cozy evening with a nice family - knowing full well that they're setting them up for slaughter, when their pursuers come along. The audience knows this instantly, characters in the film don't quite get it.
* Logan is dying, we're never told why. Professor X has a brain-cloud, or some such dread condition, also not explained.
Missed opportunities are equally plentiful:
* Laura's feral attacks are mentioned in conversation, but never really discussed. Logan dismisses them with a couple of heavy one-liners, when they could have (and should have) led to an extended rumination on violence. The film doesn't miss a beat when Laura's friends brutally murder the guy with the mechanical hand. This lynch-mob logic should, again, have been a starting point for reflections that never happen in this shallow, trivial film.
* Logan never has a character arc. Wolverine actually has far less emotional range in this film than in the first X-Men movie. His relationship with Laura is essentially the same as the far more developed relationship with Rogue.
* Characters are neither built up, nor revealed. To do that, you have to show them in a range of different circumstances, dealing with emotionally or morally challenging dilemmas. In Logan, the only dilemma is how to keep eluding inexorable pursuit so as to stretch the film out past the two-hour mark. Hence the only character trait that can be revealed is dogged perseverance. We get that in the first scene. After that, nothing.
* Ultimately, the filmmakers resort to having Logan shaved back to his familiar Wolverine muttonchops. You know you're in trouble when you're counting on facial hair to create characterization. (Or fan service.)
* Plot is nonexistent. The film is one long chase. Weak screenwriters often mistake this for plot, but it's a poor substitute: totally linear, predictable, boring. Yes, there have been great 'chase' films (Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway comes to mind.) They take care to incorporate twists and turns, and strong moments of characterization. Logan doesn't. It's just a bunch of stuff that happens.
On top of everything else, I had the creeping suspicion that this film was calculated less as a standalone work, than as a stepping-stone for the X-Men 'franchise.' It disposes of two performers who've stated their intent to depart the roles they created. And it seems to pave the way for the endlessly-discussed New Mutants franchise. Ugh. Replacing the people won't make up for a lack of ideas, and Logan shows very clearly how bereft of creative thinking the X-Men cinematic franchise has become.
I didn't hate Logan as I was watching it. But when it ended I was overcome by a feeling of emptiness and disappointment. This film lacks both entertainment value and deep ideas. The Marvel cinematic universe badly needs a shot of new blood, but sadly, this wasn't it.
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