Blu-ray Review: Logan

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Director and co-writer James Mangold has delivered the very best Wolverine film with Logan. Mangold directed the previous Wolverine solo outing, The Wolverine (2013), which itself was a marked improvement over the wobbly X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009). But Logan is something special. Unlike the earlier films, this one works as a standalone. It's suspenseful and thoughtful, driven by a set of extraordinary performances. Set in 2029, the film finds Logan (Hugh Jackman) no longer identifying as Wolverine. The adamantium fused to his skeleton so many years ago now slowly poisons him, weakening his regenerative powers. Working as a limo driver in Texas, near the Mexican border, Logan attempts to care for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) along with sun-sensitive mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant).

The X-Men are a thing of the past. As mutants have nearly reached the point of extinction; tales of Professor X and Wolverine have become legend. One interesting aspect of Logan is how meta it is: characters know and love the mutant team from the same comic books we've known and loved in real life. Logan's booze-fueled depression is turned upside down with the appearance of a woman who insists he aid her. She's caring for a child, a girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who she claims needs safe passage to a place (possibly mythical) in North Dakota called "Eden." Biotech outfit Transigen has a vested interest in Laura and is in constant pursuit.

Simple plot summary does Logan no justice. What makes the film so successful is Mangold's unusual treatment of the material. No X-Men-themed film has felt like this before. Though set in the future, the film has the tone of a classic Western (a connection underlined as Charles and Laura watch Shane together). There are special effects, but they're decidedly secondary to the characters. Certainly the success of the gleefully profane Deadpool cleared the way for the hard-R Logan earns. But the rampant violence is not mere fan service, but rather an integral part of Logan's unforgiving atmosphere. 
rsz_logan_hugh_jackman_1.jpg As Logan reluctantly begins to accept that Laura is an exceptional individual, with mutant abilities suspiciously similar to his own, he works hard to lead her to the proper destination. But he can't quite overcome his cynicism, even after witnessing Laura's backstory via a covertly recorded cell phone video. Largely due to the encouragement of ever-hopeful Charles (whose mental facilities have slipped to the point where his legendary telepathy has turned dangerous), Logan keeps trying to elude Transigen soldier Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Regardless of what he does or who he encounters, violence and death seems to accompany Logan. This leads to the most visceral fight sequences the franchise has ever seen.

Jackman turns in his finest performance as his signature character, a role he has played seven times. Never before has one single actor played the same comic book character so many times over so many years (Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is on his trail). He's continued to find nuance and depth in the character. Patrick Stewart is also at a peak as Professor X, delivering a heartbreaking portrait of the once-great leader in a state of steep decline. Newcomer Dafne Keen is amazing as the ferocious Laura, a girl who has spent years in captivity and has unspeakable pent-up anger to release. These are award-worthy performances, though of course the genre doesn't often fare well in that particular department. The big exception so far has been Heath Ledger's tremendous portrayal of the Joker. It's worth noting that Logan is arguably the most mature comic book adaptation since Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. 
rsz_logan_patrick_stewart.jpg 20th Century Fox's Logan Blu-ray, perfect in terms of audio/visual presentation (with a dynamic DTS-HD MA 7.1 mix), includes several excellent special features. The movie itself is presented entirely in black-and-white as Logan Noir. It's a different experience when drained of color, offering a literally darker image that results in an arguably darker tone. The copious amounts of blood spilled throughout are more difficult to see in the Noir version, which may or may not be an improvement depending on your personal tastes regarding onscreen violence.

James Mangold contributes a director's commentary in which he breaks down the ways he intended to distinguish Logan from the ever-increasing glut of comic book movies. There are also deleted scenes (a few of which would've been great in the film; a bit of action here and there could've easily been sacrificed) with optional Mangold commentary. "Making Logan" is an in-depth, multi-part feature that totals an hour and 15 minutes. Normally I don't personally note the inclusion of theatrical trailers, but the one with Johnny Cash's "Hurt" as the soundtrack is one of the best trailers I've ever seen—if that one doesn't immediately entice you to see the film, perhaps you're simply allergic to the genre. Happily that trailer (along with several others) is included.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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