This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Logan.”
WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
The Movie: “Logan”
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Director: James Mangold
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X somewhere on the Mexican border. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are upended when a young mutant arrives, pursued by dark forces.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92 percent
Froemming: Last week we saw a film that oozed with inspiration, courage and a rousing comeback at the end with “The Mighty Ducks.” Seeing as I took some of that moxie and used it to tackle Arby’s Meat Mountain sandwich the following Wednesday — which left me feeling broken down and defeated — I think this week’s JOE-DOWN was an apt choice.
I picked the critically-acclaimed “Logan,” which follows old man Wolverine living a life of alcoholism, caring for Professor X who has dementia while also having the world’s most powerful brain, as well as living with a British albino. But this beautiful utopia of an existence is not to last long as Logan finds his world crashing to an end by circumstances beyond his control. You know, the typical fun and exciting X-Men we are all used to by now. A franchise which jumps timelines and retcons previous instalments as freely as the Meat Mountain retconned my desire to ever eat again. But before we shred into this with our Adamantium Claws of Snark, Brown what are your first impressions of “No Country For Old Logan?”
Brown: Oh, you mean “Wolverine and the Underground Railroad?”
Look, I have a weird relationship with the X-Men franchise. X-Men was the first comic I ever owned (somewhere in the Phoenix timeline. Silver Surfer was in it, too). And, as a child of the ‘90s, I really enjoyed the cartoon series.
But the movies, they don’t really do a lot for me. I remember seeing the first movie with my cousin in theaters and we both put our arms out as the credits rolled and asked “What the hell was that?” I liked “First Class” and I didn’t think “Apocalypse” was bad.
And that’s how I feel looking back upon “Logan.” It’s certainly not a bad movie, it just isn’t for me for some reason. And I’ll touch on that as we go on.
Froemming, I imagine the Meat Mountain is poisoning your body like Wolverine’s adamantium bones are poisoning him. So before you start to face, start off the review.
Froemming: It is 2029, and the world is in such a terrible place that young mutants dream of escaping to North Dakota of all places. We will touch on that a bit later.
We also see James Howlett, or Logan, or Wolverine (this guy has too many aliases) driving drunk people around in a limo as his post-fighting bad guys career. He has aged because, like you said, his metal skeleton is poisoning him and that is causing his healing powers to slow down.
Like you, I have had a hit-and-miss relationship with this franchise. I remember walking out of “X-3” thinking it was perhaps one of the worst pieces of (REDACTED) I had seen in a long while and I still stand by that. Even the Wolverine solo films left much to be desired. But I tell you, during the first 10 minutes of this film, when the gangsters pick a fight with Logan as they are trying to strip the limo he is passed out in and those claws came out, I was glad we finally got to see those bad boys in their true form: Killing machines, not a weird prop for Jackman to flip people off in a PG-13 film.
Brown: Oh, I’ll give this movie this: It is intense. Now, I saw this movie at 10:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. Didn’t you see a bunch of kids in the theater when you went?
Froemming: Yeah, I saw it during a 4 p.m. Saturday show. There were a lot of kids in the theater. And you could feel some of the discomfort on some of the parents’ part because you know there was a few of them that were tricked by their little ones into going to this film. Which deserves the hard R rating it has. Did you see any children at your screening?
Brown: Nope. Just teenagers with nothing better to do. Do your research, parents.
Now, aside from Wolverine committing casual murder, we see him make the rounds as a limo driver picking up a lot of bachelor/bachelorette parties and trying to score prescription drugs around the Texas/Mexico border. I’ll fight the urge to make a Trump wall joke.
During one of these pickups, Logan is stopped by a generic video game bad guy in Donald Pierce, who is on the lookout for a Mexican doctor escorting a little girl. Dude has a metal arm and little else going for him, other than being a fan of the Wolverine.
Froemming: I knew he was a bad guy because he spoke in a slow, Southern accent. Dead giveaway right there.
Brown: I knew he was a bad guy because neck tattoo. Hollywood will never advance past that stereotype.
Froemming: All he needed to do was munch on an apple and he would have been the most generic villain of all time.
Anyway, shortly after this as Logan has driven his party limo to a graveyard, he is approached by a woman named Gabriela, who is pestering him as he is just trying to booze through his day with his bottle of whiskey. Because Logan is a loner and has a serious drinking problem in this film, he tells her to get lost. His “helping others out” days are far behind him.
Then we see Logan’s home life, which was eerily like the namesake character in “Mitchell” — booze and sadness. Here we meet Caliban, the British albino mutant whose power is tracking other mutants (perhaps the most pathetic mutant power I have seen in this franchise) who takes care of Charles Xavier while Logan is casually drinking and driving during his job, putting everyone who comes near him at risk.
Brown: And where is our heralded leader of the X-Men? Why, he’s caged up in a tipped-over water tower fighting off dementia. Turns out, he also needs to be sedated often because Charles has seizures that happen to … I don’t know, freeze everyone except for the cameraman who keeps having spasms in his arms?
I get that Charles is at an advanced age but I hated whenever these sequences came up. I don’t normally get motion sickness but these sequences didn’t agree with my stomach. In no way was it the Red Vines and Raisinettes.
I will say, though, that seeing an X-Man like Charles succumbing to the tragedy of old age instead of how we expect our heroes to go out in a blaze of glory, it’s a bummer but it’s interesting. And Patrick Stewart was my favorite part in this movie for both having the gravitas to pull off the aging leader struggling to hang on while also being a comic foil at times to Logan. Hearing Patrick Stewart say the F-word multiple times was both a little shocking and something I need in my life more often.
Froemming: We will touch on it later, but I will state here that the camaraderie between Logan and Charles on the road with X-23 were my favorite parts of this film. It really humanized these over-the-top comic book characters to the point I didn’t feel I was even watching a comic book movie at times.
And yes, Charles is pent up in what looks like a broken down Cerebro (I am guessing this is on purpose to keep him calm) where he claims he has been speaking telepathically with a new mutant. Because there have been no mutants born in 25 years, Logan and Caliban do not take the old man’s rantings seriously.
Brown: Cerebro. Magneto.
After Gabriela, our doctor friend, tries to get Logan to do a job for her, he refuses because Logan wants to hang low. But because there is a bit of hero still in him, he goes to the hotel Gabriela and her gal pal were staying at… and sees Gabriela killed gangland style. The job she wanted Logan to do: Take the little girl, named Laura, to North Dakota. Because he takes $20,000 from her hotel room that was stashed away for him, Logan feels obligated to do this.
This is the only time in human history (not movie history, human history) that someone has wanted to go to North Dakota.
The girl must have stowed away in Logan’s limo because now, when Logan arrives back at his desert party shack with Charles and Caliban, Laura is there listening to the former Prof. X.
While I’m trying to figure out, at this point, what the hell is going on, a bunch of jeeps and military-like vehicles are coming fast for Logan and the crew.
Froemming: Logan and the Crew would have been a fantastic ‘80s hip-hop name.
Brown: It does sound like a breakdancing troupe.
Froemming: “Excuse me while I pop a move with these adamantium claws and blow your mind!”
Anyway, Donald Pierce for some reason actually thought Logan would call him if the woman and little girl came into contact with him, ignoring decades of evidence to the contrary, which also appear in comic book form in this film. But his crew decide to come crashing in to take Laura (X-23) back to their nefarious labs.
Now, I normally find little children in these sorts of films to be obnoxious. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the bad assness of Laura, because Pierce sends in some soldiers to take her while she is enjoying some sugar-infused breakfast cereal, we hear screams and she come strolling out casually with a dude’s head, which she rolls like a (REDACTED) bowling ball toward Pierce. Then we see her claws come out and boy, it got graphically violent real quick.
Brown: Yes, the whole sequence with us discovering that Laura has claws (on her hands and feet) and the ultra-violent tendencies of our hero was pretty badass.
But, this is where I will state my biggest gripe of the movie: The bad guys are so (REDACTED) lame. At least in old X-Men movies, Magneto was a pretty good villian (that required a lot of exposition for his relationship with Charles). This movie, we get militants and later, an evil organization. It’s painfully cliche and given the bleak nature of this movie, it just makes it tough to feel fully engaged. If you go the bleak route, I think you really need a good antagonist. That’s why the Nolan Batman movies work. X-Men bad guys just aren’t that good.
So, while I’m watching this movie, I feel like I’m watching a video game because the antagonists just keep spawning like they’re from Playstation.
Froemming: You pointed out to me that the plot of this film is a lot like a video game you have played, and I agree with the generic bad guys, but of all the comic book movies I have seen, this one felt the least like a video game on the big screen.
Brown: I’ll make the point quick: This whole movie reminded me of the game “The Last of Us.”
The plot of that game: You are a disgruntled old man who has survived a zombie apocalypse and are tasked with transporting a girl who cannot be affected across the country.
The plot of “Logan:” Logan is a disgruntled old man who has survived a mutant apocalypse and is tasked with transporting a girl who happens to be one of the last mutants across the country.
Froemming: Yes, and the plot of one last job for an aging anti-hero is the plot for “Unforgiven.” We can wax on how similar this film is to other things all day. Hey, there is a train and two dudes traveling and bantering. It is just like “Some Like It Hot!”
And yes, the antagonists are lame. But if they put a bigger, flashier baddie it might have taken away from the mood they were going for here. I don’t know, they could have found a middle ground here.
Anyway, they attack Logan and his crew on their home turf. Laura and Logan tear into these guys like they were Kleenex. And while Logan saves Charles and Laura, poor Caliban is captured by Pierce’s crew and is used to track the now-outlaws.
Brown: I won’t drag on the point, but I think this movie could have been so much better if someone like Sabretooth was the one stalking the group and continuing this lifelong feud with Logan instead of generic paramilitary guys.
Froemming: Actually, Sabretooth would have been a better foil than the ones we got here.
Brown: Back to plot, our threesome make their way to Oklahoma City and Logan watches the rest of Gabriela’s video she made before her death explaining that Laura was among a group of young kids that were kidnapped and put through genetic experiments in hopes of creating man-made mutants to be used as weapons for the government. And, Laura’s abilities were taken from Logan’s DNA (and adamantium skeleton added later).
Froemming: How impressive was Gabriela’s video editing skills for her cell phone?
Brown: Needed a starwipe. I give her a C. Also, how are people in this lab not taking away her cell phone? There was more than a few times where they looked straight at it.
Now, a question that I didn’t have answered: They refer to Laura as Logan’s daughter. Was she actually his biological daughter, or by virtue of the lab using Logan’s DNA to give Laura her abilities are they like father and daughter. The movie either didn’t make that clear or I was zoning out.
Froemming: I think he sees her as a daughter instead of a direct clone, because she isn’t a direct clone. They left it ambiguous, and I like that because this film travels in the gray areas of life, not the black and white. In the end he seems to see her as his daughter.
Brown: Logan unsuccessfully tries to find more medication for Charles, and he pays cash for a used truck while out and about in Oklahoma City. So while he’s waiting around, he goes to his own brand of medication: Alcohol!
And while he’s drinking at a bar, he looks at the pair of X-Men comics that Laura keeps in her backpack and finds out that one of the storylines involves going to a place called “Eden.” And where is that located? Why, in North Dakota, according to the coordinates in the comic. Naturally, Wolverine calls BS. And normally I would as well, but I did like this meshing of the comic books to the real world. You don’t see the source material used in that way when it comes to comic book movies. And because there is such a separation of time between the first three X-Men movies and “Logan,” it’s feasible that comics were made about the super-human group.
Froemming: There are events mentioned in this film I like to quickly discuss. They mention New York, which seems to reference the first “X-Men” film. Then they mention the Westchester incident, which they allude to was Charles’ first seizure that probably killed the X-Men. These are incidents that work to move the story along without hammering us over the head with exposition, which I liked. Did that work for you, Brown?
Brown: I’m fine with it because there’s a lot of movies in this franchise. I haven’t seen all the movies, so at least noting it quick and moving on worked with me. At the same time, it makes you remember there’s sequel baggage with this so it doesn’t work quite as well as a standalone movie and it was a reminder to me that I didn’t enjoy the X-Men movies very much up to this point.
The group is hunted down again in their casino hotel and Charles suffers another seizure, which seems to freeze everyone in place and look in pain like the guy in “Scanners.” But Logan’s able to power through this, murder everyone holding Charles and Laura hostage and escape in the new vehicle. So now, we’re on the road again as the most homicidal family unit since the Mansons.
Froemming: It seems like in the future it is pretty difficult to track a car that has plates that identify it.
They are on the road again, like the Willie Nelson song, and they come across the poor, doomed Munsons, whose only crime in life was inviting these three into their home and pay a deadly price for their hospitality.
Brown: I have to state quick that the fate of the Munsons hurt me. My mother’s side of the family: Monsons.
Froemming: It was apparent right away they they would be dead by the end of the film. It was the part that got too predictable for me. But it also gave us that brief glimmer of happiness as the Munsons have dinner with Logan, Charles and Laura. The only time in Logan’s long, brutal life where he cracks a sincere smile. But because the film demands a sacrifice, the water goes out, splitting Logan from the other two as he helps Mr. Munson fix the water pump and scare the (REDACTED) out of some hillbillies.
Brown: Having that moment of tranquility in a farmhouse really seemed to hit a chord for Charles, who thinks he’s talking to Logan right before they are planning on heading back out on the road. But nope! X-24, which is pretty much young Logan, puts a claw right through Charles and starts laying waste to everything. X-24 is the reason this company is trying to destroy all the child mutants because X-24 will actually obey orders. Also, it’s not a child.
So, we get another intense action sequence that sees X-24 kill Charles, the Munsons, the hillbillies who mistake it with Logan (because X-24 is Hugh Jackman, after all) and nearly rips Logan to shreds before a barely-alive Mr. Munson drives X-24 into the blades of a harvester.
Also, Caliban sacrifices himself to help the group out. He’s tired of being used to exterminate mutants, so our paramilitary gets to eat grenades.
Froemming: It should be noted that the evil company, Alkali-Transigen, is run by the son of one of the guys who worked for the Weapon X program, who was killed when Wolverine murdered his way out of that place. In short, comic book bad guys almost always double-down on their terrible ideas instead of learning from their mistakes.
Also, X-24 was the laziest (REDACTED) idea in this film for me. Just make it something not Wolverine. Like Sabretooth or something.
Brown: Did you get flashbacks of “Terminator: Genisys” while watching Jackman v. Jackman? Because I sure did.
Well, this leads to perhaps one of my favorite moments of the film: The funeral of Charles Xavier. Logan digs the grave of the man who brought him in and helped him in life and because he is not a man of words, he gets flustered and when his truck won’t turn over, he takes his emotions out on it with a shovel. They played that scene true to this character.
Brown: If anything, I liked it from a movie making standpoint to help ease the tension that had been built up. I know I needed a breather after the X-24 fight and with the somber tone of the movie thus far, so that was a nice laugh/catharsis.
Logan’s rage and burial comes at a cost because he passes out from exhaustion. Laura comes through and gets Logan to a clinic, but he refuses help. You know Logan is aware his time is running out.
Froemming: Logan was brutally wounded in the X-24 fight.
Brown: Logan was worse off than Leo DiCaprio was after the bear in “The Revenant.”
Froemming: We see his wounds are not healing, and the doctor tells him he cannot take another hit like that, otherwise he will die. I enjoyed seeing a character who has, for 17 years on film, been damn near immortal suddenly facing his own mortality. How does he face that? Booze. And fighting.
Now, seeing that Laura stole a new vehicle for their road trip (I did like his little aside that she just can’t steal everything all the time) they hit the road. Laura still, for reasons that baffled me at the time, wants to go to North Dakota. But we find out it wasn’t because these children believed there was a safe space there, it is because they planned to create a meeting point they could all reconnect at before heading up to Canada.
Brown: Something that bugged me throughout this movie and something I posed to you, Froemming: So Laura can never grow any bigger than she is now, right? Her skeleton is adamantium now, and a metal isn’t going to have the same growing properties as human bone. She’s, what, an early teenager? So her body is going to grow but her skeleton is metal? What kind of hell will her growing pains be like? Logan was a grown-ass man when he became Wolverine. This is a child who will deal with crippling pain, I imagine. Also, she’ll have a short life if Logan is dying from adamantium poisoning.
Froemming: Her bones, like Logan’s, are coated with adamantium, not made of it. If the metal stretches or something while she has a growth spurt, I’d imagine it would be (REDACTED) painful. But I am not an expert on this.
Brown: The JOE-DOWN: We are not doctors, biologists or experts on adamantium. We are just nerds.
Froemming: I think Brodie Bruce from “Mallrats” is a better go-to for these kinds of questions.
Laura takes the wheel from a near-dead Logan, who passes out from lack of sleep and the giant wounds to his abdomen from X-24. Dude deserves the nap.
But he wakes up and finds they are at the location from the comic book and finds a bunch of children up a mountain. Because Hugh Jackman has paid his dues over the years, the kids pull him up with ropes and a pulley, where he passes out again.
He wakes up and finds that these are the other man-made mutant children that escaped the Alkali-Transigen center. But, unfortunately, Laura left the comic book with the coordinates behind for Pierce to find and track them down.
Remember kids, pick up after yourselves otherwise the bad guys will find you.
Brown: I’m confused as to why there’s mountains in North Dakota. The badlands make sense, but that’s in southern North Dakota and the Canadian border is within seeing distance in the forest according to the kids.
So, because Logan is constantly sleeping from his X-24 wounds, the kids decide they’re taking their shot and running to Canada. But because no
video game movie is complete without a final boss fight, Alkali-Transigen is hot on their trail, looking to commit a child mutant genocide.
Logan, finally awake, sees the trucks heading toward the forest and sees a vial of serum that will enhance his abilities. And like any man with a drinking problem, he takes all of it and goes berserk. Heads are about to literally roll.
Froemming: Logan begins juicing and in a roid rage, we see the berserk-style violence fans have been demanding from the character for nearly two decades. And I will not lie, it was pretty intense and fun to see. But the
roids serum lasts only so long. He meets up with Laura and has her sneak off toward the other children being captive to help them and this was when I knew that Chekov’s Gun of an adamantium bullet that we haven’t discusses yet was finally going to be used as Logan faces his final battle with X-24.
Brown: Yeah, that bullet was going to get used eventually, and it was to paint the forest with X-24’s brain matter.
Going once again to my lack of scientific knowledge of adamantium… So like how the only thing that can scratch diamond is diamond, we see adamantium penetrate adamantium. Instead of using a bullet, why couldn’t Logan or Wolverine put a well-placed claw into X-24’s skull and finish the science experiment off?
I am fully aware I am putting too much thought into a comic book movie.
Froemming: Perhaps the velocity of the bullet played into account? Again, we are not experts here regarding that sort of thing.
After Laura JFK-ed X-24, we see that Logan’s new wounds are fatal. In his last words, he advises Laura not to be the weapon they want her to be, but to be a person. Way to lay it on heavy on a little child as you are dying there Logan. And with that, Hugh Jackman will no longer have to sport the claws again. Bravo, sir. What a way to go out.
Brown: That was all well and good, and then we get the stupid moment where Laura turns Logan’s cross into an X because X-MEN! Let the moment speak for itself instead of doing something cheesy.
Froemming: Agreed. But hey, these new mutants are now heading to Canada, where they are able to live free despite the long line of dead bodies that trail them to their destiny.
Also, I liked how the children killed Pierce. I was expecting Logan or Laura to do him in with their claws, but got something else.
How about we hot-wire an old truck and drive on over to recommendations?
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: I would, absolutely. It is perhaps the best of the X-Men films. I enjoyed it more than 99 percent of the Disney/Marvel films, which I struggle to sit through. It is a well-made film.
Brown: I had problems with this movie. The X-Men franchise, to me, takes itself way too seriously and that’s just not my taste. I’ll make it easy and say if you are a comic book movie fan or an X-Men fan, go watch it. If you’re a casual moviegoer, I’d pass.
Here is what’s coming up for the next Joe-Down: