Movie review by Tim Eason
In the spirit of Battlestar Galactica and for the purposes of this review, I’m substituting the word “frak” for the mother of all expletives.
This review contains spoilers!
I did not read any reviews prior to watching the latest movie in the X-Men universe, entitled Logan. I was looking forward to a grittier version of my favorite childhood comic book character, the Wolverine, as played by Hugh Jackman. The movie is rated ‘R’, and I went in expecting more blood and some expletives not usually heard in a comic book movie; however, what I got was more than I expected.
The basic plot of Logan involves the usual “government versus mutants” theme that we’ve seen in other X-Men movies. In the past installments, mutants have represented outcasts and the populous fear of those who are different. Logan goes a step further, touching on current events by making one of the main characters a Mexican refugee and mutant seeking asylum from the US government by fleeing to Canada. This new mutant is a little girl, brilliantly played by newcomer Dafne Keen, who has uncanny (reference intended) abilities similar to Wolverine. As the two become intertwined in her effort to reach Canada, with Professor X along for the ride, it is revealed that they are very closely related.
The basic premise of family in Logan could have made for an endearing and poignant close to the Wolverine story. The word “family” is prominently used a few times throughout the film and is clearly the theme that the writers intended to convey. But the movie loses the possibility to create a credible character/audience bond before the very first scene even hits the screen.
I had assumed that the ‘R’ rating was because the movie wanted to make Wolverine more believable by giving his character more punch. But before the movie even started, it occurred to me that the choice for a “hard R” might be a cheap money-grab. The Marvel character, Deadpool, appears in a short prologue to the movie. The 2016 film by the same name was also rated ‘R’, and for good reason. The f-bombs, gore, sex, and juvenile talk were amped up to an unprecedented level for a Marvel film. Despite this, or possibly because of it, Deadpool did extremely well at the box office, becoming the highest grossing ‘R’ rated movie of all time worldwide (it’s in second place in the US, ironically behind The Passion of Christ). It garnered numerous award nominations. After I suffered through a screening of Deadpool and hated it, seeing this obnoxious character dropping F-bombs and showing his skinny, naked butt as an intro to Logan did not bode well for me. The first scene of the actual movie confirmed my fears that it was going to deliver so many F-bombs that even Samuel L. Jackson might actually take note of it.
Logan opens on the side of an El Paso highway, which should have really intrigued me considering that El Paso is the sister city to Las Cruces, my hometown. But I was quickly distracted by the amount of “fraks” being dropped by a gang of Hispanics trying to “frak up” the Wolverine as they attempted to strip his car. As a native New Mexican and having grown up in a bilingual setting, I noticed the word, among other colorful language, being used repeatedly in Spanish as well. It immediately felt forced.
Here’s my theory: After the success of Deadpool, a couple of screenwriters wrote the word “frak” around 50 times, interspersed with the word “shite” (spoken without the Irish accent) more than 50 times. They put the title “Logan” on the manuscript and presented it to the studio. “This is a great start!” they said. “But something’s missing… Put a boob shot in there somewhere, add some other words to go in between everything else and we have a movie!” It honestly feels that forced in Logan.
I’m obviously not a person who swears on a regular basis. I’ve been intentional about that my entire life. My position on swearing has partly to do with my upbringing and my faith, but I’ve developed a philosophy on swearing that I think is hard to refute. If you cuss all time, the words lose their impact. Since I don’t usually swear, if you were to hear me say “frak” or “shite”, you would know that I was really, really angry or passionate about something. In fact, when I have dropped the occasional swear word in the past, friends who curse on a regular basis would stand dumbfounded. “Did Tim just really say that? He’s serious about this!”
I’m not against using occasional colorful language to make a point, and I’m not ignorant of how some people talk. However, in the context of Logan, all of the words in the movie become meaningless. Because when you’re expecting substance, but you get a whole lot of babbling, it makes it hard to take anything seriously. Maybe that worked for Deadpool since it’s a dark comedy, but I expected more from Logan. The word “frak” outweighs another F-word, “family”, to the extent that the intended primary theme is drowned out. Some people would argue that the Wolverine is supposed cuss to make him more believable and closer to the comic book version. I agree, but only to an extent. My argument is that the amount of swearing in Logan is unrealistic, even in a comic book setting, and totally ruined the film.
As for the gore, it also feels forced. “How many different R-rated ways can we show Wolverine’s claws go through someone’s head? We have the R-rated real estate, so let’s cram as much as we can into it.” Blood and guts don’t bother me so much. I am a Walking Dead fan after all. Still, the increased violence didn’t seem to add anything to the film. It felt like a kid running around with a toy gun, trying desperately to look cool. In fact, there is a scene in which a group of mutant kids are torturing a baddie with their individual powers… trying desperately to look cool.
And, yes, Logan features a totally disposable scene with a girl showing her naked breasts. Again, the short scene seemed incredibly forced and inserted only to make that ‘R’ rating a little more… ‘R’.
All this noise made Logan a shallow, almost nonsensical story. Even the death of Professor Xavier became the equivalent of a footnote and almost forgettable. In my opinion, there was only one notable line in Logan. As the Wolverine is finally at death’s door he is holding his newfound daughter’s hand. His last words are, “So this is how it feels.” It leaves the audience wondering if he is speaking of dying or of family. That one line is the only profound bit of storytelling that I could pull out of this movie full of “fraks”. Did it earn the cost of admission? Not in the slightest.