For someone who grew up head-over-heels for comic books, it's remarkable and kind of infuriating just how underwhelmed I've been by the genre's offerings on the big screen over the past decade or so.
I was raised on page-to-screen adaptations of the likes of Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy and Tim Burton's Batman flicks, plus the first two Christopher Reeve Superman pictures. I still adore those films to this day, and was quite fond of Christopher Nolan's vision for Batman too. But Zach Snyder's DC productions? Don't even get me started. And while Marvel's offerings have certainly been less headache-inducing than Snyder's assault on the genre, few of those films have left me much invigorated either. Perhaps I'm just tiring of the focus on wall-to-wall CGI, in place of compelling storytelling.
The X-Men franchise, for the most part, has never left me with strong feelings one way or the other. I was enamored with X2, admittedly mostly on account of Ian McKellen's delicious performance, but the other pictures struck me as little more than serviceable.
Logan, the latest picture in the series, is decidedly a hell of a lot more than just by-the-numbers. It's the strongest of the X-Men films by a country mile and should titillate even viewers who are not fond of or familiar with the franchise. I suspect moviegoers who got more of a kick out of Mad Max: Fury Road or True Grit than say, Guardians of the Galaxy, will be especially delighted by this picture.
Hugh Jackman, in the finest performance of his career, returns as Logan who, in the not-so-distant future, is emotionally drained and at his least able-bodied. He cares for the unwell Professor X (Patrick Stewart, also fantastic) at a remote location on the Mexican border, earning cash as a limo driver with the goal of amassing enough to buy a boat and sail off into the sunset together. At this point in time, mutants are on the edge of extinction, so Logan is caught plenty off-guard when the young Laura (Dafne Keen, in a sensational feature film debut), who has powers not unlike Logan's, enters the picture.
Logan has been tasked with escorting Laura to a place in North Dakota called "Eden," where, to his great skepticism, she'll apparently be safe. All Logan, Laura and Professor X need to do is somehow make the road trip while warding off the deranged Reavers who have committed their lives to the destruction of mutants and Logan in particular.
The picture, directed by the hit-or-miss James Mangold, delivers all of the violent, exhilarating, well-orchestrated action you could ask for but Logan is ultimately so much more than that. The relationships between Logan and Laura and Logan and Professor X are fascinating ones and there are nearly as many scenes that tug pull at the heart strings as get the heart racing. The film was co-written by the brilliant Scott Frank, who not only has credits on fabulous motion pictures like Out of Sight and Minority Report but also penned TV episodes on series like The Wonder Years. His contributions are greatly felt here.
Logan isn't quite a perfect picture - the Logan vs. X-24 battles, for one, gave me nasty flashbacks to Superman III - but I wouldn't hesitate to rank it at least among the top 20 or so comic book films to date.