Fans of Marvel, X-Men, and the Wolverine character should be pleased with Logan–it’s a strong finale and arguably the best in this highly uneven spin-off series. With three prominent names credited for the screenplay (director James Mangold, eminent screenwriter Scott Frank, and Michael Green, whose name is also on the upcoming Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner remake) it’s impossible to know who came up with the ideas that make this movie work as well as it does. But any film that invokes George Stevens’ classic Western Shane—and shows an 11-year-old girl getting caught up in it—is definitely on the right track.

The setting is the near-future and Logan is worn down, to say the least. He still has his mutant powers but they are greatly diminished. He has become a vulnerable figure and that changes the playing field for this story. Living in a makeshift shelter near the Mexican border with an aged Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Logan is suddenly given the responsibility of caring for an eerily quiet little girl (Dafne Keen) who may be one of a new generation of mutants.

Everything makes sense in this solid (if overlong) screenplay, well directed by James Mangold, who also piloted The Wolverine. Even playing a weakened old man, Patrick Stewart commands the screen, and the presence of Charles Xavier gives this story a feeling of context and continuity. Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, and Eriq LaSalle are definite assets among the supporting cast. Rugged, often beautiful locations remove this from the visual world of earlier X-Men outings.

Then there is Hugh Jackman, who could be phoning in the part by this time; instead, he is fully invested in this broken down, underdog version of Wolverine. That’s why we’re willing to root for him and the few good guys who turn up during his journey. Logan even dares to invoke the words of a hero from the movies’ past, a fitting way to say that some values survive even in a world turned bleak. It offers a ray of hope for the characters—and for us.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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April 2024