Hard to believe that Hugh Jackman has played the iconic superhero Wolverine for over fifteen years, being the actor who has appeared in the most amount of superhero movies as a single character. The buff Aussie quickly became the shining star of the X-Men franchise, even getting his own spinoff movies (with mixed results). Sadly, all good things must end, and Jackman has decided to finish this particular phase in his career, giving his claw-bearing alter ego one final send-off with this year’s Logan.
In the year 2029, the world’s mutant population has been all but entirely extinct. Logan, AKA Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is one of the last of his kind, attempting to live a quiet life as a limo driver in Texas. With the help of the disfigured mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), Logan must also take care of an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is losing control of his powerful telekinetic powers and requires near-constant supervision. Logan’s peaceful-ish life is interrupted when a woman comes asking for help. She wants Logan to escort a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen), who possesses the same abilities as Logan himself, to a safe area for mutants. Hunted by a group of mutant killers (called Reavers) Logan must protect Lauran and Charles as he attempts a cross-country run for freedom.
Logan certainly did have a lot on its plate for a single movie. Not only did it need to offer a satisfying conclusion to stories of characters we have known for years, but it also had to give us a satisfying enough plot to keep viewers entertained in between character interactions. While Logan succeeds at providing the later, it, unfortunately, fails at the former. The film’s biggest weakness is that its central plot is just too cliché and predictable. Borrowing heavily from Mad Max: Fury Road, The Last of Us and countless other dystopian stories of grizzled men escorting young women to a supposed safe zone, Logan rarely veers off the straight narrative path it sets itself on. I was able to predict pretty much every major story moment long before they happened, and I’m sure most viewers will as well.
The glue that keeps Logan together is the relationship between the characters, primarily the bond between Logan and Charles. There’s fifteen years worth of history between these two, and every interaction between them is weighty and satisfying. The fact that Logan is the least action-heavy X-Men movie to be released also allows Jackman and Stewart to really show off their masterful acting talent. Both men are in top form, giving some of the best performances you could see from a Hollywood blockbuster. Stewart has a lot of material to work with, playing a mentally unstable Xavier, and reminds you just how experienced he is as a thespian. It’s the first time we have seen Stewart’s version of Professor X be in such a position of powerlessness, as his mind is no longer strong enough to control his abilities. There’s also a lot of regret in him, as the movie teases out the reason why Logan has taken it upon himself to become his mentor’s keeper.
Jackman gets to do a lot more here than he has in past X-Men movies as he is playing an aged and tired Wolverine, something we haven’t seen before. His adamantium skeleton is beginning to poison his body, dampening his healing abilities. This means that Wolverine is no longer the invincible killing machine he was, as even his claws retracting from his skin causes him pain. This makes each fight scene feel that much more brutal, as you see Logan struggle to dispatch enemies he could have easily defeated in his younger days. Contrasting this older Logan is Laura, who is essentially a younger version of Logan, still filled with anger and hatred towards humanity due to the painful experiments she was forced to endure. As such, she behaves like a feral animal, pouncing on enemies and ripping them to shreds without hesitation. The bond between Logan and Laura is also fairly compelling, yet doesn’t quite match up to some of the other pseudo-father/daughter relationships from the stories Logan is basing itself on. Since Laura is mute throughout a large part of the movie, the only bonding that happens between her and Logan is through looks and action scenes. Though that does have its charm up to a certain point, it doesn’t quite sustain itself for as long as the movie thinks it can. Even so, the payoff to this relationship is well executed and should make any audience member tear up.
Director James Mangold returns, having also directed 2012’s The Wolverine, and it’s clear he was given a lot more freedom here than he was in the previous instalment. The Wolverine started out with an interesting premise, but it quickly devolved to the usual silly CGI heavy antics you would expect from a lesser superhero flick. Logan does not suffer from this, as Mangold maintains the serious and grounded tone established at the film’s beginning throughout the movie’s length. The film does try to inject some ill-fated attempts at humour, but because so much of what’s happening on-screen is deathly serious, it becomes hard to discern when certain scenes are being played for laughs. As such, the most I was able to muster were a few awkward chuckles, with the exception of one laugh-out-loud moment regarding Laura’s inability to speak. Visually, Logan looks about as good as you could expect from a film taking place in a desert-like dystopian setting, and the modern Western aesthetic influences are obvious. You could put a cowboy hat on Logan, and he would fit perfectly into any classic Sergio Leone film.
Logan is also notable for being the first X-Men movie (with the exception of Deadpool) to be R rated, and the filmmakers take full advantage of that fact. Wolverine is, after all, a guy who has knives coming out of his knuckles, and so it always felt unrealistic that none of the other movies showed the bloody consequences that fighting with those kinds of weapons would lead to. Logan feels as though it needs to catch up on all those bloodless films, as it spares no expense at showing the multitude of ways those claws can maim, disembowel and otherwise slice through human flesh in graphic detail. Though the blood and gore requires and R rating to be done right, the large amount of swearing that comes from the character doesn’t. It’s a little weird hearing the characters that have spent so many movies not swearing suddenly curse up a storm simply because they are allowed too. Charles in particular lets loose a little too many F-bombs for what I feel the character should.
Logan is without a doubt the best of the solo Wolverine movies (not that that’s a particularly high bar to pass) and ends the character’s story on a powerful note. Though the main plot is unoriginal and predictable, the character dynamics that surround it make it engaging enough to keep you interested. At 2 hours and 20 minutes in length, I feel like certain scenes could have been cut out to make it a tighter experience, but the length is never overbearing. No matter what is done with Wolverine in future X-Men movies, Hugh Jackman can rest easy knowing that his legacy as the character is secured.