Short Version: Hugh Jackman takes the final bow on his signature role with a powerful performance that shows the comic book genre is not dying; it’s evolving. Loaded with bullets, blood, and heartbreak, X-MEN fans will likely enjoy this farewell love letter to the franchise’s most popular and enduring character.
When it was announced, just days before the wide release of surprise hit Deadpool, the next and final Hugh Jackman Wolverine film would be rated-R, I like many others was skeptical. It Hollywood so they tend to imitate without forethought or planning. The most glaring example of this is the tragic and ill-conceived DC Expanded Universe – and no I don’t think either The Justice League or Wonder Woman is gonna save it. With that in mind, I went into Logan cautiously optimistic. Was this gonna be another studio cash grab to ride a trend, or a methodical choice made by the filmmakers to tell the best story possible. When I walked out of Logan, I could instantly affirm that it was the latter. Doing Logan with a PG-13 rating would likely be impossible, and a horrible disservice to the material.
Logan is visceral and violent in all the best ways. Whereas Deadpool earned, it’s R-Rating through a mix of language, guns, sex, and violence; Logan earns every inch of its R-Rating with graphic fights scenes that would put fatality moves from Mortal Kombat to shame. I couldn’t seem to shake the video game comparisons with Logan; it strikes me a Last of Us/Jurassic Park hybrid with comic-book characters.
The film follows a significantly older and rundown Logan, several years after we last saw him. It is the year 2029, and there have been no new mutants born in over 25 years. Logan is hiding out in a Mexican border town with Professor X and Caliban, a former X-Men foe, played by Steven Merchant. Professor X, played by once again by Patrick Stewart, is now in his nineties and no longer in control of his highly destructive powers. After a recent incident, the Professor X is relegated to living in an abandoned water well where he is less of a threat to others when he loses control. Caliban acts as a daily nursemaid, and Logan drives a limo across the border in the hopes of saving enough money to get out of his current rut, and perhaps enjoy some final days of peace. And make no mistake the Logan we met appears on his last legs. Wolverine is not the mutant he once was. Living under an alias, his nearly invincible healing factor is all but gone; a result of a mysterious illness that he is defiantly unwilling to discuss or acknowledge. His body and his spirit, have been broken by the years. When solicited by a woman to escort her and daughter to an ‘eden’ for mutants in Canada, Logan denies his identity and forcefully tells her to leave him alone. When bribed with the money he needs for escape he reluctantly agrees. We later discover the girl, is not whom her “mother” claims her to be. I don’t consider this a spoiler as it is all but spelled out, but if you suspected Logan was an X-23 storyline, well it is.
Playing Laura the silent child with the thousand-yard stare is newcomer Dafne Keen. A character of few words but deadly skill, she is quite simply – a badass. Moody, brooding and terrifying in her portrayal, she is exactly what you would want from an X-23 adaptation. Because of her sheltered upbringing, Laura is also hilarious in her fish out of water interactions. The plot devices are simple; get the girl where she wants to go with the evil bounty hunters in hot pursuit. Boyd Holbrook, playing Agent Pierce, lead the team charged with finding the girl and taking her back, and he delivers a surprisingly good performance. Though not terrifying, he is ruthless and at times comical which gives an added layer of believability to the character. Interestingly for the majority of the film, the biggest antagonist for mutants on the run, is their powers or absence of skills when necessary. Professor X must remain medicated just to prevent himself from uncontrollably destroying any human near him. Logan, now a shadow of the powerful mutant we once knew is more often than not in need of rescuing, as opposed to being the rescuer.
Seeing Logan weakened and bleeding after every battle was the hardest part of the story to for me to accept, and one of the main reasons why my first thoughts on film weren’t positive. In truth, as I was first sitting down to write about I didn’t think it was good. Some of the problems I had with the film still linger. The pacing and runtime are my biggest gripes. Just like in 2013’s The Wolverine, James Mangold weakens a possibly perfect film by not being judicious in the edit bay. There are also some very lazy plot holes that don’t hold much water. The average movie goer wouldn’t care, but I have a hard time looking past them.
Did ALL of you need gang up on that ONE guy in the final battle? I won’t spoil it, but if you watch the film, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
Overall, however, my opinion changed upon further reflection. I came to realize what I didn’t like, was actually what makes the film brilliant. They found a legitimate way to make the invincible Wolverine vulnerable; both emotionally and physically. This is a hard trick to pull off and an even more difficult pill for me to swallow. It’s tragic, but it’s also powerful. I don’t like seeing one of my favorite X-Men broken down, bleeding, and a shell of his former self. It’s hard to watch, but for hours afterward, I was still thinking about it. To bring out emotions like that in a comic book movie is an incredible accomplishment, that should not be overlooked because it was painful.
The other thing that bothered me about Logan is it felt a little incomplete. I saw Logan at a press screening, and I have now learned that there is an after credits scene that was not screened for critics. I suspect that the scene will provide the closure, I felt missing from my first viewing. So I’m gonna go ahead and give Mangold the benefit of the doubt.
With this genre, I often worry about superhero fatigue and question how we can sustain interesting storylines and characters. Films like Logan give me hope if this is where we’re heading with the genre. Will comic books movies continue to thrive? Perhaps, but we must push the boundaries of the genre and tell character driven stories. Logan shows that this can be done and that it can be done well. Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine for over 17 years, and yet he found a way to deliver an embodiment of the character unlike any other, in quite possibly the best performance of his career.
Logan is in theaters March 3rd.