X-Men movie franchise connections aside, Logan is a grisly and somber character drama that sends off Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine on a high note.
The year is 2029 and there hasn’t been a new mutant born in the past decade or so, with the majority of mutantkind in general seemingly gone. Wolverine aka Logan (Hugh Jackman) now goes by his birth name James Howlett and makes his living as a limousine driver, his healing powers having started to diminish at long last. However, it turns out Logan is hiding a dangerous secret near the U.S. and Mexico border – namely, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is now in his nineties and is classified as a “weapon of mass destruction” by the U.S. government, due to Charles’ own diminishing mental state having made him unable to control his powers at times.
Logan is working on a plan that would see him and Charles (quite literally) sail off a safe distance from everyone else, so that the pair can quietly end their lives without causing any more harm to those around them. Everything changes when Logan is then approached by a mysterious woman, making him a money offer that would require him to transport a mysterious young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to the U.S./Canadian border. As sinister government forces begin closing in on Laura, Logan soon discovers the truth about who this girl really is… and begrudgingly realizes that he still has one more battle to fight.
The third solo Wolverine movie and the second directed by James Mangold after The Wolverine, Logan is a fitting capstone to its headliner’s seventeen-year run playing the adamantium-clawed mutant on the big screen. Similar to Deadpool, Logan largely unfolds as a standalone character story – one with references to the greater X-Men film universe that enhance the viewing experience for longtime fans, but avoid alienating newcomers or those less well-versed in X-Men lore, at the same time. X-Men movie franchise connections aside, Logan is a grisly and somber character drama that sends off Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine on a high note.
Although Logan draws loose inspiration from such famous Marvel comic book titles as Old Man Logan, the film has more in common with something like Joe Carnahan’s The Grey; in the sense that its story (which Mangold wrote) is a meditative examination of a character who is struggling with their own sense of mortality and their not-so-secret desire to end their life, when the universe reveals it has other plans for them. Logan organically references and incorporates the western Shane into its proceedings in this respect, without hitting audiences over the head (too much) in its efforts to draw parallels between the end of Wolverine’s tale and those of other violent, complicated men (real and fictional) before him. Mangold, drawing from a script that he co-wrote with Michael Green and his The Wolverine co-writer Scott Frank, also integrates a thoughtful meta-narrative element by having X-Men comic books exist as part of the Logan universe – creating an interesting thematic throughline about the importance of storytelling, in the process.
If Logan so far sounds almost too character-driven and slow-burn, rest assured: Mangold also delivers the goods, when it comes to fully unleashing Jackman’s Wolverine in all his R-Rated, Berserker Rage glory on the big screen. No longer held back by the restrictions of the PG-13 Rating, Mangold and his director of photography John Mathieson (X-Men: First Class) deliver close-quarter fight sequences and Wolverine brawls that are both genuinely hard-hitting and less jaggedly-edited than those in Mangold’s The Wolverine, by comparison. The mature tone of the film’s action is matched by the course dialogue in the script too, allowing Wolvie and friends room to properly curse like sailors, without it feeling forced for the sake of being edgy. While the action sequences come flying fast and hard in Logan, they’re still balanced out by equally visually-sharp, yet quieter moments of drama and character interactions throughout the film.
Logan, in turn, gives Hugh Jackman the chance to flex his acting muscles more than any solo Wolverine movie or X-Men film before it has – and the Oscar-nominated actor rises to the occasion, capturing the physical/emotional wear and tear that the character has accumulated with equal aplomb. As believably worse-for-wear and otherwise grizzled as Jackman’s Wolverine here is, however, he is matched by the wild-eyed intensity and personality of his younger costar, Dafne Keen, who makes Laura/X-23 a memorable character through a largely-silent performance of her own. Rounding out the central trio in Logan is Patrick Stewart, back as a frailer-than-ever Charles Xavier/Professor X in a performance that allows Stewart to be more outright funny, vulnerable and heartbreaking than ever he was before in the role of the X-Men’s famous mentor.
While the three leads in Logan anchor the proceedings and are firmly in the spotlight for the majority of the film’s runtime, the supporting cast is more of a mixed bag by comparison. Stephen Merchant’s Caliban is less integral to the story being told here than his fellow mutants, but he serves his purpose well – as Merchant brings his usual charm and sensitivity to Professor X’s somewhat cantankerous mutant caretaker. Boyd Holbrook as the Reavers’ leader, Donald Pierce brings a fun sense of braggadocio to the otherwise two-dimensional baddie, but Richard E. Grant’s Dr. Zander Rice amounts to little more than the typical “evil scientist with good intentions” archetype used to drive the plot, despite Grant’s best efforts to give him more depth. Logan is Jackman, Keen and Stewart’s show first and foremost, so the villain issues are far from deal breakers here.
As irreverent and comically R-Rated as Deadpool was, Logan is equally but effectively morose and grounded, with its own mature take on the X-Men movie franchise and the Wolverine character specifically. The movie thus succeeds as a moving sendoff to the Hugh Jackman-led era of the X-Men cinematic universe, as well as yet another demonstration of how different in tone and style a superhero comic book movie adaptation can actually be. Longtime X-Men fans are in turn advised to prepare themselves emotionally for a somber Wolverine movie – but also one that can be described as a cross between The Wrestler and Dredd, in the best way possible.
Logan is now playing in U.S. theaters. It is 135 minutes long and is Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.
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