Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal
Hugh Jackman first donned the Wolverine claws for the first X-Men film back in 2000. Seventeen years and nine appearances later, he has come to the end of his reign for playing the iconic comic book hero. Logan picks up in the year 2029 and we see him living in hiding under a new identity as a limo driver. The mutant population has practically been wiped out with Logan living a simple life in Mexico with old pal Charles Xavier (Stewart) and the albino mutant Caliban (Merchant). Both Logan and Charles have seen better days. Charles suffers multiple seizures and no longer has full control over his mind. Logan has been roughed up and beaten down so many times it has taken a toll on his body. His healing powers are not as fast as they once were making the recovery time after a battle long and arduous. He also can’t seem to shake his drinking problem.
He’s approached by a nurse named Gabriella (Rodriguez) asking for help to take her and her daughter, Laura (Keen), to a remote location only known as Eden. As hard as Logan tries to ignore them, he finds himself caught up in their mess. Charles believes little Laura has gifted powers, and after an all-out brawl at their compound, Logan learns she is full of the same metal that fills his body. She was born in an experimental lab where mutant children were created to become killing machines. Logan and Charles find themselves on the run protecting this little girl from the authorities that are fast on her trail.
It can be a bit hard to keep up in the lineage of two X-Men trilogies and a Wolverine trilogy. The other Wolverine movies were grave disappointments and X-Men: Apocalypse was overstuffed with characters and CGI to the point it ruined the set-up previously in place for that second trilogy. It was a relief to sit through Logan and realize that Jackman is ending his run on a high note. This film is not only the best in his standalone trilogy, but is one of the best of the nine movies. Director James Mangold, who also directed The Wolverine, keeps the movie as grounded in realism as possible. It’s an added challenge, but one that ultimately works, when a director can morph the lore of the genre while keeping it in tangible and realistic society. He goes back to basics to remind us why we like this character. His fills his screenplay with great care fleshing out where these characters are at as we approach the end of their journey. I think naming it Logan showcases how Mangold is diving into the human side of him now, not just the X-Men mutant that he was once. He was a brutal independent tough guy with claws of steel. He still has that edge, but now we find him in the caretaker role to his mentor Charles and Laura. There is a strong family theme to this film that’s been missing in the other Wolverine movies. It raises the stakes for these three characters as we see them potentially facing their end of days.
Despite it being set in the near-future, Mangold feels inspired by the western genre to close out this iteration. There is the obvious desert wasteland setting, it’s survival of the fittest mode, and the final epic showdown for our hero. He even uses Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around” to play during the closing credits. It’s the perfect touch to define one of the most popular X-Men characters. Even if you’ve never seen any of the other entries, Logan has it’s own standalone story. At the same time, Mangold keeps it in tune with what has come before for us geeks that have devoted seventeen years to the character. Charles and Logan reminisce about the old days detailing key moments in previous films. There’s also the meta vibe in acknowledging the impact the X-Men had in society. Logan comes face to face with the Wolverine action figure in the full yellow suit and the comics that have been made detailing their adventures.
Logan succeeds at never feeling bogged down in cheap CGI effects like some superhero movies tend to rely on. There are long bouts where the claws are kept in as Mangold focuses on the relationships between the three main characters. When the time comes for Logan’s and Laura’s claws, he goes full force. This film was given the creative license for a hard-R rating given the previous success of Deadpool. The violence and carnage is cranked up much higher than in the previous films. It feels appropriate given the nature of these characters and that it’s the last movie. This is definitely NOT a kid’s movie with the profanity and brutality at hand. It’s especially jarring at times given the fact that the young girl is extremely ruthless.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Wolverine, yet Jackman was the second choice. Dougray Scott was originally cast but had to back out due to scheduling conflicts with Mission Impossible II. Jackman brings out more layers to Logan than we have seen in any of the previous entries. His scenes with Patrick Stewart have a heartfelt father/son quality to them, which gives the film more weight as it progresses. You don’t often find that in your standard superhero film. As a kid growing up watching the X-Men cartoons, Logan is the ending I was hoping for unlike X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: Apocalypse. The conclusion to a trilogy needs give a proper sendoff to characters we have come to love and root for. Logan does precisely that as I grew to really care about him as a person. Maybe I can revisit the other two in this trilogy with a better appreciation.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? An extremely satisfying conclusion for such a beloved character
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS