I’m going to miss Wolverine.
There is no point trying to place Logan into the current jumbled X-Men timeline. Certain things from the previous films happened; certain things didn’t. That said, Logan finds our near-unkillable mutant (Hugh Jackman) in 2029. He works a shit job as a limo driver during the day, before crossing into Mexico each night to care for an aged and ailing Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart). Logan is soon approached by Gabriella, begging for transport to North Dakota for her and a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen). Soon, Logan finds himself on the run from a team of cyborg mercenaries, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Tired, beaten down, and with his powers failing, Old Man Logan must become the Wolverine one last time to save what little family he has left.
“As I live and breathe! The Wolverine.”
Logan wastes no time setting the scene with its bleak, semi-futuristic wasteland of a US border state. We have self-driving trucks. Tigers are extinct, and so are mutants for the most part. The subtleties of a near future setting are implemented well, and in clever ways throughout. The choice for the first portion of the film to take place in Texas and Mexico helps with Logan‘s neo-western vibe. This is a subgenre I didn’t realize was sorely missing until I saw (and promptly forgot) Jonah Hex. Logan himself, a former outlaw turned soldier, turned righteous warrior, and now a grizzled, broken down legend. He’s an old gunslinger, forced back into the fray one last time. It’s a classic setup, and I commend James Mangold for using the old trope well, and with a character that deserves it.
For the first time in an X-Men film (and superhero film in general), the action is tight, brutal, and bloody. Deadpool tried its hand at this, but its content leans more toward the outrageous, which is fine; that’s his place. Logan is just harsh. Limbs are severed, throats slashed, more than one jaw penetrated. It’s wonderful fun. Every punch, kick, shot, and slash is felt, and carries real impact. People die. Logan gets hurt, and with his healing factor dwindling, we see him in true pain and vulnerability for the first time since becoming an unstoppable killing machine.
“What did you do Logan? What did you do?”
The side characters don’t feel interchangeable or unnecessary like the previous Wolverine installments. Every villain introduced carries malice and menace through each scene. Holbrook in particular stands out, owning a devilish swagger right from his first scene. I honestly find myself a little disappointed knowing he’ll never be cast as Gambit now. The always classy Richard E Grant appears as Dr. Rice, a mutant researcher and general mad scientist. He’s not his usual scenery chewing self, and instead quite understated. Very enjoyable, and I do wish his part was a little larger.
Newcomer, Dafne Keen more than holds her own among this team of super warriors. Her quiet intensity permeates, and her animalistic movements and cries are absolutely perfect. She’s very impressive for such a young actor in her first film role. Special kids that need to be protected can kill a good road movie. But Laura’s character is intriguing, entertaining, and just as badass as the clawed killer escorting her. If she found her way into the general X-Men continuity, I wouldn’t be at all disappointed. Perhaps a certain time traveling cyborg could help with that…
“A man must be what he is.”
Logan’s goldmine is Jackman and Stewart themselves. After so many outings as X-Men together, their chemistry has reached insane peaks. They play off each other terrifically, and even better now with no PG-13 shackles on their dialogue. Jackman’s Wolverine is the perfect blend of animal instinct, and broken soldier. There is a particularly touching scene in the woods by a lake that almost brought me to tears.
Sir Patrick Stewart delivers his best and most stunning turn as Professor X, now suffering from dementia and seizures. The range of emotions in single scenes is outstanding, and rivals any of his theatrical roles. I honestly believe if this was anything but an X-Men film (and I use the term loosely), he’d be getting serious awards buzz.
It’s ridiculously refreshing to be able to say I’ve never seen a superhero film like this before. Logan has finally broken new ground in the genre, and did it was the 8th film in a franchise, starring probably the most over-exposed character of modern times. After the blockbuster success of the R-rated Deadpool, maybe now with Logan we can expect a sustained turn in our popcorn flicks, allowing for deeper characters, gritty realism, and better told stories without the boundaries of the cookie-cutter routine Marvel insists on. So, if this is your final gift to X-Men and comic book fans around the world, thanks, Mr. Mangold. Thanks, Mr. Jackman. Thanks, Wolverine.