Directed By: James Mangold
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant, Boyd Holbrook
I'm going to keep this short and sweet - or as short as possible, at least - and get right down to it: Logan is the movie that fans of the X-Men series and the character of Wolverine have been waiting for. Since Hugh Jackman first stepped into the shoes of everyone's favorite adamantium-clawed mutant back in Bryan Singer's original X-Men film in 2000, he's turned up in every single X-Men movie since in big parts and cameos, with two of those films - 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013's The Wolverine - being entirely his to own. For 17 years now, Jackman has lived and breathed this character, shining bright even during the franchise's lowest points, and it's a testament to just how beloved his performance has become for so many people that even brief appearances, like in last year's X-Men: Apocalypse, can elicit a visceral reaction of excitement from audiences nearly two decades on.
From the very beginning, Logan was constructed as Jackman's last outing as the character, and expectations have always been high that it could overcome the previous Wolverine movies - The Wolverine was good, but Origins was a disaster - and stand up alongside the franchise's best entries, like 2003's X2 and 2014's Days of Future Past, to give both character and actor the sendoff they deserved. And with the success of Deadpool last year proving that there's a market for solid R-rated comic book movies, Logan was given the chance to follow suit, allowing for Jackman, director James Mangold, his fellow writers, Scott Frank and Michael Green, and everyone involved to let loose and unleash the Wolverine in a way the franchise has only scratched the surface of over the years.
As any fan of the X-Men franchise can attest, continuity isn't the series' strong suit. After the conclusion of the original trilogy back in 2006 with X-Men: The Last Stand, the films that followed have never been able to maintain any sense of true cohesion, making it a nightmare for perfectionists who like every little detail to click into place while giving the franchise a bit of freedom to change things it deems fit - no matter how contradictory they are with past events - in the pursuit of making each new film the best it can be. Whether it's worked is something that can only be discussed on a film by film basis, but Logan on its own is no exception to this unspoken rule, cherry-picking elements from its predecessors to tell the story it wants to tell, all to successful effect.
Aside from Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier, no other familiar faces from the franchise turn up here. This is Wolverine's ride, not theirs, which is fitting for a character who has long been defined by his agelessness and resulting loneliness. At the outset of Logan, Logan himself is working a thankless job on the U.S./Mexico border as a limo driver to scrape up money to buy a boat so that he and Xavier - whose senility has long since made him unbalanced, prone to seizures that can, and have, hurt anybody unlucky enough to be around when he has one - can live out their days on the ocean, away from society. With mutantkind having nearly been eradicated, with no mutant births occurring in a long time, and all his friends gone, Logan is simply counting down the clock, his own body beginning to fail him, too, his age finally catching up, his claws popping out slower than they used to, and his wounds taking longer and longer to heal.
And then, one day, his past catches up to him, and he finds himself unwillingly tasked with protecting a young mutant girl named Laura - who bears more than a few striking similarities to him - from a shady company seeking to reclaim her as their property. Along with Charles, the two set out on a roadtrip to deliver her to a safe haven known as Eden, pursued by their enemies and haunted by the ghosts of their past.
To say more would be a disservice to the movie, which plays out far differently than X-Men films of the past. What action scenes there are are simple but effective, Wolverine's brutality - and boy, is it brutal -fully on display but tempered by the fact that the character himself is no longer safe from harm. Throughout, there's a staggering sense of actual doom looming over Wolverine that's never been present before in the franchise. After 17 years of seeing this character heal from gunshots and stab wounds and more, cheering in the process as he shakes it all off to resume kicking ass, it's almost hard to watch him falling apart, which only goes to emphasize how much we've grown to love this character. We don't want him to get hurt or die or fail to save the day, but after all he's been through - think of all the friends we've come to know alongside him that have been lost, or all the events we've seen him overcome that all amount to nothing when happiness only continues to elude him - he's also more than earned his rest.
In a way, Logan is less a film that feels like another entry in Fox's storied mutant franchise and more an experience that could only be possible thanks to our history with it, both for its titular character and for those of us who've quite literally grown up with Hugh Jackman's take on the character over the last two decades. It is an end of an era, and the film treats it as such an event, offering hope for what comes next, presumably, with the next era of the franchise via Laura while truly putting to bed all that's come so far. And while newcomer Dafne Keen's Laura is an excellent addition - and one that we hopefully haven't seen the last of - and characters like Stephen Merchant's albino Caliban and Boyd Holbrook's ruthless Donald Pierce shine brightly, the true heart of the film lies on the shoulders of Jackman and Stewart, both of whom fittingly deliver their best work yet here.
For the first time in the franchise, Stewart's Xavier is well and truly vulnerable, the once-powerful mutant reduced to relying on the one pupil who has always been his most difficult to get by. Unlike Logan, Xavier has always been a character focused on bringing people together, and a revelation about what happened to his former students before we reunite with the two of them here is heartbreaking, Xavier's regrets laid bare and sold completely by our own attachment to these characters and for Stewart's raw performance. Despite all he, too, has lost and suffered through, his optimism still manages to shine through, pushing Logan to do the right thing even when he could easily - and understandably - give up as well, and as a bonus sendoff for Stewart's equally-loved take on the character, Logan more than delivers.
As I mentioned earlier, to spoil much else about the movie would be a terrible thing, but it should be noted that despite the inherent rush to get Laura to safety present in the narrative, the film itself never quite hurries to get there, affording us enough quiet moments with these characters to remind us why we've come to love them over the years. There's an astounding amount of introspection coursing throughout the movie, finally succeeding in getting Wolverine's isolation across in a way past films, particularly the first two Wolverine projects, either missed or couldn't quite nail. Truly, the action here is secondary to character, which fits the title of the movie; this isn't about Wolverine, it's about Logan, the man at war with the beast, and Jackman pours his heart into making every last second he has with the role matter to get that point across.
After 17 years, it's hard to believe that it's over, but one honestly couldn't ask for a better farewell to a beloved character like this. Logan is at once at home with the franchise it's a part of and completely its own thing, its final moments in particular affecting even if you're just a casual fan and downright moving if you've been with the franchise through all its ups and downs since 2000. It avoids many comic book movie tropes - like a big, bombastic, save-the-world ending, for instance - and delivers an introspective tale that plays more like a Western with a character at its core who just so happens to have superpowers than it does a comic book movie cheekily masquerading as a Western. It's a genuinely moving experience made possible by people whose passion and desire to go out on top shines through from beginning to end, delivering a bittersweet but perfectly poignant final chapter for a character that Hugh Jackman can forever be proud of.
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