It’s hard to believe Hugh Jackman’s been playing Wolverine for 17 years now. He’s been stabbing people to death and calling them “bub” for longer than I’ve been able to read and write, all while sporting the most ridiculous sideburns ever seen in cinema history. More than any of the other actors in the franchise, Hugh Jackman has been the face people think of when they see the word “X-Men.” And unfortunately, he’s getting old. This is the crux of “Logan,” an emotional, bloody, R-rated bookend to the saga of Wolverine.
If any of you are familiar with the plot of the 2008 graphic novel “Old Man Logan”, you might see some parallels; a grey-haired Wolverine clearly past his prime eking out a meager living in a barren dystopian future fighting one last fight. However, it is markedly different from previous Wolverine outings.
Where previous movies would have Wolverine simply grunt a couple times and heal all of the damage he takes within seconds, this time Logan is far too old and sick to simply shrug it off. His healing factor and indestructible Adamantium skeleton are still there, but he’s nowhere near the killing machine he once was. Wounds take painful hours to heal up, and we get to see Hugh Jackman create a very different image of Wolverine than what we’re used to– an emotionally raw, vulnerable portrayal that is honestly my favorite portrayal of a comic book character since, well, anyone. I was floored by Jackman’s performance, despite the fact that I’ve been sick of Wolverine’s overexposure in X-Men films and comics.
At the outset of the story, Logan works as a limo driver, so he can use his meager earnings to bring medication across the U.S.-Mexico Border, in order to help the rapidly deteriorating Charles Xavier retain what remains of his lucidity and memory after a degenerative brain disease has ravaged his mind. Both of these men exist in a broken and directionless state, with Xavier medicated into a rambling shell of his former self in order to prevent telepathic seizures which slowly kill everyone within his vicinity, forcing Logan to keep him locked away, creating a distrust and tension between the two, as Xavier can’t remember why he’s in there.
It was genuinely hard to watch Patrick Stewart’s performance at certain times over the course of the film because I was reminded of my late grandmother, who suffered from her own lapses of memory. At the same time, Stewart’s Xavier is warmer and straight-up funnier than he’s ever been before, to the point where it’s hard not to be emotionally affected by practically anything he does in the film. It’s an incredibly powerful and endearing performance by the actor, and stronger than anything he’s done in recent memory.
The engine which drives the development for both Xavier and Logan, however, is in the character of a young girl named Laura, whose Adamantium claws give her a very obvious connection to Logan. Dafne Keen, the 12 year old actress behind the mostly mute portrayal of Laura, keeps up perfectly with Jackman and Stewart, crafting a performance that emotionally rivals theirs at times. She also gets some of the best action scenes in the movie, fighting like a tiny whirlwind of death, cartwheeling between nameless goons. Her team-up scene with Logan in the final fight scene in the forests of South Dakota is a sight to behold.
Really, every one of the action scenes in the movie is excellent on its own, and almost every one of them is fraught with a different flavor of tension, thanks to director James Mangold. His direction paints a dusty, rusty dystopian nightmare that is eerily reminiscent of the fears many of us share in this political climate, especially considering the movie was shot well over a year ago.
The movie is damn near as perfect an ending to Wolverine’s story as I could possibly ask for, though there are one or two missteps in direction over the course of the film. The movie’s R-rating is certainly earned through its relentlessly violent story, but it feels like the scriptwriters decided to simply add in multiple curse words in every sentence to really make the audience “feel” like they were watching an R-rated movie. If someone were to invent a drinking game based on the usage of the F-word over the course of the movie, they’d be in the hospital before the third act.
“Logan” is one of those rare comic book movies that I can confidently recommend to anyone even slightly curious about the superhero genre (except kids; this is NOT a movie for children by any standard). It’s a movie that simultaneously sets itself apart from its predecessors, while also retroactively redeeming them. I can safely say that Logan will go down as one of the great all-time superhero films.
Photo: 20th Century Fox