In the summer of 2000, a comic-book movie based on Marvel’s X-Men series was released featuring a then unknown actor called Hugh Jackman who had been brought in last minute to play the role of Wolverine. 17 years, 9 cinematic outings and a lifetime of being regarded as one of the most perfectly casted comic-book characters ever put to film, and Jackman takes his iconic role to its final swan song with Logan. Whether this is Jackman’s last turn as the character or not remains to be seen, but if it is, then finally being able to see a no-holds-barred, R-Rated Wolverine movie would’ve been enough but this last ride gives enough poignancy to stand out from the brutality, giving us one of, if not the absolute finest chapter in the X-Film History.
Set in the future of 2029 where mutants have been nearly wiped out, Logan (Hugh Jackman) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) live in hiding south of the border with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a mutant tracker. Charles mind is failing due to Alzheimer’s which requires constant sedation or risk a dangerous, psychic seizure while Logan works as a limo driver, slowly realising that his healing ability isn’t working as well as it should and he’s becoming poisoned by the adamantium in his body. Against his will, Logan finds himself involved with a sympathetic nurse and her young patient Laura (Dafne Keen), a mutant designed and developed in a laboratory now wanted back by her creator Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his band of mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
Recognising his own abilities in Laura, Logan takes himself, Laura and Charles and makes an escape northwards with the hopes of reaching a sanctuary in North Dakota called Eden. Having to contend with a violent little girl who shares with him that he’s comfortable with, a brilliant friend slowly falling to a disease that he can barely comprehend, and a ruthless group of killers after his head, Logan finds himself pushed back into the reluctant hero role only this time he’s fighting his own impending morality and having to face the reality of his tragic and depressive existence.
Compared to previous X-Films, this one takes a much more streamlined approach, once everything has been introduced and we’re shown the world the mutants live in nowadays it becomes solely focused on Logan getting Laura to Eden while avoiding the mercenaries. There is a little more to it than that but on the whole this is a road-trip movie and all the better for it, the lack of anything word-ending or catastrophic allows things to be kept focused and the character work pushed to the forefront.
The characters are what make the film, admittedly the villains are underwritten with Zander Rice not given enough screen time to develop himself properly, he has a personal connection to Wolverine that feels like a missed opportunity, and while Pierce is suitably dickish and smart-arsed with an almost fan-appreciation for Logan, he does come off as a glorified henchman. There is a third villain who comes in late to the game but to spoil who it is would ruin the surprise, it’s a little out there but fits in with the comic-book origin of the film and the characters.
The heroes though carry the film, Merchant could’ve done more as Caliban but he’s given enough to work with to show a weaning heart at the beginning of the film who’s trying to help Logan but realising that Logan doesn’t want to admit he needs it. Logan himself is easily the best he’s been since X2, right from the start with a beard-up and boozed-down Jackman going ape-shit on a group of carjackers we can see that this is a very different kind of Logan, the rage is still there but there’s an absence of humanity, like the beatings he’s taking for decades, centuries even, have broken him down to where he just can’t care anymore. This is definitely the darkest Wolverine has ever been with a deep undertone of depression and suicide hanging over him throughout with possibly only his loyalty to Charles keeping him alive. The arrival of Laura isn’t a breakthrough, if anything it just causes more problems for Logan, but it unexpectedly gives him a purpose again and even through the grizzled, weakening features – Jackman does a great job at selling the slow decay of Logan’s body – we get the sense something is keeping Logan with her. This is absolutely Jackman’s best turn as Wolverine, he’s let loose in the best way possible, carrying a range from pure, unfiltered rage to broken down sadness, it’s all been refined from what we’ve seen earlier but to see Jackman’s completely shattered old man Logan here it almost hurts to watch.
Much like Jackman, we also get a very different Professor than what we’ve seen before, the once great mind is losing his faculties, forcing Logan and Caliban to keep him sedated turning Charles into a raving, foul-mouth loon but one who’s safe. Stewart is great as the mentor but seeing him so weak and humanised here hurts just as much because we’re so use to seeing Charles as the authorities figure and here he’s a shell of that. Having to choose between being numbed out and secured, or functional but dangerous with a series of seizures causing a lot of harm to those around him, in fact there’s a terrible hint at something Charles did that he’s repressed in his memory. At first it seems odd for Stewart to play the role so openly rude, it’s quite humorous at times to hear him drop a few F-Bombs, but the more you stay with him the more you see that he’s still got a mentor edge to him, it might be hidden away but when Logan or Laura needs it he’s there to guide them.
Speaking of which, Keen steals the show as Laura, her origins have been changed from the comics but in a much more simplified way that works into the film well. This girl who has been in almost nothing beforehand just comes charging into this film at full speed and steals it away, absolutely nailing the character. Laura is a lab experiment gone awry, she’s little understanding of how the world works, often resorting to violence before anything else, her complete lack of social skills render her almost mute meaning Keen has to rely on expressions and movement to convey herself, not that that’s an issue because Laura is one nimble little bad-ass, jumping around and clawing her way through anything in her path. As bad-ass as Laura is she is still a child, a mature one that doesn’t take weakness lightly, but a child all the same and through her interactions with Logan and Charles she sees what it’s like to have friends, to have people to depend on and depend on you, most of all what it’s like to have a proper family, if there is to be more from Keen in the future then I’m all for it because she made a star-making turn here.
James Mangold also returns after the decent but disappointing The Wolverine and definitely shows a great improvement here, perhaps the Western influences suited him better than Asian but regardless this is a much, much stronger film. The action beats hit hard with an early escape scene showing just how vicious Laura is and setting up the stakes for what’s to follow, a Hotel Scene brings the deadliness of Charles condition into play while also having a unique spin of things when Logan overcomes it to slaughter a team of Mercs. A Home invasion later on kicks thing into high-gear with some of the most brutal action to come out of any comic-book movie, the whole film is lovingly splashed with the red stuff and there’s plenty of harsh scenes but the home invasion shows just how bad it can get with impalements, decapitations, body parts blown off, body parts sliced off, just a mess of violence that sticks out for how hardcore it is…. Then they top it all with The Forest Chase. The entire last act is a godsend to X-Fans, what they do and how far they take it will blow your damn minds, I’m not even going to go into details about what happens, just trust me when I say that everything you’ve waited 17 years to see is here and they pull it off.
As amazingly violent as the film is what really sticks out to me is how tragic it is, you get this very really feeling that Logan’s depression is a black hole, absorbing anything good around him and turning it against him. It feels like anyone that comes across Logan gets hurt or worse and most of them are innocent, just people looking to help, it hits all the harder with the R-Rating because they can really go far with how ugly this life is for Logan and how hurt he is by losing everyone around him but that’s the character, because of his near immortality he’s lost people all his life and it’s come to a head here. It’s an extra weight to the character but it adds so much more to the film, there’s so much to be said about who Logan is and how far he’s comes but it’s not been an easy road and this final leg is the most difficult emotionally as well as physically.
You know what, call it hyperbole but Logan’s the best X-Film to date, it’s not as clever as X-2 and it’s not as impressive as Days Of Future Past, but what it does, it does so goddamn well. The stripped back, no-bullshit story, the fantastic trio of damaged heroes with Jackman, Stewart and Keen carrying the film and Mangold utilizing his best Western tricks to carry this harsh, ugly, brutal and tragic tale to the only conclusion it could ever gone to. Jackman might be gone but if this really is it then he couldn’t have gone out on a higher note.
4 and ½ hairpieces out of 5