Logan is a very strange movie. Not so much in what it does, but in that it’s a final send-off for Hugh Jackman’s nearly two decade long tenure as Wolverine. Childish as it seems, I always thought that Jackman was just an eternally ageless god who would continue to be this character until he literally lacked the physical power to do otherwise. In an age where superhero casting seems to switch more than the new Nintendo console, the fact that he’s gone this long without anyone else taking his place is a marvelous feat, and that alone would make this film a good end for Jackman. Luckily, director James Mangold and everyone involved decided not to rest on their laurels and as a result, Logan is more than just a serviceable farewell to the Australian actor.
The story takes place in the year 2029; the mutants have all largely died off with no new ones being born, all the X-Men have been dead for years, and Logan has been aging from a disease that’s put his powers on the fritz to the point where his accelerated healing is spotty and popping out the claws isn’t as simple as it once was. While he’s making a living as a limo driver, his money’s going either towards meds for Charles Xavier to prevent his seizures from killing everyone in proximity to him, or to buy a boat that’ll take him and Charles far away enough where Charles’ disease can’t do damage to anyone. His mundane life is upended when a woman begs him to take a little girl named Laura to a supposed safe haven for mutants, and it’s not long before the two of them and Charles are on the run from the company Laura was stolen from and their group of jackbooted soldiers.
The film is based on the Old Man Logan comics from 2007, albeit with some changes to help it better fit in with the film franchise’s continuity. While there aren’t any hillbilly Hulks the titular hero has to go through in this film, this is still a very bleak, depressing world. Wolverine’s motto is basically that he’s the best there is at killing, and that definitely extends to him as a dying old man as well as nearly everyone that crosses his path in Logan ends up dead.
And when I say old, I mean that Logan is really old. Both he and Charles have their own set of problems, but the film never lets you forget that its title character is struggling. Even in The Wolverine, you could watch knowing that Jackman’s physicality would ensure that he’d walk away, but here, with his limp and constant coughing, it puts our hero in even more dire straights than he was in his last solo outing.
It’s a bold choice that Hugh Jackman commits to the whole way through, in both his looks (he spends a lot of the film looking like a retiree you’d come across at a grocery store) and in his mannerisms. Jackman has always been good in these X-Men movies, even when they weren’t necessarily good themselves, but this feels like the performance that he’s been waiting to give for quite some time now. He’s a commanding presence throughout, as he should be, and the dynamic between him and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier is a fun callback to the student/teacher dynamic of the original films with some lovely back and forth bantering that livens up their interactions with one another. Stewart’s also decided, for whatever reason, that this is his final X-film as well, and he also couldn’t have picked a better performance to pour his heart into.
It should come as no surprise that Jackman and Stewart are perfect in Logan. The real surprise comes from Dafne Keen as Laura, who may end up going down as one of the best child stars ever in an action movie. For those comics fans who were worried that X-23 would get screwed over here, there’s no need to worry, and non-comics fans will enjoy her as well. I’m not entirely sure about the decision to have her not speak for a majority of the film, but it feels deliberate because Keen does so much of her acting with facial expressions and how she’s discovering the world outside of the lab she grew up in. Not only is she great in the quieter scenes where she has to soak in her surroundings, it is amazing to just watch her pop out her claws and slice dudes up during the action scenes (her debut fight had many clapping at my screening). It feels like everyone besides Charles and Logan (and sometimes even them) is in immediate danger once she directs her gaze towards them. She is scary, and whatever plans that Fox has for the future of this franchise should involve Laura and Keen in some way. The marketing for the film has been fairly coy about her fighting, and it’s a good thing that they have, because this kid spills some serious blood with her claws.
Let’s make no mistake about this, folks: Logan is a hard R-rated movie. Here, Jackman and company earn that rating with some of the bloodiest, most brutal fights that have ever been put on film. For purists who’ve always wanted to see the actual gory fallout from earlier X-Men films and were left disappointed, you will not be complaining by the time Logan has concluded. What makes the action even more compelling to watch is that it’s physically exhausting for Logan to actually go through all the slicing and dicing the story puts him through. It’s so rare that you see a superhero these days who gets genuinely tired by what he does on a continuous basis; Daredevil may have Matt Murdock beat up nearly two dozen bikers and ninjas one after another before he finally just gets a moment to catch his breath, but here, it’s like you’re just waiting for the moment where the film decides to just let him collapse and die.
Should Logan have any flaws, it’s in its own continuity. The timeline of the X-Men movies is rather wonky to begin with, but there are times where the film acknowledges what came before it via comic books while also waving them away as things that didn’t happen either entirely the way presented or at all. One character has an actual action figure of Wolverine in his classic yellow and blue costume, but the exact reason to how these comics and action figures ended up existing when compared to what came before is going to leave some scratching their heads. And while the film does have some of the best villains this series has seen, it’s only Boyd Holbrook that truly gets to shine as the deliciously slimy Donald Pierce.
I don’t entirely know exactly how we ended up with a film like Logan, but I’m glad we did. As a film in its own right, it definitely stands as one of the best of 2017 so far, and as a superhero movie, it may end up being one of the most important just for the sense of finality and closure it gives us. This is one of the comic book movies that you can’t miss, and a great start to what’s looking like a pretty good run of superhero flicks for the year.
Score: 5/5 – Exemplary