Posted February 19, 2017 by Daniel Hodgson in
The film that X-Men fans need and the action movie the beloved character so richly deserves, as violent and angst-ridden as Wolverine himself.
Hugh Jackman reprises his role one last time as the razor-clawed mutant Logan, aka Wolverine. This is a different Wolverine than in previous appearances. He’s older, very sick, and ravaged by years of heavy drinking and drug use; he’s seen too much, done too much, and lost too many.
In the year 2029, Logan is one of the last of his kind. Mutants are almost extinct. This narrative choice makes Logan different—and much better—than most X-Men franchise films (and the same goes true for certain Avengers franchise films, for that matter), which have more superheroes and supervillains than the story can support. Logan gets it right, having only as many characters, super or otherwise, as the plot needs. They include an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose powerful psychic mind is afflicted with Alzheimer’s, and Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a Nosferatu-looking mutant who can track others of his kind.
With the X-Men gone, Logan works as a limo driver to support his habits, and to purchase costly drugs to keep Professor X’s rampant powers suppressed. In need of money, Logan reluctantly accepts an offer: escort Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse, and a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), to the safety of North Dakota, where they will rendezvous with allies. They are wanted by the nefarious Transigen Corporation, and pursued by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a cyborg with red sunglasses and a sinister gold-toothed smile. He is not, however, Wolverine’s final adversary, the scariest villain in the X-Men franchise by far, but I’ll say no more.
With the exception of Deadpool, X-Men films have been PG-13 and relatively family-friendly. Not so with Logan, a gory, hard R-rated film. It’s not just that Logan uses the F-word profusely. This film is violent, violent, violent, often resembling a horror flick. Limbs are severed, heads are decapitated, and copious blood is shed. The body count is considerable. But not only is this appropriate, it’s a vital part of the film. Explicitly referencing Shane, Logan is an ode to the nature of violence, how it marks the destiny of the perpetrator, prohibiting them from the comfort of a normal life, ironically, one that Logan desperately needs. That’s what makes the story so compelling. Logan does not want to be a hero, but he needs to be one, driven by a noble spark to protect others, even at the cost of his own happiness.
The final Wolverine movie is great filmmaking, helmed by Walk the Line director James Mangold, edited by Dirk Westervelt and Michael McCusker, and shot by John Mathieson, the latter two of whom are Oscar nominees for previous work, their talents on full display here. The technical elements make the film a pleasure to experience, to say nothing of the remarkable lead performances. Newcomer Dafne Keen holds her own in her big screen debut opposite Jackman, who transforms the movie into a new icon of the genre, while Stewart gives a performance worthy of accolades in what may be his last as the Professor. Logan works well as a stand-alone film, so X-Men newcomers might find themselves pleasantly surprised by a good story well-told with tight pacing. However, if you’re a Wolverine fan, as admittedly I am, then you’d better get your ass to the theater, bub. 5 out of 5 stars.