The X-Men franchise, as long as it has been running, has very few constants, but it would be hard to argue that Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine isn’t one of them. For somebody who was debated as being right for the role way back in 1999, he has embodied the character to the point where he is the Wolverine. If this newest installment in the spinoff franchise, Logan, truly is Jackman’s swan song, it is the perfect end cap to this iconic character.
Loosely based on the Old Man Logan storyline, Logan finds the titular character living an isolated existences, driving a limousine to make a living, and caring for an aging Charles Xavier, with the help of mutant tracker Caliban. It is clear from the beginning that this Logan is a damaged man, he walks with a slight limp, and is clearly not the peak physical mutant that we are used to seeing. The Xavier presented is also one that is in failing health, and suffering from terrible seizures that debilitate anyone around, with only Logan able to withstand the force. The other thing clear from the beginning is that this is a far more violent incarnation of the character than we have ever seen before. The first moments in the film feature Logan taking down some would be carjackers, complete with a lot of blood, and a few disembodied limbs. The tone throughout is a violent, and gritty one, and it showcases what a missed opportunity it was that the previous Wolverine outings were not R-Rated. The various ways in which the action is depicted is fairly graphic, and while not for the faint of heart, was utterly enjoyable. The action isn’t the only thing that benefits from the R-Rating, as the language is more adult than previous films, and it fits with the characterization of an older, and more beaten down Logan, as well as the old, and feeble Professor X. The two old men bicker quite a lot with various designs on how to live their lives, and the colorful language utilized fits so well with the aesthetic.
The crux of the story pics up when Logan comes across the young Laura, who needs help escaping from some serious mercenaries, the Reavers, who are all humans, mechanically augmented into killing machines. When Logan reluctantly accepts the story takes off on a whirlwind adventure that is a mix of road trip, and fugitive escape film. The moments between Logan, Laura, and Professor X are extremely compelling, as the dynamic is that of a dysfunctional family. There is an animosity boiling under the surface between Xavier and Logan, as Logan has been left to take care of his ailing friend, while dealing with this own ailments, all the while having to ensure the safety of this girl. The story moves from set piece to set piece, and while each confrontation is a thrilling and violent fight, the moments in between are genuine human interactions, that grounds the film, rather than filler. There is almost no part of the plot that is a waste of time, which is a more impressive feat given the extended run time. Each moment no matter how insignificant, ties together to complete this cohesive story.
This is all aided by superb acting from all involved. Jackman is the best he has ever been as Wolverine. He has not only a grittiness to him, but also a kind sadness, because the world around him is a much more dire place than any he has seen in his long life. Logan has always been a complex character in this film franchise, and the film does the best job of showcasing this. There are a few conversations, and speeches where Jackman gives it his all, and presents some of the best moments for the character. Jackman conveys a serious of complex emotions, and his ability to switch when needed to portray the ruthless beast that Wolverine is, is fantastic. Patrick Stewart is also doing some of his best acting in this incarnation of Xavier. The fact that Xavier is suffering from a brain issue allows him to play around with the normally stoic Professor X. He has moments that are silly, yet tragic, because he is losing his grip with reality, and moments where he speaks with a level head, and is the Xavier we know the previous film. His banter with Logan is great, and these two great actors leave it all on the screen. The young Daphne Keen is a breakout addition as Laura. The mostly silent performance captures the innocence of a typical child, whilst mashing it together with a feral animal with incredibly violent tendencies. She manages to hold her own opposite two veteran actors, and is not only not a weak spot for the film, but she is one of its best assets. The leader of the Reavers, actor Boyd Holbrook, was also a particularly fun great villain. His attempts to get various characters to join his cause through little speeches were all extremely well done, and while the man ultimately pulling the strings, Richard E. Grant’s Dr. Rice, is underwhelming as the main villain, Holbrook’s Peirce is more than capable of driving the conflict. Stephen Merchant’s Caliban is also less than stellar, though Merchant does make the most of the limited screen time. Those that are already a fan of his dry, and deadpan persona will love the character though, as he fills the role of a sort of nagging wife, in Wolverine’s weird little family.
James Mangold returns to direct Logan, having handled the previous film The Wolverine, and does an amazing job. The camera work during the incredibly well crafted fight scenes in impeccable, and even with all of the jumps, spins, kicks, and slashes, you never lose sense of what is going on, and who is doing what. The fight choreography is some of the best in franchise, and they make amazing use of the Laura, as her smaller stature allows for cooler takedowns, that wouldn’t work as well with the much taller Logan.
It truly is amazing that a character that has been depicted in so many films, with many different directors, is finally hitting its apex in the final installment. Logan checks so many different boxes in terms of what kind of film it is, that it is going to appeal to so many people, so long as like the character and are ok with the violence. The successful melding of action, story, and genuine emotion make Logan so much more than a comic book movie, and audiences are all the better for it.