Logan, starring Hugh Jackman in his ninth appearance on screen as Wolverine, is both the most violent and possibly the most poignant film in all of the X-Men series. Jackman has insisted this is his last outing as Marvel’s adamantium-clawed mutant, and if in fact that’s true, it’s a pretty high note to go out on.
Unlike every recent film in this genre that has ended in a CGI orgy of world-flattening destruction when superheroes go up against super-villains, director James Mangold opts for an intimate, personal story that is more interested in exploring these characters’ human-scale vulnerabilities. The violence too, is not without consequence, and nowhere is that more evident than the state we find our protagonist in when the film opens, roughly a decade into the future.
Grizzled, weary, and evidently in pain from the toll that getting into scrapes all his life has taken on his body, Logan aka Wolverine is a shadow of his former self. His legendary self-healing powers are much diminished, and he’s drinking heavily even as he’s trying to stay under the radar working as a limo driver ferrying drunk girls to bachelorette parties and the like. Only occasionally – and only when pushed to the brink – do the claws come out. When they do, let’s just say you don’t want to be standing too close.
It turns out that the future is a dark time for mutants. There aren’t many of them left, and those that are, aren’t in great shape. Like Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart in solid form), whose health has deteriorated to such an extent that he’s dependent on a full-time caretaker, and a high dosage of drugs to help with the earthquake-inducing seizures he’s prone to. Logan has him hidden safely in an outpost on the Mexican border, until trouble comes calling in the form of a young mutant girl named Laura (an excellent Dafne Keen), who has similar powers as Logan, but who needs to be protected from an evil scientist with nefarious plans.
Stripped to the bone, the film explores themes of family, sacrifice, isolation, and embracing who one truly is without fear or shame. This is that rare comic book movie that eschews spectacle for the sake of genuinely heartfelt moments. The relationship between Logan and Charles is one of the film’s key strengths – a father-son dynamic, complete with mutual affection, and also irritation. Structured for the most part as a road movie, it really allows us to understand who these characters are at this point in time.
The action in Logan is visceral and brutal to the point that you’ll want to turn away each time our protagonist’s claws make contact with another body. Bad guys are impaled, their faces are ripped into, and you’ll see the claws coming out at the other end. Brace yourself.
This is a rock solid character-driven comic book movie, the best in recent years. Hugh Jackman gets under the skin of Logan and he’s so good, it’s almost a shame he’s giving up the part just as he’s hitting it out of the park. But it’s a fitting send off, and rest assured you will choke up.
I’m going with four out of five.