Logan is Twentieth Century Fox‘s third attempt at telling a Wolverine tale – and they FINALLY get it right. In Hugh Jackman‘s presumptive final portrayal of Logan a.k.a. the Wolverine, the studio sticks the landing.
Taking takes inspiration from the “Old Man Logan” comic book story arc by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, which followed a past-his-prime Logan undertaking a final adventure in the post-apocalyptic future – in Logan, we similarly find the titular protagonist several years in the future and being called into service as a hero “One. Last. Time.” After the grand misstep that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the course correction of The Wolverine, where everything up until the ending was what fans had wanted in a film focused on the tortured loner, there was some trepidation as to whether the studio would get its interpretation of the Old Man Logan storyline right. Out of the gate the marketing for the film had been excellent. Sparse trailers set to the sound of Johnny Cash‘s interpretation of the Nine Inch Nails classic “Hurt,” were perfect in presenting the tone and mood for this film while not revealing too much.
The film opens as we find Logan barely scraping by as a limousine driver while trying to stay under the radar. The world has drastically changed. No new mutants have been born in roughly twenty-five years thanks to the machinations of the genetics corporation, Transigen, and the X-Men have been decimated by a traumatic occurrence that is alluded to but never truly fully detailed in the film. This is one of several smart decisions the filmmakers have made. The intelligence of the audience is respected with the expectation that full attention and focus will be paid to the proceedings. With only one exception there really are no long expository diatribes to explain chunks of the plot. Viewers essentially learn things as they occur and through paying attention to the bits of dialogue that are spoken.
Viewers are treated to a drastically different take on not only Logan but also Professor Charles Xavier. Both characters have been ravaged by the still undefeated Father Time. Wolverine still heals but his powers are starting to fail him, with wounds leaving scars and his vaunted enhanced senses, such as his powerful sense of smell and vision, starting to diminish.
He can still take an excessive amount of punishment, but now it comes at a cost that with every fight is getting harder and harder to pay. Professor X on the other hand, once revered as the most powerful mind on the planet, is not suffering from brain ailments that affect his memory and his capacity to control his abilities.
Constantly seeking to numb the pain, Logan has reverted to his gruff, hard drinking, self destructive tendencies as he cares for an ailing Professor X alongside the mutant tracker, Caliban. Hiding out along the Texas/Mexico border, Logan is sought out by a woman on the run from the corporation. The corporation wants to retrieve one of their missing experiments, X-23, a young girl that has been born from the genetic make-up of Wolverine and also forced to undergo the same adamantium grafting process that attached metal to his bones.
Dafne Keen is a stand-out as X-23. She utters nary a word for the better part of the film, yet Keen emotes in a manner that would make Meryl Streep proud. X-23 is a genetic clone of The Wolverine, and one of a dozen children that the company is attempting to retrieve. Leading the hunt for X-23 and her fellow child escapees is Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce, a human that has been augmented along with several other mercenaries called The Reavers, all of whom serve as the security force for Transigen. Once X-23 is deposited into the care of Logan and Professor X the film becomes a cross country chase as the heroes attempt to help X-23 elude her pursuers.
In the wake of the big splash that the R-rated Deadpool left with its presentation of the crude, loud, and violent Merc with a Mouth, much was been made of director James Mangold, and even Jackman himself, wanting this film to receive an R-rating – and they squeeze every bloody, expletive laden drop out of receiving that rating. This Wolverine slices, dices, impales, decapitates and leaves a bloody swath of destruction in his wake. The action is intense and the best it has ever been presented in any of the X-Men films with X-23 getting her fair share of highlight reel worthy moments in battle.
Yes, there is PLENTY of bloodshed to satiate action and violence die-hards but there is also a surprising amount of heart – and no not just the lacerated organ. Professor X, X-23, and Logan himself all experience moments that will tug at the heart strings. One journalist at the viewing of the film was visibly crying after several scenes. The film is surprisingly moving and not merely a bloodfest as it explores themes of aging, loneliness, and the significance of family.
There are several secrets in the film but overall it is a straight-forward tale that is solidly and competently told. Sadly this is pretty definitely left as Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal of the character that he has embodied for the past decade. All the better for the viewing audience then (and for this longtime Wolverine fan in particular) that Wolverine has finally received a film that is worthy of his name.