Warning! The following review contains spoilers for Logan, so consider yourself officially warned.
Three years on from the franchise reset Days of Future Past, Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine for the final time and delivers a unique take on the superhero genre with a fitting send-off for old man Logan.
Ever since he made his debut some seventeen years ago, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has always been kept on a PG-13 (or 12) shaped leash. That isn’t to say there hasn’t been some brutality along the way (especially in the extended cut of The Wolverine), but we’ve been denied the bloody splendor of seeing Jackman go full uncensored berserker rage. Until now.
James Mangold is back at the helm after The Wolverine, and Logan is a very different X-Men movie, there are no light beams from the sky, no world to save, and no X-Mansion to blow up. Much like last year’s Deadpool, Logan doesn’t neatly fit into the usual superhero formula, and as such, it feels like a breath of fresh air in a genre that is starting to feel a tad too safe.
Set in the year 2029, the world has changed, mutants are now on the brink of extinction thanks to a virus the Transigen Project created. Logan is now a shadow of his former self, his healing powers are fading, and his body is starting to fail him. Eking out an existence in Mexico, Logan works as a chauffeur to pay for the ailing Xavier’s medication.
The once all-powerful Charles Xavier (a never better Patrick Stewart) is now a sick man suffering from dementia. Xavier’s exile to a remote location was largely down to the accidental death of several (unspecified) X-Men when a seizure resulted in an uncontrollable psychic attack. Logan and Charles take refuge with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) in a deserted smelting factory on the outskirts of the border.
Life for the trio is hard; Logan is one step away from being a fall down drunk, and Charles spends most of his time heavily medicated to avoid another unfortunate incident. However, their self-imposed exile runs into a hitch when they cross paths with a young girl (Dafne Keen)who possesses the same abilities as Logan.
We’ve known for a while that Mangold was going to be drawing some inspiration from the comic book series Old Man Logan. While only a few elements appear in the movie, the decision to approach this swansong as a western has paid off in full. Logan is more akin to an aging gunslinger or prize fighter on his last legs; there’s a reason why Xavier’s favourite movie is George Stevens’ Shane, but it’s too heartbreaking to fully divulge.
Right from the off, Logan earns its R-rating with a short outburst of brutal violence and numerous F-bombs. We might have heard Wolverine swear in the past, but this grizzled incarnation has no time for pleasantries and time has made him a bitter and broken man. Early on, Logan patches himself up in a rundown bathroom, his body is a roadmap of his life, gone are the days of instant healing as he’s now covered with gnarled scars. The adamantium that gave Logan his healing powers and unbreakable bones is slowing poisoning him.
The shift in focus to a family drama finally allows for that father/son relationship between Logan and Charles to be explored. It’s a difficult to thing to see both Xavier and Logan so fragile, so human. Logan also has to come to terms with fatherhood, and it’s the character-driven focus that is Logan’s beating heart.
The X-Men franchise has been uneven at best, the first two movies nailed it, but Brett Ratner’s trilogy closer The Last Stand messed it up and Origins: Wolverine, well let’s not sully this reviews with what remains the franchise low point. Unlike every X-Men film that has come before, Logan has 100% freedom to tell a singular story that doesn’t have to cram in setting up what’s to come. Sure, we’ll see X-23 again (X-Force?), but Logan is free of the shackles of world building.
I have yet to be emotionally moved by an X-Men film, to be honest, I have never gone into any X-Men flick with the expectation of being moved to great big blubbery tears usually reserved for a small child who has skimmed they knee. But that is exactly what happened, as an audience, we have the weight of nearly two decades of getting to know these characters, and we don’t want to say goodbye.
It’s not just the swearing a violence that make Logan a more grown-up superhero movie, the themes it plays with are inherently mature and not for the youngsters. Ultimately, what Logan fears most in the world isn’t dying (he has lived a long life), what he fears the most is love, something he has run away from all of his life. It’s only with his last moments of life that he truly opens his heart, and we truly feel it.
A powerful and visceral swansong for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and about as near perfect a farewell as you could have hoped for. Even if though the magnificence is steeped in sorrow, it’s an elegant journey and a deeply rewarding one to embark on. That said, should Jackman decide to team-up with Deadpool at some point in the future, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen.