Hugh Jackman has played the Marvel Comics character Wolverine since 2000, and Logan makes it the eighth time (ninth, if you include a cameo) Jackman has played the clawed mutant superhero. After seventeen years, the role is coming to an end for Jackman in Logan, a gritty and violently fond farewell that wraps up the journey of the beloved character.
It’s been an interesting trip for the Wolverine in all these films, especially in the standalone movies, which have had a difficult time successfully composing the complicated character. Wolverine is unlike other superheroes, a somewhat reluctant loner of few words who is powerful enough to be an asset to both the good guys and the bad guys. Logan explores something the other films haven’t emphasized, that even though this character has the ability to heal the worst physical wounds, what kind of emotional wounds has he sustained from a life of fighting the good fight?
Logan (Hugh Jackman) has outlived his superhero counterparts; he has seen the efforts for peace amongst mutants fail. In the future, the mutants have been all but eradicated, leaving those remaining forced into hiding. Two of the most powerful mutants in history, the Wolverine and Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), are aged and fragile. Professor Xavier is suffering with dementia, leaving the most powerful mind in mutant history a ticking time bomb. Logan is also sick, his healing properties weakened and his emotional state on the verge of crumbling. A mysterious young girl (played by Dafne Keen) is thrown into the lives of these two iconic mutants, leading to one final battle to protect the future.
Director James Mangold, who helmed 2013's The Wolverine, returns to helm Logan, and from the first moments of the film you can feel that this is going to be something different. This film, seemingly taking point off the success of Deadpool, is rated R for "strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity." However, these elements, albeit noticeable from the beginning, aren't what separates the film from the rest in the franchise. It's the tone, the bleak and grim atmosphere, and the future that seems hopeless and, to a large extent, at the end of its life.
Logan is lost, wandering desolate highways and dark corners of large cities. Professor Xavier is a mumbling and confused old man, forced into taking medication to prevent seizures that have the power to destroy entire cities. It's an existence that is difficult to watch, but one that feels wholly realistic in terms of the social and political climate. The narrative does a fine job of underlining these concerns of separation and alienation—whether it's mutants versus humans, parents versus children, men versus women, black versus white, the film is clearly making an example.
Logan, trying to keep a low profile, is still an icon of mutant support and resistance. Comic books featuring the tales of the X-Men are the only pieces of history for new generations of mutants to learn from. This brings a young girl with exceptional, familiar talents into the lives of Logan and Professor Xavier. Laura (Dafne Keen) is on the run from a group of hired mercenaries led by a mechanical-armed tough guy named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Newcomer Dafne Keen is fantastic in the role, offering a great counterpart to Logan, one that also provides a strong-willed emotional quality that plays nicely and fiercely with the Logan character.
While Logan leans more into the character study aspects than past films, it is still very much an action film. There are a few stunning moments that let the character bring havoc and mayhem into the frame. However, even with the ramped-up violence, you actually get to see the full extent that long adamantium claws have when challenged against the human body, and with the occasional strong moments with adult language, the R rating doesn't play much of a role in making the narrative feel any more critical than it would have had it remained PG-13. That's actually a compliment to the script, which instead of engaging in overindulgence of the spectacle that can come with an adult rating, composes strong characters that make the story compelling and provides an emotional quality that may have some fans dropping a few tears.
Hugh Jackman has always owned this role, but here the character is really given something to build upon, offering moments that allow Logan to be affected by the life that he has lived and also how he will live the remaining time that he is given. If this is the end for The Wolverine, it's the best way that it could have ended.
Movie Score: 4/5