Australian actor Hugh Jackman first played the character of Wolverine back in 2000 in the film that launched the modern day, comic book blockbuster – Bryan Singer’s X-Men. Now 17 years later, the Academy Award-nominated actor has inhabited the character an unprecedented nine times on the big screen — that’s more times than Roger Moore suited up as James Bond or Robert Englund terrorized Elm Street as Freddy Krueger. With Logan, out in theaters everywhere on March 3rd, Jackman and director James Mangold (of Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and The Wolverine) craft something special as a means of laying to rest Jackman’s iconic role: an intimate, character-driven film that is brutal, beautiful, and deeply affecting.
It’s 2029 — set 50 years after the events depicted in X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) — and mutants are nearly extinct. A despondent and depleted Logan is drinking his day away at a derelict smelting plant at the edge of an abandoned oil field near the Mexican border. There he cares for his old friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is battling a debilitating illness that, due to his mutant abilities, threatens human and mutant-kind alike. Stewart has played Professor X an impressive seven times, and it’s the extensive history between these two, both as characters in a fictional world, and as actors who have worked together for nearly two decades, that really adds to the poignancy of the story. Their companion in exile is Caliban (The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant), a pale, Nosferatu-like mutant who can sense and track other mutants. Together they form an unconventional (and extremely dysfunctional) family as Caliban cooks and cleans while the anti-social Logan seeks out medicine for his ailing mentor’s worsening seizures.
Their attempts to stay hidden from a world that has passed them by abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent plea — that Logan escort a young girl to a place up north called Eden, where mutants are said to live in peace and safety. Logan finds himself the reluctant guardian of Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen), a mutant test subject with powers like his own, and adamantium claws that spring from her hands and feet. Weakened by sickness and time, Logan is weary to play the hero once again, as his ability to heal has diminished, but when the murderous Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his unhinged army of cybernetic Reavers arrive to retrieve the girl for Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the sinister geneticist who experimented on her, Wolverine is forced out of solitude and back into action.
Mangold’s film isn’t concerned with saving the world from the apocalypse; nor is it the kind of action-packed sci-fi adventure the X-Men franchise is known for. Rather, it’s a very personal story — a road movie where the apocalypse has already happened, in which Charles, Logan, and Laura are outlaws on the run, traveling across a barren landscape in search of their own paradise. A spiritual descendant of western gunslingers like Clint Eastwood’s Outlaw Josey Wales or Alan Ladd’s Shane, Logan has avoided intimacy throughout his life. By robbing him of his invincibility, Mangold has made Logan more vulnerable, exposed, and — perhaps for the first time in his very long life — ready to embrace the warmth and love that comes from being part of a family.
Jackman’s always had a gift for finding the humanity beneath Logan’s adamantium skeleton and mutant healing factor. In his final outing as the character Wolverine, Jackman delivers an intense, nuanced, and soulful performance that brings the character full circle. The hard-charging loner with a short fuse has become a surrogate father to a girl, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure her survival. Jackman, Mangold, and co-writers Scott Frank and Michael Green have paid off one of the darkest, most complex characters in comics (and cinema) with a fitting (and definitive) end that is emotionally satisfying. And, for lifelong fans of Marvel’s most famous mutant, Mangold has also delivered on showing Wolverine at his most primal, with an R-rating for strong brutal violence, language throughout, and for brief nudity.
If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing Wolverine go full “Berserker Rage” on someone, Logan delivers in blood-splattered spades. There’s a lot of violence in the movie, which may turn off some viewers, but like Fox’s massively successful Deadpool, the violence speaks to the duality of the character, someone who can rip people limb-from-limb but still find redemption in committing an act of true heroism.
In a 10-film series that has seen its share of highs (X-Men: Days of Future Past) and lows (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Mangold’s Logan is one of the best superhero movies of the modern era. Stewart, Jackman, and Keen deliver award-worthy performances, and Mangold and his cinematographer John Mathieson (of Gladiator, X-Men: First Class, Pan) create striking, resonant visuals that reflect the desolation and utter hopelessness of this post-apocalyptic future. Together, the cast and crew have raised the bar for the types of stories you can tell with superheroes, creating a film that feels much more like Rio Bravo, Terminator 2: Judgment Day or Children of Men than anything Marvel Studios and DC are currently offering. If you’ve ever had an attachment to Wolverine or the X-Men series, you must see Logan in theaters – it’s a powerful elegy dedicated to a character that a generation of moviegoers have grown up with, and a role that we’ll be hard-pressed to replace. He’s the best there is at what he does, even if what he does isn’t very nice.
Adam’s Rating: 5 out of 5