In many ways, “Logan” is the fulfillment of a promise that was made in the very first X-Men movie. Under the banner of an R rating, we’re finally able to see the drunk, savage and foul-mouthed yet incredibly sympathetic Wolverine of whom we’ve seen glimpses all these years. In this grounded, bloody, grim and heartbreaking movie, Hugh Jackman is finally able to deliver the culmination of a character arc that has stretched across seventeen years and nine movies.
Loosely based on Mark Millar’s “Old Man Logan” miniseries, “Logan” takes place in the not-so-distant future of 2029, a time when the mutant race is all but extinct. Logan, having abandoned the identity of Wolverine, is one of the few survivors. He’s traded the leather in for a poorly fitting tuxedo, working as a limo driver to make ends meet. He and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are taking care of an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a hidden enclave on the Mexican border. Eventually, Logan crosses paths with a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) and finds himself defending her from dark forces that seek to use her as a weapon.
For their final showings as these characters, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart pull out all the stops. Jackman brings a whole new depth to the character, reveling in the chance to show us what the true Wolverine looks like. Patrick Stewart is undoubtedly the stand out here. While he was largely relegated to a supporting character in the previous films, the legendary actor finally gets to take center stage in one of his most iconic roles. His Xavier is hilarious, haunted and beautifully tragic as he finds himself in a world where his life’s work has all been for naught. However, it is Dafne Keen who truly steals the show. I’ve always been wary of films centered around child actors, but Keen has an amazing presence on screen, spending a large portion of the movie communicating only through facial expressions. Finally, Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant played main villains Donald Pierce and Zander Rice, respectively. While Holbrook gets to have some fun playing a cyborg mutant fanboy, Grant mostly gets stuck delivering exposition and tying up a lingering plot thread in a rather anticlimactic way. Still, these low points in the plot are easily forgivable as “Logan” truly focuses on of Logan, Xavier and Laura’s journey.
“Logan,” to its great credit, doesn’t attempt to be a standard superhero movie. There is no hilariously outmatched CGI army to fight and sky-beam to stop. Logan doesn’t quip as he dispatches his foes. In fact, he even holds up some X-Men comics and says that’s not how things work in the real world. No one is going to swoop in to save the day. By doing this, “Logan” separates itself from the rest of the X-Men franchise and the entire superhero genre. As Logan himself says, “In the real world, people die,” and they die violently. Director James Mangold doesn’t shy away from showing us what happens when eight and a half inch long razors meet a human body.
The action is quick, brutal and sufficiently gory as Logan hacks and slashes with no holds barred. The action only serves to further increase the sense that “Logan” is like no other “X-Men” movie. There’s a well-executed scene where Logan comes across some immobilized henchmen pointing their guns at Charles. While another movie might have Logan disable their weapons or cut off their hands, he just stabs them in the head instead. Nothing seems to be off limits. Even Laura gets in on the fun by being subjected to what is possibly the worst physical violence ever inflicted upon a child in a Hollywood film — not something you’d see at any other point in the franchise. It’s a good thing she can dish it out too. Keen is right up there with Jackman when it comes to delivering berserk beatings, and she handles the fight scenes amazingly well.
Make no mistake, violence is not the only area where “Logan” doesn’t pull punches. There are gut-wrenching revelations, horrifying twists and dialogue that makes half the audience cry. Mangold makes no secret of the influence “Shane” has had on this movie (Laura even watches a scene from it while staying at a hotel), and “Logan” might as well be the modern retelling of the film. It’s the story of the old gunslinger returning to his savage nature for the sake of others.
“Logan” is a heavy, dreary and grounded movie reminding us that we’re capable of turning our ugly instincts into something good. The violence, the language and the setting paint a brutal but realistic picture of a not so distant future where the only option left is to fight. Dafne Keen will have you rooting for Laura, and I hope that this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her. Finally, if this is truly the last time we’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing Jackman and Stewart in these roles, it’s fitting that they end their tenure with the franchise’s best film yet. “Logan” joins “The Dark Knight” as a modern superhero classic.