Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 25, 2017)
Back in 2000, Hugh Jackman got his first big Hollywood role as Logan/Wolverine in the first X-Men movie, and this part made him a star. 17 years later, Jackman bids adieu to his signature character via 2017’s Logan.
Probably. Maybe. Excuse the cynicism, but in Hollywood, one can never say never, so I refuse to wholly accept the notion that this will be Jackman’s last stand as Wolverine.
If Logan does become Jackman’s final time in the X-universe, at least he goes out on top. Violent, dramatic and memorable, Logan delivers a terrific experience.
Set in 2029, we learn that after the start of the 21st century, no new mutants were born. This just leaves remnants of the old guard, and that contingent has seen better days.
Logan shows signs that his invulnerability may be on the wane, as he displays symptoms of a potential illness. Now in his 90s, Logan’s former mentor Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) suffers from mental decline that means his still-formidable telekinetic powers need to be subdued via medication to ensure he doesn’t accidentally harm anyone.
Along with fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), Logan keeps Professor X safe/contained in a remote facility near the Texas/Mexico border. Logan makes a living as a limo driver and attempts to save money so he and Professor X can spend their remaining days in a more pleasant circumstance.
Into this scenario steps Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse who wants Logan to drive 11-year-old Laura (Dafne Keen) to a location in South Dakota. We learn that Laura possesses special powers and Gabriela wants to get her to “Eden”, a potentially fictional compound that helps mutants migrate to safer places.
All of this occurs while baddies led by mercenary cyborg Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) pursue Laura to recapture her. The film follows Laura’s development and her burgeoning relationship with Logan.
To say any more would enter spoiler territory, so I’ll leave it there, but suffice it to say that when we learn about Laura’s powers, a “wow” sequence results. I admit I don’t expect much from a pre-teen superhero, but Laura obliterates all preconceived prejudices as she tears up the screen.
I don’t think we’ve seen an adolescent hero this dynamic since Hit Girl Kick Ass, and Laura probably tops that earlier character. As shown here, Laura provides a completely believable and compelling role, one who seems convincing in her violent abandon.
Keen really helps sell the part. Sure, she receives a big assist from the movie-making techniques that allow her to ply her violent trade, but the kid still has to provide the acting chops to allow us to accept her.
And she does - boy, does she! Keen never attempts any form of “movie kid cuteness”, so she packs the part with the brutal energy Laura needs. The character gives the film a real shot in the arm and helps sustain its semi-hackneyed “parental bonding” theme.
It also helps that Jackman remains at the top of his game as Logan. After four full-length X-films, two prior Wolverine efforts and smaller parts in two more X-efforts, you’d think Jackman would coast and just ride his own prior glories in Logan.
Nope. In arguably his most challenging take on the character, Jackman seems wholly invested and he covers all the dramatic bases. He still does the action beats really well, but he develops the more emotional elements in a satisfying way, too. Jackman digs into the role and ensures that he gives Wolverine an excellent send-off.
Writer/director James Mangold also took the helm for 2013’s The Wolverine, an effort that gave the character new “solo film” life after 2009’s mediocre X-Men Origins. The Wolverine acted as the most violent of all the X-films – until now, as Logan easily surpasses it in that regard.
That remains the case even when we compare Logan with the longer, unrated cut of The Wolverine. While the latter offered more profanity and violence than its theatrical “PG-13” edition, it doesn’t remotely approach the brutality of Logan.
I have to believe the suits at Fox allowed Logan to go “hard-R” due to the enormous success of 2016’s Deadpool. That movie showed audiences would flock to a tremendously bloody and profane superhero flick, so I suspect its popularity emboldened Fox to let Logan go the same way.
This becomes a good decision, as the violence suits the character. As I mentioned when I reviewed The Wolverine, Logan has always been a poor fit with the constraints of “PG-13”, so I’m happy to see him explored with such abandon.
Though I admit the graphic nature of Logan took me aback at first. After all those X-movies, I’m so accustomed to the “PG-13” taming of Wolverine that it feels jarring to see him portrayed in a more realistically violent manner.
And make no mistake: Logan fully embraces blood and gore. It throws out very explicit killings and assaults, and it does so extensively.
Logan also comes with a much darker tone than usual for the series. While the X-films and The Wolverine hinted at some rough themes, it didn’t delve into them like Logan does.
Heck, even when movies like Days of Future Past depicted “end of the world” scenarios, they still seemed kind of shiny and peppy. None of that translates to the truly grim, dystopian versions of Logan and Professor X we find here.
Not that Logan lacks any humor, as it comes with a few minor laugh lines. Most of the movie remains dark and downbeat, which suits it.
I can’t claim that Logan totally fires on all cylinders, as it comes with some shortcomings. In particular, the movie loses a little steam about three-fourths of the way in, mainly due to the semi-clumsy introduction of a bunch of new characters. These don’t integrate well and the film doesn’t give them nearly enough time to receive any form of exploration or development.
This proves to be a minor hiccup, though, as Logan recovers with its climax. Actually, virtually all of the film’s action soars, as the movie packs one dynamic sequence after another. As hinted, Laura’s “coming out” acts as a showstopper, but it’s not alone, and the movie’s thrills pack a tremendous punch.
Really, even with a few small criticisms, I find an awful lot to like about Logan. Dramatic, dark and brutal, it provides arguably the best X-Men-related film of all.