The year is 2029 and mutants are a quickly disappearing species. No new mutants having been born in years. Logan — known the world over as the mighty X-Man, Wolverine — works as a hired driver in dusty towns along America’s heavily guarded southern border. He works to buy the costly medication needed to slow his friend and mentor, Charlies Xavier’s neurological deterioration — a dangerous condition for the world’s most powerful mind. Logan’s powers are also diminishing, his aging body weaker and slower to heal, and he drinks heavily to keep the pain at bay. Their lives are hard and surviving is a daily struggle — a sorry reward for years spent saving the world from certain doom.
The year is 2017 and Hugh Jackman is finally retiring from the role he’s played for 17 years. Wolverine was Jackman’s first major film role and 2000’s X-Men his first Hollywood picture. Over the course of the eight films that followed (which include some of the series’ best, like X2, and the worst, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine) Jackman became synonymous not only with the Wolverine character, but the X-Men brand. Even when it didn’t make a lot of sense to include him, like with last year’s bloated X-Men: Apocalypse, filmmakers recognized his draw and appeal, squeezing in a Wolverine cameo in anyway they could.
Audiences have gone on a journey with Jackman, but it is time for that journey to come to an end. Logan is that final chapter, and it is a most fitting finale. I am not ashamed to admit that as the credits rolled, I had tears streaming. Logan is emotional, almost funeral-like, but very satisfying. It is without a doubt the best solo-outing for Wolverine (granted, that’s a low bar to clear), but it is also one of the best X-Men movies, period. Logan deserves a place among the upper echelon of FOX’s messy and convoluted X-Men universe, right next to X2, First Class, and Deadpool.
More western than superhero movie, more character study than comic book action, Logan is the second attempt at a Wolverine movie from director James Mangold. After promising a more grounded and introspective look at the hero with 2013’s The Wolverine, he actually delivers that with Logan. Influences from Mangold’s previous work on films like Walk the Line and the 3:10 to Yuma remake are evident, but so is inspiration pulled from Paper Moon, The Wrestler, and most overtly, Shane — a film that actually has role to play within Logan.
Jackman gives his all in this final performance, matching the ferociousness of his much younger portrayals (at one point even quite literally). Yet, there’s also a frailty to Logan, a weariness he can’t quite shake. Sure, he can still slash and stab, in this film eviscerating bad guys in the most bloody fashion (thank you R-rating), but he can’t bounce back like before. Still, though hobbled, Logan remains determined and devoted, tirelessly caring for a sick and deranged Xavier. Compassion has always been key to Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine, and in Logan it’s again emphasized, even when masked by loneliness and self-pity.
Speaking of Xavier, Logan is also the last bow for Patrick Stewart’s Professor X — a character so crucial to FOX’s X-universe, there are two of them. In Logan, Xavier is at his absolute lowest, haunted by an event so horrible and traumatic it’s better left unsaid. This is an Xavier we’ve never seen before, kept either in a medicated fog or in the throes of dangerous seizures. This is a man who spent his entire life trying to help, only to have his own aging mind and body betray him. Stewart is in top form, bringing an incredible well of sadness to Charles, but also a lot of humor. Seriously, though there’s nothing funny about their bleak situation, Stewart creates wonderful, heartwarming and funny moments as only such a brilliant actor can.
Both Jackman and Stewart are a tour de force in Logan, giving performances that redefine what we’ve come to expect of the “superhero” genre. And while Logan marks their final performances as both Wolverine and Professor X, do not weep for the future of the X-franchise. It is bright and it’s name is Daphne Keen. For a film that is awash in despair, Keen’s Laura/X-23 is a shining star, capable of both sharing and occasionally stealing the limelight from her more experienced co-stars. She does a lot with very little, using her incredibly expressive eyes to deliver a wide range of emotions: hostility, fear, anguish, disdain, sympathy, acceptance. The bond she forms with Logan is the very heart of the film, giving both him and Xavier a final mission, some purpose in a world that’s through with mutants. She’s also a tiny powerhouse, and whenever she gets to unleash her claws — either alone or teamed with Logan — it is a treat of hyper-violence.
Logan is a film that hits as hard as it does because of all that has come before it. After Deadpool, FOX had the confidence to give Logan the R-rating which allows it to go as far as it needs in order to tell a brutal and beautiful story. In a world saturated in superhero movies, Logan stands in stark contrast, giving us heroes that aren’t as super as we’d expect, but are all the more heroic in spite of that. And after pouring nearly two decades into the role of Wolverine, Jackman is allowed what many actors never are — a perfect ending and fond farewell to a character that is immensely important to him, us, and comic book cinema.