The opening scene of Logan sets the table for what you can expect from the third entry in the Wolverine franchise. It also makes you forget there were two previous films.
The film begins with our hero passed out in the back of a limo. Is he injured from a heroic battle? Perhaps he’s been captured and is once again being experimented on? No, our “hero” is in the midst of another drunken bender. He awakes to the vibration of several men attempting to steal the hubcaps off of the limo he drives.
We expect Wolverine to make quick work of these thugs because we’ve seen it time and time again. Instead, Logan struggles with ordinary men. The hangover certainly doesn’t help. Eventually he kills them all in a way we haven’t seen before. Limbs are removed, skulls are pierced and blood rains. This is the first R-rated Wolverine film and thankfully in a completely different stratosphere than X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
This story follows Logan as he works a dead-end job to pay for medication he gives to an ailing Professor X. Without the medicine, Xavier suffers seizures that affect everyone in the vicinity thanks to his mind-controlling abilities. His brain may be aging, but he’s still capable of causing harm to thousands.
Logan plans to get Professor X and another mutant out from the rock they’re hiding under on the Mexican border. But when a young mutant with similar abilities to him arrives, Logan is forced to protect her from dark forces who aim to use her as a weapon.
Hugh Jackman has said in interviews that he wanted to make one last Wolverine movie in the vein of Unforgiven and The Wrestler. His comparisons couldn’t be more spot-on. Logan is drinking himself to death to numb the pain from a lifetime of violence and rage. He has no desire to get close to anyone because he knows that only leads to more inevitable pain.
His healing abilities are also deteriorating and all that’s left of a once mighty beast is a frail old man who walks with a limp. He knows his time is finally coming to an end and he intends to do it on his own terms.
The film rests on Jackman’s weary shoulders and he certainly fulfills those expectations. If you include cameos, this is his tenth portrayal as Wolverine. For nearly 20 years, Jackman has played this character and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. He has two decades of history and every scar, quiver and look can be seen in his performance.
Patrick Stewart is equally strong. He’s had the Professor X role for the same period of time and in this iteration, he looks almost unrecognizable. Gone is the fancy suits, X-Men wheel chair and dozens of students eager to hang on his every word. He may have hardened a bit (Cursing and all), but he still believes in the good of humanity even if Logan doesn’t.
That belief is what ultimately convinces Logan to escort the young mutant, Laura, to a place where mutants can once again live in peace. Even if he believes such a place is bullshit.
Dafne Keen plays the young mutant and for nearly the entire film, she doesn’t say a word. Such a performance would be daunting for an aging actor, let alone a little girl. And yet Keen is absolutely captivating as an innocent child capable of turning into a raging monster in the blink of an eye.
The action sequences involving Logan and Laura are gloriously gory. We’ve waited years to see Wolverine rip enemies to shreds in a bloody fashion and we get our wish. This is the Wolverine we’ve really only seen in one other X-Men film, X2. At one point, Wolverine is running through the woods, slicing and dicing in one long shot. It’s a beautifully brutal encapsulation of the character.
As for negatives, the other mutant Logan intends to abscond from the border is merely a plot device to enhance the villains chances of catching our main protagonists. The villains themselves are also fairly one-note. But there is a surprise villain that shows up that I didn’t see coming.
Another flaw in the film is that there isn’t a great enough emphasis on the cost of loss of life. One particular scene involves several innocent people being murdered and it would have been nice to see Logan acknowledge the collateral damage. But then again, Logan is more concerned with running away from his sins. He’s too tired to own up to them.
Producers for the film have insisted that the success of Deadpool played no factor in Logan receiving an R rating. I don’t know that I buy that, but who cares. We’ve finally gotten the Wolverine movie we deserve. Not one about saving the world yet again, but about damaged characters seeking redemption, peace or just an end to it all.
You don’t have to have seen the other X-Men films to appreciate Logan. There are little nods to previous films, but Logan works perfectly as a standalone film. And that’s what makes it great. It’s a stripped-down story that feels almost independent if not for the occasional action sequence.
The performances are terrific, the action is intense and visceral and the ending is a fitting farewell to an iconic character in the superhero genre. This is the first superhero film of 2017 and I can’t imagine seeing a better one the rest of the year.