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Touted as star Hugh Jackman’s last turn as Wolverine, everyone’s favorite, violent, foul-mouthed mutant, Logan was under substantial pressure to deliver something truly remarkable in this final chapter.
Rest assured, it does.
From the moment the first black-and-white, Johnny Cash scored preview premiered, audiences knew that Logan was unlike any other X-Men movie that proceeded it. Previews are tricky things and can strike tones or allude to stories that the final films do not deliver. That first look at Logan indicated a movie that was moody, dark and laden with heavy themes. If anything, the actual film is more moody, dark and theme heavy than anything the trailer promised.
If we want our Wolverine violent, we have a hyper-violent take on the character here. If we want him foul mouthed, be aware that one of the first words he speaks is the F-word. If we want him unrelenting, well, you get the drift.
Logan tells the story of a Wolverine who has given up superhero-ing and has become a Uber driver in a semi-post apocalyptic south western American wasteland. Supporting and bickering with an ailing Professor X (played with tragic comedy by the always impressive Patrick Stewart), Logan has turned his back on his past and is simply looking for a way to survive his present – a present that sees his mutant healing factor failing and his dependence on alcohol growing. While this life is not what anyone would consider peaceful, its predictability is disrupted when Logan crosses paths with Laura, a young girl who may or may not be the first mutant in the world since an unnamed, but darkly referenced, event wiped mutant-kind from the map. How Logan is changed and what he discovers within himself following his contact with Laura is what drives the film.
Laura is played by Dafne Keen who turns in the third of three remarkable performances by children I have recently seen (the other two being Sunny Pawar in Lion and Alex Hibbert in Moonlight). She is magnetic, energetic and engaging. She is also a bit hard to watch as the film has Laura do some decidedly unchildlike things. Her chemistry with Jackman’s Logan is perfect and their relationship is the underpinning for both the plot and the themes of the movie.
Jackman is terrific in this role and has been since 2000’s (can it be that long?) X-Men rocketed him to fame. What is very smart about this movie, and Jackman had control over this direction, is that this version of the character is different that the other ones audiences have seen Jackman play. We have seen the berserk Wolverine, the anti-social Wolverine, the comic Wolverine, the heroic Wolverine. What we had not seen before Logan is the essence of the character: the Wolverine who never wanted to be a hero and would do almost anything to escape people’s notice, to live out of the spotlight, to flee any recognition.
If only his past would allow it.
Logan is a brutal movie. It is violent and dark and, while there are glimmers of hopefulness, it plays far more like Unforgiven than it does like X-Men: Days of Future Past. This is a good thing. It allows Jackman to reinvent the character, if only for one last ride.
And it is a very good ride, indeed.
Do not try too hard to figure out where in the canon of the X-Men movies Logan fits or how those films fed in to this one. Logan exists in something of a tangent universe to those movies, and it is all the better for it.
Superhero franchises are developing a tendency to be too interconnected and are beginning to show signs of sagging under that weight. James Mangold, writer and director of Logan seems to have said, “I’ll make the movie but I get to ignore almost everything that’s come before it.” Good call.
There were a lot of kids in the screening of Logan The Cinnamon Girl and I attended. Parents, beware: this is an R-rated movie for a reason. This is not about off color language, though there is plenty of that. Logan has the most bloody and violent battles in any superhero movie. Ever. Be warned.
If this is truly Hugh Jackman’s last time as Wolverine – and all indications are that it is – he picked a winner to finish up his work. Though not entirely hope-filled (but it does have its moments) and not entirely cheery (though there are laughs to be found), Logan is thematically rich, deeply felt and wonderfully complex. It is a very good movie.
LOGAN receives FOUR AND A HALF POPPING CLAWS out of a possible FIVE.