The X-Men movie franchise is one of the longest running and consistent superhero movie franchises. While there have been large gaps of time between films, they are all connected within the same universe. Batman and Superman have been rebooted several times with different actors and with each reboot, a new reality for the characters is created. X-Men have kept all their films within the same continuity even with the soft reboot “X-Men: Days of Future Past” that blew up the timeline. Now with “Logan,” the X-Men opens a doorway into the next generation of mutants and gives us an appealing new claw-wielding anger machine while giving Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart a loving and tender send off as both actors are adamant that this is their final appearance in the series.
Logan (Hugh Jackman) is trying to live a quiet life as a limo driver under an assumed name. His healing factor is fading, he’s in constant pain and he’s looking old. Logan is taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is suffering from dementia and is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the government after an incident that occurred in the past. Logan gives Xavier medicines to keep his condition manageable. Helping Logan is the mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Times have changed and there hasn’t been a mutant born in 25 years. Most of the other X-Men are dead but Logan is approached by a woman named Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) with a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) she says is a mutant and on the run from the company Transigen that created her. Logan has already run into a member of their security team, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who is looking for Gabriella and Laura. Despite his illness, Xavier has known another mutant was out in the world and urges Logan to help. Fighting it all the way, Logan still feels compelled to help Laura and try to get her, Xavier, Caliban and himself to safety. Gabriella tells Logan they are on their way to a set of coordinates on a map she refers to as Eden. Logan and Xavier embark on a cross-country trek, trying to stay one step ahead of Pierce, keep Xavier’s condition under control and get Laura to safety. But sinister forces are lurking and every step of the way is filled with danger and an unstoppable killing machine.
After playing Wolverine in nine of the X-Men films over 17 years, Hugh Jackman has said unequivocally this is his last appearance as the character. No matter how much Ryan Reynolds begs or offers him sexual favors for a Deadpool/Wolverine team-up, “Logan” is the last time we’ll see Jackman sprout the claws…unless Fox allows Marvel Studios to use the character in a crossover with the Avengers. Since that will never happen, despite it guaranteeing a billion dollar-plus box office return, “Logan” is Jackman’s swan song as the mutant from Canada with an adamantium-enhanced skeleton and claws. Knowing that, I believe director and co-writer James Mangold took extra care and crafted a finale story that tries to touch all the bases with fans of the character and the entire X-Men universe and he largely succeeds.
Jackman inhabits the well-worn and heavily scarred skin of Logan like no one else possibly could. Logan is tired and so is Jackman. In his late 40’s, it can’t be easy for Jackman to get into the kind of shape playing Wolverine requires. That weariness is a tool Jackman uses to round out and ground the character. Crankier than ever and tired of fighting, Logan just wants to be left alone. What he really wants is to be allowed to die. He even carries around an adamantium bullet he one day plans on using to kill himself. Events in the story intervene and force him to keep on fighting, but this time he has something to fight for that may be bigger than any other battle: Laura.
Dafne Keen is a scene stealer. Laura, also referred to as X-23 in her medical file, is a child that doesn’t know what family or compassion is until she is shown it as the trio travels along their path. The three misfits form an uneasy alliance with Xavier being the kindly grandpa and Logan the grumpy dad. Keen, who is largely without dialog for the majority of the film, is able to emote in a way that leaves no doubt what she is feeling. This is especially true when she becomes enraged and her own claws come out. While I’m sure most of the stunt work was done by either small women or is CGI enhanced, Keen must have done some of it herself. Her performance is as fearless as Laura’s fighting. With the early success of the film, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of Keen in the role.
Patrick Stewart has always been a favorite actor of mine. From his performance in “Dune” to his time on the bridge of the Enterprise in “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Stewart has delivered some great performances in genre films and TV. While most of his work in the X-Men franchise has been a bit on the reserved side, his last go round as Charles Xavier frees him with a performance that could garner him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. From frenzied mental confusion to warm and comforting compassion, Stewart gives one hell of a performance. His work here is stellar and, if he’s true to his word about this being the last time, he sends the character out on a masterful note.
Much has been made of the violence and language that has given “Logan” an R rating. The violence is bloody and brutal and the language is coarse. Some might argue films about superheroes should mostly be family friendly. Most of the time I agree; however, this film and this character deserve a chance to be grown up and be a film for grown-ups. In the comic books the violence is frozen in primary colors and we can’t really get a sense of the brutality being inflicted. With “Logan,” there is no doubt just how much pain injuries like this would cause and that many characters, without a doubt, die on screen. Wolverine was always known for her berserker rage and how deadly he was with his claws. “Logan” is true to the character in all his graphic glory.
The middle of the film may run a bit too long. We spend a great deal of time on the road getting to the explosive conclusion and at least one of the stops along the way could have been cut. Still, the film rarely makes that mistake or any other as we travel across a slightly different future America with our unusual and dysfunctional family.
“Logan” is rated R for language throughout, brief nudity and strong brutal violence. There are bloody shootings, stabbings, limb amputations and decapitations. We also see a mutant that is allergic to sunlight tortured by being exposed to daylight. The brief nudity is a girl showing Logan her breasts as he is driving her and friends to a party. Foul language is common throughout the film.
There is so much I would love to tell you about “Logan” but I don’t want to spoil the surprises scattered through the film. “Logan” not only delivers a strong story about characters we’ve loved for nearly two decades, but also provides fan service for those that are deep into the comic book X-Men lore. It is probably the most well-rounded and grown up comic book movie in film history. It is also a fitting send off for two actors that have devoted a big part of their careers to Wolverine and Charles Xavier. While the Fox Studios X-Men films have been hit-or-miss over their lifetime, “Logan” is undeniably a hit.
“Logan” gets all five stars and more.
The king of all movie monsters (in some people’s opinion) returns with what looks like a summer-worthy blockbuster. Next week, I’ll see “Kong: Skull Island.”
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