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Wolverine Out

Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman
20th Century Fox
 137 Minutes
Rated: R
Directed by: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart

For years, 20th Century Fox has wound up with the short end of the stick when it comes to Marvel comic properties. While Sony struck it big with Spider-Man and Disney now holds the right to the various Avengers, Fox has had to endure three dismal Fantastic Four movies and an X-Men franchise that seemed to have run out of gas. But, last year, Fox’s fortunes were revived somewhat with the surprise success of Deadpool. and now they have something even better to brag about, possibly the best Marvel superhero movie ever, Logan.


For those unfamiliar with the name or with the X-Men in general, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is the civilian name of Wolverine, a combination of natural mutant powers and government engineering designed to turn him into a perfect killing machine. Along with great strength, he has remarkable healing powers and foot-long razor-sharp claws made out of a fictional metal called adamantium that emerge from his hands when needed. Over the decades (since Logan doesn’t age much), he has generally fought alongside the X-Men, not always gladly, but the years have taken a toll on him both physically and mentally.


Logan (the movie) is set in 2027 as Logan (the man) is gradually dying. His powers are fading, and he doesn’t heal as quickly as before. Nor is he as strong. Mutants are pretty much a thing of the past, either dead or gone into hiding, as has Logan, who now works as a limo driver in El Paso, TX. He lives in an abandoned factory in Mexico with Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the former leader of the X-Men, and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) an albino mutant with a distinct aversion to sunlight. Xavier is in even worse shape than is Logan, with his mind fading, leading to occasional powerfully destructive outbursts of psychic energy if he’s not properly medicated.


While Logan is content to live out his days in this fashion, he winds instead on the run again, this time with Laura (Dafne Keen), an 11-year-old girl, in his charge. Laura isn’t an ordinary girl, however. Instead, she’s actually been cloned from Logan’s DNA, along with a number of other youngsters, as part of yet another clandestine government project designed to create yet more weaponized mutants. While the other children have various superpowers, Laura is pretty much a chip off the old block, with adamantium claws and a mean disposition of her own.


Most of Logan is an extended chase with the bad guys, including wacky scientist Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and a bunch of mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), along with a more powerful cloned version of Logan. There are battle scenes aplenty in the movie, most of which are considerably more intense (and graphic) than the norm in comic book movies. With today’s technology, most comic book films go for large scale but bloodless thrills, like smashing buildings to bits. Logan deservedly carries an R-rating, which means that when Logan or the other mutants tear into an enemy, they literally tear into and tear apart that enemy. But while the violence is, at times, savage, it’s not gratuitous. Director James Mangold isn’t looking for exploitation but explanation. It’s only through seeing what Logan endures in the course of this movie that the audience can get an appreciation of what the years of engaging in such combat have done to his psyche.


For Logan is a movie about something, in this case, coming to terms with his own mortality and deciding on what terms to go out. Along the way, he has to endure a great deal of pain, both of the physical variety and the mental, as he sees his good friend and mentor Charles Xavier in worse condition than he is. But, also along the way, he finds a new purpose in the remainder of his life.


Logan is very much an actors’ showcase, featuring two veterans who are extremely familiar with their roles. This is the tenth time Jackman has played the character of Logan, while Stewart isn’t far behind with his seventh portrayal of Charles Xavier. Often, when an actor revisits a role that many times, boredom sets in, as was evident in Sean Connery’s last go-around as James Bond. But, although both actors are playing sick, weary men, they find vitality in their performance, especially when they find renewed purpose. In particular, Stewart’s final scene in the movie is one of his best in the entire X-Men series.


But the veteran actors aren’t the only ones delivering powerhouse performances. Young Keen is remarkably assured for a child actress making her debut, and her relationship with Jackman is very reminiscent of the one between a young Natalie Portman and Jean Reno in The Professional. Keen has the same screen presence that a handful of recent performers like Dakota and Elle Fanning have had.


From a technical standpoint, Logan is well made, but director Mangold, not known for special effects extravaganzas, eschews superheroic CGI in favor of more down-to-earth, often quite brutal action. Indeed, the entire vibe of the film is that of a post-apocalyptic atmosphere, even with some sequences shot in crowded contemporary casinos and similar locales. It may not be the end of the world for everyone, but Mangold makes it clear that it’s the end of the world for the mutants.


Along with the post-apocalyptic imagery, Mangold pays frequent homage to the American Western. The classic Shane shows up on television on several locations, and the entire relationship between Logan and the young mutants in the film’s last half hour recalls the late-period John Wayne western, The Cowboys. Indeed, with much of the violence taking place in isolated locales, the movie often plays like a traditional Western with some high tech weaponry.


Logan isn’t a perfect movie; at nearly two and a half hours, it drags a bit in the middle, and the villains are surprisingly banal for the types of wickedness in which they engage. But it is a vast improvement over the array of superhero films that seek nothing beyond outdoing each other in terms of spectacular effects. For once, a superhero film has found which are universal: old age, loneliness, and death, and its characters come to terms with them in surprisingly realistic and touching ways. Further, the script leaves the door open for future X-Men films, featuring a new group of characters, not merely earlier versions of the familiar ones played by younger actors. Take away the characters’ superpowers and most comic book superhero films have nothing left; Logan is a very good movie made even better by the nature of its lead characters.

In this scene, Hugh Jackman helps a local farmer deal with some menacing goons.

Read other reviews of Logan:


Logan (2017) on IMDb