The greatest X-Man that ever lived.
Out of any actor to ever inhabit their roles, I don’t believe there has ever been one as committed as Hugh Jackman has been to Wolverine. The guy is 48 years old now. He’s played the superhero for 17 years for a total of nine films. Now he returns one last time as an elderly Logan for a film that is equal parts violent, action-packed, emotional, heartbreaking, and powerful. What a finale.
Taking place far into the distant future in the year 2029, James “Logan” Howlett (Jackman) is no longer Wolverine or an X-Man. Now he’s just old man Logan, taking care of himself and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a world where mutants no longer exist. Neither of them are in their prime state of health. Charles is facing a degenerative brain disease that causes daily seizures, which in combination with his mutation sends out psychic shock waves that can kill anyone within a 100-yard radius. Logan himself is barely even healing anymore, and he self-medicates with a bottle of Jack to cope with the pain. Both of these men are at the end of their ropes. This is not a place where we expected either of them to be.
Enter a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who Charles discovers is one of the last remaining mutants alive. On the run from a squad of cybernetic hitmen called the Reavers, Laura turns to Logan and Charles as her only hope to escape. While Charles is eager to help, Logan is done with the hero days and just wants to be left alone. But as he keeps getting roped into this pursuit, Logan discovers how he’s connected to Laura and the Reavers and how everything he’s ever been through has lead him up to this moment.
First and foremost, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Logan is rated a hard R. No, this is not a passive R rating like The King’s Speech with a small string of curse words. More like a Hacksaw Ridge, Deadpool, Hateful Eight R rating packed with bloody violence, gratuitous gore, dismembered limbs, exploding body parts, decapitated heads, and F bombs the size of Nagasaki. And I thought the mansion raid scene in X2 was rough. If the X2 Wolverine went head-to-head against Logan in this movie, Logan would literally shred him into a pile of bloody red meat. Period.
As someone who is a strong advocate for the PG-13 rating, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about the R-rated violence in Logan. None of the other X-Men movies would have improved if the violence were increased one bit. Not even the Wolverine films, which fans have been advocating for more mature content for a long time now. Yet strangely enough, the heightened violence worked very well for Logan and didn’t feel forced or unnecessary. Why is that?
I think it’s because in context to this film, it makes sense for Logan’s story. By this point in his life, he’s well over 100 years old. He’s literally seen decades of violence, both committed to him and committed by him. He’s seen friends, enemies, and innocents fall to the blades in his body. He’s lived a long, tired, blood-soaked life filled with tragedy and regret.
By the time we get to Logan, he’s not allowed to shy away from all of the violence he’s experienced in his life. So why should we? Logan is very confrontational in what the character has had to face all by himself, and for the first time ever in the series, it won’t allow us to look away from the violence Logan has had to struggle with. As one character points out in the film, killing is like a brand. And a brand sticks.
This is a brilliant entry by writer-director James Mangold, who previously directed The Wolverine in the X-Men saga. Instead of the action and the visual effects, Mangold chooses to focus on something more practical to Wolverine: his humanity. More than almost any of the other X-Men films, Logan is the most emotional, the most vivid, and the most grounded story told in Wolverine’s saga. Like The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2, Logan relates to us on a more human level as opposed to a fantastical one. In one of the greatest moments of the picture, Logan turns to Laura and tells her “Don’t be what they made you.” I wonder how hard he wishes someone told him that same thing when he was Laura’s age.
As this is one of Wolverine’s most emotional adventures, so too is this the best demonstration of Hugh Jackman’s talent. The more I watch him, the more impressed I am by his range as an actor. This is a guy who has performed numerous roles besides Wolverine, from The Prestige to Les Miserables to Prisoners. How he can bounce from those roles back to Wolverine constantly impresses me, and the fact that he comes back and gives a performance as powerful and demanding as this shows how seriously he takes his roles as an actor. Patrick Stewart also gives a heartfelt performance and displays Professor X in his most vulnerable, broken appearance to date. Keen was also fitting in her role as Laura, although most of her scenes required nothing more than just fiercely death-glaring at everything she looks at.
I won’t tell you how Logan ends, although I’m sure you’ll have already guessed it. I will say that the thing that stays with you most is not how Logan ends, but of the smaller moments that lead up to it. I caught myself remembering how Logan first met the X-Men in the earlier movies, how the stray loner found a family, how he has lost the ones he’s loved most, how many friends he’s seen die, and how every small, intimate moment he’s kept close to his heart has lead him here. Take note of the last thing Logan says to Laura, the last thing Laura does for Logan, and the last shot that Mangold chooses to linger on. Time will remember Wolverine for the hero. I will remember Logan for the man.