Review by Paul Preston
Halfway through Logan, James Mangold’s take on the last adventures of Wolverine, elderly Charles Xavier is in a hotel room, hiding out from those who would like to end mutant-kind once and for all. He sits in the room with Laura, a young mutant, something he and Wolverine were not prepared to see again, and he watches Shane, the enduring Alan Ladd/Jack Palance western.
This is fitting because Logan is very reflective of a classic western with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as the gunslinger who’s seen bigger days making a last-ditch stand for the underprivileged in a no-fanfare situation. Wolverine has been looking for a way to die for the last couple of movies now, and this beaten, battered Logan certainly has the least to lose of any iteration of the superhero yet.
When the film begins, it’s 2029 and Logan is on the Mexican border, driving a freelance limo and trying to stay out of trouble. But as happens, trouble comes to find him in the form of Pierce, hunting for the young mutant Laura on behalf of the company that made her. Wolverine gets caught in the middle as Laura’s guardian wants to hire Logan to drive them to a safe haven in North Dakota. Also in the mix is the aforementioned Xavier, exiled, labeled a potential weapon of mass destruction by the government. That’s not unwarranted as Professor X’s advanced age has him dealing with seizures that create psychic havok for his surroundings.
The ageless Wolverine is also feeling the effects of time. The man with the power of healing is looking aged as it seems as though that which made him special may be poisoning him from the inside. This adds an extra urgency to the superhero story that carries the rest of Logan.
Mangold and the screenwriters have delivered up a decidedly hard R adventure. Early on, it felt like they might be taking too much advantage of the rating, overdoing it, swearing every other word in ways we haven’t seen. It sits on Logan well, complimenting the attitude Jackman’s nurtured for eighteen years, but it’s a shock hearing Xavier swear like a sailor. The R pays big dividends as Wolverine must claw his way through bad guys in an attempt to save Laura. The slicing, dicing and chopping up of bad guys feels especially visceral, but also, for the first time, especially truthful. Given Logan’s weapon of choice, it shouldn’t be pretty.
This is a bleak quest with no shortage of collateral damage. As a fan of Logan and Professor X, it’s brutal and not so much fun. These were guys who’ve saved the world, and their unglamorous final adventure was hard for me to adjust to, but the movie is so confident in it’s delivery, the overall effect is successful. As corporate thugs chase down Logan, Laura and Xavier, they’re continuing the theme set forth way back in X2: X-Men United – society’s rejection of those who are different who they can’t control. And it’s driven home so emotionally, this really should be the last X-Men movie on the timeline. From here, outside of introducing new characters (which I know is on the horizon with Gambit), the team introduced in 1999’s X-Men feels done.
As the X-Men franchise has done regularly, there’s an action sequence here like one you’ve never seen before (alongside Quicksilver’s run through the kitchen and the Nightcrawler White House attack, Wolverine’s slow slog through a hotel to save Xavier is pertty damn unique). This is cap to an extraordinary run for Hugh Jackman, appearing in nine films as Logan. He came into the role as a virtual unknown and has crafted Wolverine into an iconic character. Patrick Stewart is equally good here, the scenes between he and Jackman are some of the film’s best.
My biggest pet peeve would be Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce. The super-confident bad guy. That’s an old, played out trope. NOTHING jarred him. He was never evil, he was never defeated. Just always, “Well, lookee what we have here”. Tired. When Logan and Laura rip apart a squadron of his goons, it wouldn’t hurt to have him take stock in the loss. His unwavering suave demeanor seemed more of a put-upon movie villain device than natural. To see Hans Gruber’s frustration is just as fun as watching his smooth delivery. Only getting Mr. Cool Guy from Pierce was a missed opportunity.
But why do you come? Hugh Jackman. He’s the real deal movie star. Don’t miss watching him ride his horse into the sunset.