By now, the story is well known. After 17 years and 8 appearances playing the iconic Wolverine, Hugh Jackman is ready to hang up the claws. After exceptional highs and some very low lows of the series, Logan not only serves as a brilliant send off for the character, but also serves as a thoughtful look at life and death.
The film picks up in a bleak 2029. Existing mutants have vanished from the planet, and there hasn’t been a recorded mutant birth in years. Logan is a disguised limo driver, praying for no one to notice him. He spends his days hiding out with surviving mutant Caliban, and keeping a seizure-suffering former Professor Charles Xavier barely alive. Logan eventually crosses paths with a mysterious young girl named Laura, who is revealed to be a mutant, with powers not unlike his own.
Less of a superhero spectacle and more of a Western tale, the films dark and realized world is a breath of fresh air amidst the ever increasing CG-fests of modern superhero films. You feel the pain every time Wolverines claws pop out now, and a strong sense of how far the characters are removed from the glory days of the X-Men. Less claustrophobic and cartoony than X-Men: Apocalypse, and a even better sense of location that 2013’s The Wolverine, director James Manigold really doubled down on tone here, and it works in favor of the movie.
The performances in the film really elevate to another level. After playing Wolverine so many times, one would think Hugh Jackman would suffer franchise fatigue, but he gives by far and away his best performance of the series. The material pushes the character and Jackman himself into places we’ve never seen before, and Jackman plays him with an impressive amount of authority, aggressiveness, and tragedy.
Patrick Stewart puts in his most surprising performance yet as Charles Xavier. Playing a sadly senile Charles, only just barely held together by the medicine administered to him by Logan, Stewart reveals different layers to Charles we have yet to see on screen. His most impressive moment in as the character comes midway through, with him recounting through a broken voice the pain that the loss of his fellow mutants brings. Surprisingly funny in the right moments, and heartbreakingly reflective in others, Stewart brings the most depth to character he ever has, making for his best performance of the series.
A huge talent found here is Dafne Keen. The young actress is hindered mute for her first few scenes, but still gives off a mysterious and well played stoic vibe. When she begins to share dialogue, she conveys the pain of her past fantastically in a subdued voice that has clearly been through pain. She rounds out the main trio of performances fantastically, playing well off of Jackman and Stewart. With the films gritty tone always underlying every scene, the three together for the heart and soul of the movie the story grounded and the characters relatable.
The tone carries to the action scenes as well. Fans of the character can rejoice in all of the R-rated gory glory of these sequences. There are no punches pulled in these incredibly bloody and brutal scenes. Fortunately, it’s not a case of style over substance, as the action is choreographed exceedingly well, with the most visually impressive being a scene set in Vegas with Charles as the focal point. Later on in the movie, the violence ramps up even moreso, and the sense of weariness from the onslaught Wolverine has faced is felt ten-fold.
Through it’s running time, Logan never lets up on it’s brutality, emotion, but most importantly, it never lets up on it’s characters. The movie is a fascinating look and what we have loved and lost, and the hope that can come from our pain. By staying true to all of these things, the movie earns it’s place as a transcendent piece of cinema, and a beautiful swan song for the iconic character of Wolverine.