The X-Men franchise has always been a bit of a mess. With its muddy continuity, confusing timelines, and often supremely lackluster storytelling, X-Men has never been very consistent. Well, apart from one single commendable aspect. Hugh Jackman’s iconic tenure as the goddamn Wolverine. And now, we finally have a film worthy of his performance. Logan acts as the last ride for everyone’s favorite bub, and man, what a film for Jackman to go out on.
As for what now appears to be a tradition for the X-Men franchise, Logan gives a big ole middle finger to continuity and elects to do whatever the hell it wants, playing by its own rules story-wise. While in X-Men: Apocalypse this acted much to the film’s detriment, this gives Logan quite a bit of freedom to deeply explore the character of Wolverine in a way the franchise never really has before.
The year 2029. The X-Men, as you knew them, are dead. Mutants are nearing extinction. There are but a handful of them left in the world and none of them are in particularly good shape. Logan’s an alcoholic limo driver whose healing ability isn’t quite what it once was. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), no longer the inspiring Professor X, is pushing 90 and suffering from Alzheimer’s and seizures. Caliban (Steven Merchant), new mutant to the franchise, is assisting Logan in taking care of Charles. Everyone is sad.
Logan paints a bleak picture for the future of the X-Men, presenting us with a world that exists after our greatest heroes have passed on into legend. Logan exists as a celebrity wearily passed his prime. He’s a cynic. He’s depressed. He’s broken. He carries an adamantium bullet at all times.
Logan dreams of saving up to buy a boat so he and Charles can sail out to sea and live out the rest of their days away from the world that refuses to accept their kind. Sadly, that all changes once he finds himself tasked with taking care of a young mutant girl, something that was thought to no longer be possible. A rogue government agency led by one Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his team of mutant-hunting Reavers are in hot pursuit and will stop at nothing to catch her. To make matters all the more dire for Logan, this young girl’s name is Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), designation X-23. His daughter.
In stark contrast to the previous X-Men: Apocalypse, the stakes of Logan are refreshingly small and personal. Wolverine has saved the world enough times. Now he’s tasked with simply protecting his father and daughter figures by any means necessary. With Logan existing as an R-rated superhero film (thanks to the success of Deadpool), Wolverine is much more brutal than we have ever seen him before. He’s tired and world-weary. He’s getting too old for this shit. He *snikts* firsts, asks questions later.
With this comes a crisis of character. Was Professor X wrong about Wolverine when he recruited him to the X-Men all those years ago? Is he more than a man fueled by rage and regret? After already having his time as a hero, is there room left for personal redemption? These are all questions Logan must tackle as he embarks on his hellish road trip across America. Jackman plays with this beautifully. Jackman has always portrayed the Wolverine character to near perfection, but with Logan, he reaches insane new heights. This is by far the best job he has ever done with the character (and possibly the best work of his entire career) and by far the best material he has ever had to work with. Logan’s battle with his own personal demons is extremely compelling.
Logan’s personal struggles prove to be the most effective conflict in the entire film. The film’s main villain, Donald Pierce, leaves something to be desired. He’s played well by Holbrook, but after a solid charismatic introduction, the character is essentially sidelined after the first act. But for the most part, it works okay. He acts as more of a plot device to fuel Logan’s personal arc. By the time the film reaches its halfway point, we see Logan facing off against a literal personification of his worst fears, which provides the film with a thematic richness that more than makes up for a lackluster main villain.
Director James Mangold smartly frames this film not with the lens of a big budget superhero film, but that of a western or noir film. The film is a slow burn, relishing in the small and intimate character moments. While the film has a somber and melancholy tone, it only makes the rare moments of sincere and heartfelt hope shine all the brighter.
Not only are the film’s stakes personal, the violence is as well. Gone are the climactic set pieces that have come to define the franchise. The action in Logan is small, brutal, and gruesome. Every kill Logan makes in this film is felt as he violently shreds through men intent on hurting the people he cares about. But it’s not only Logan doing the killing. No, Laura does a fine job at protecting herself when Logan fails to do so. Like Wolverine, she has adamantium claws of her own, and she knows how to use them. Trust me, this girl is a bona fide bad ass. Every time we get to see X-23 whip her claws out, people die, and Keen does a fantastic job selling just how dangerous this little girl is.
Logan has a genuine sense of finality to it that I haven’t felt watching a superhero film since The Dark Knight Rises. It immaculately encapsulates the themes of the franchise and acts as the perfect send off to an iconic character. Logan, by all accounts, serves as the final chapter of the X-Men saga. Yes, we all know Fox is currently planning approximately fifteen different X-men spin-offs, but all roads will eventually lead to Logan. The film feels like it finally closes the book on the franchise, and frankly, I don’t think a more perfect ending could exist.
So long, Logan. It’s been one hell of a ride.