Everything ends. A philosophy that many movie studios should probably take seriously. No other series could probably heed this advice more than the X-Men franchise that has been in existence for nearly twenty years. After ten films in the X-Men franchise, the Bryan Singer-verse that 20th Century Fox has been dragging out definitely feels like it needs to stop. Especially when Hugh Jackman has been in every single one of them as James “Wolverine” Howlett – or Logan in this titular case. Logan is attempting to give closure to the most popular character in the entire franchise, serving as an ending for both the X-Men films overall and the Wolverine spin-off trilogy. The latter is a harder task to take on, given it started with one of the worst superhero films of all time X-Men Origins: Wolverine and continued with the solid yet disappointingly wrapped up The Wolverine. Yet, The Wolverine director James Mangold somehow managed pull off an emotionally engaging, brutal send off to the clawed mutant. One that removes world ending stakes and keeps things far more intimate.
That intimacy is all for the better. We see a Logan without the vanity of extensive work outs and ballet-level fight choreography. He’s now a man without purpose beyond keeping his friend/father figure Professor Charles Xavier together as his super powered brain suffers from an unspecified degenerative brain disease. The interaction between Jackman and Patrick Stewart here is powerful, showing their mutual love yet constant bickering as a tear jerking extrapolation of their crumbling lives. There’s guilt and regret on both sides, but Xavier’s endless optimistic hope that lingers from his professorial days counters so well against Wolverine’s embittered hero. The latter’s more pessimistic viewpoint is one that’s hard to argue with. Mangold and the production designers do a fantastic job of selling bleak near-future of the heroes we’ve grown to love. The destruction on Wolverine’s limo, the decrepit clutter all around their hideout. Even the use of Caliban (played with solid nuance by Stephen Merchant) – a mutant who hides from the outside world due to an albino-style skin gene – serves as further layering for Wolverine’s escape from having any kind of a life. The self-seclusion that comes from decades of having people around him die, leaving him a husk of a person who has to fight against the image of his peak superhero image on both a figurative and quite literal level.
So, the unexpected entrance of young Laura as a true potential beacon of a future for the dying mutant race is a welcome conflict. Logan would obviously doubt the idea of any continuation of the X-Men legacy, given that he’s lost so many people. This seed of potential growth can’t flourish in a world Wolverine believes is salted, while Laura has hope based on the image of the X-Men as immortalized through in-universe comic book retellings of their adventures. Both are shuttered off from the world outside, but approach this road trip towards prospective hope conflicts in a believable fashion. It helps that newcomer Dafne Keen is an incredible find for Laura. Her striking features contrast with Jackman’s square jaw on a pure visual level, allowing believable tension to spring forth once she unleashes her own claws. It translates past Keen’s mostly mute performance, allowing her expressive brow and intense body language to say everything she can’t literally exposit. The lack of guff taken shows a young girl who’s gone through so much in her short life, who knows that there’s enough cruelty out there that she can’t get caught up in while pursuing her ultimate goal, even from Logan himself.
Of course, the huge draw with Logan is the R-rating. After a decade and a half of seeing Wolverine tear through people in bloodless action scene after bloodless action scene, we finally get to see the gore and violence that would obviously be needed for a dude with knives that come out of his hands. Right from the top, we get Jackman chopping off limbs and skewering faces left and right. The thrill and shock from this immediately starts the film off on a brutal gut punch that hooks one in. Yet, the violence isn’t really glorified. It’s brutal, unflinching and shows off the effect that it has on these people. Both Laura and Logan brutally destroy so many people, but the regret and emotional weight that’s there shows off in the gore. Probably the most powerful use of gore is early on when Wolverine pushes bullets out of his chest. It shows off the actual consequence of the life Wolverine leads, slashing first and asking questions never. Jackman’s tired stance and Mangold’s scrappy direction show off a use of violence that haunts on a physical and mental level, without much romance to how much he eviscerates people. Still… it’s pretty cool to see.
The few problems with Logan are few and far between. The larger one stems from the background on Laura’s history, particularly with the exposition heavy villain (played with a lack of investment by Richard E. Grant). Every time Grant takes the screen – which isn’t often – are the only times the extensive running time on Logan feels laging. It’s odd with how much it contrasts with the more toadie villains that fight directly against Wolverine, like Boyd Holbrook as a southern cyborg with menace & charm and a particularly familiar brute that I won’t spoil. Grant just feels like a more familiar comic book style villain without much nuance, especially for a film as intriguingly layered as this one. Yet, that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Other comic book elements are taken and twisted wonderfully here for the sake of this more wester Man-With-No-Name themed solo story. Even with the rather special effects heavy climax, Logan keeps the perspective firmly rooted in the character dynamics. It’s the perfect antidote to last year’s mutant borefest of a retread X-Men Apocalypse. Full of daring chances and actual care for its characters, Logan narrows the scope and heightens the emotional resonance as a result. It’s something any superhero franchise could learn from especially any future X-Men ones. There’s no need to keep going off of this Bryan Singer universe… unless Jackman wants to make a cameo in Deadpool 2. Then maybe.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Severed Bloody Limbs
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