Hugh Jackman first appeared as Wolverine in 2000’s X-Men. Prior to that his most notable roll was in Paperback Hero where he played a “handsome roadtrain driver with a secret”, but since then he’s transformed himself into a feral killing machine and everyone’s favourite high-functioning alcoholic since their Grandad. So here we are 17 years later and give or take some grey hairs and huge biceps and we’ve arrived at the final stop in Jackman’s storied run as Logan, where we might finally discover if immortals are susceptible to kidney failure. So liquor up bubs and prepare yourselves for what is sure to be the most heart-warming road trip movie since Are We There Yet?.
We open in the year 2029 where we discover two tragedies, mutants are all but extinct and Wolverine is now a limousine driver. After the film flashes its swanky new R-rating with some tits and a bit of murder we are introduced to Logan’s current living conditions. Essentially his life amounts to caring for an ailing Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier and keeping him drugged up in the hopes that his decaying brain doesn’t accidentally kill everyone in the world. After some shenanigans Logan and Xavier in the custody of the mysterious young mutant Laura, portrayed by Dafne Keen, while trying to escape from a group of cybernetic baddies who are awfully interested in the little girl.
Much unlike the previous films of its franchise, which were largely set-piece films with littered with interpersonal moments, this picture runs on tobacco and character. It’s frankly a shame that genre actors rarely receive award recognition for their work as Logan contains some of the most raw human moments you’ll likely see all year. Jackman and Stewart showcase the culmination of seven years of work, delivering everything from withering sadness to trembling rage. Equally impressive is the versatility of the young Keen, displaying a wide range from gnashing murder-gremlin to wounded child all the while portraying the sort of character that writers and filmmakers so often botch completely: a kid. Together the three form trinity of disparate generations and personalities merging bubbling chemistry with some powerful characterisation.
These relationships form the core of the film and are what make it so special. All characters are in their one way broken and find solace in the companionship of each other. Stewart is poignantly hilarious as the slightly senile Professor X, providing much welcome levity in his musings, complaints and occasional swearing (thanks r-rating!) but the true heart of the film is in the dynamic between Logan and Laura. The film nails Logan’s growing resentment for his own attachment to the young girl who yearns for a parental figure despite her vicious upbringing. This type of arc is incredibly difficult to get right but their relationship is a perfect progression from burden to ward, barring a slight stumble a little before the end where the film takes an unexpected detour that promises to be interesting but ultimately leeches attention away from the key dynamics. Luckily the film rights itself not soon after to deliver an ending so thematically perfect it justifies the fact we had to wait so long for a good solo Wolverine film.
And where this one succeeds where the others failed is in robust script which treats both the audience and the characters with a deserved respect. A loose adaptation of the much beloved Old Man Logan comic arc, the film has a deep understanding of the underlying relationships between the principal characters as they effortlessly bounce off of each other. Though, like our surly protagonist, it’s a little rough around the edges.
While our leads are spectacular in both character and performances, the supporting cast is markedly less so. Stephen Merchant is amusing as the entirely superfluous Caliban and is promptly given nothing interesting or important to do and hangs around aimlessly. A little rescripting to give his character some purpose or have him serve as little other than a walking plot device for a little bit might have been nice, but he’s nowhere near as egregious as Boyd Holbrook’s cyborg Mercenary Donald Pierce. The ostensible villain of the film in that he acts as the face of the evil organisation and while he has the beginnings of what might have been an interesting character, he is ultimately squandered. The character is given drops of personality near the beginning and even given a modicum of screen time to suggest perhaps he has an arc of purpose in this film but ultimately it amounts to nothing but a disappointing end for something that began with much potential.
But maybe you’re not interested in the pros and cons of characterisation and arc. Perhaps the reason you payed your good money is because this Wolverine is the one where he finally gets to chop people up! Well if that’s what you’re after you’ll be well looked after. In fact the violence is so extreme at times it makes you question whether this man decapitating people is really the good guy, which is NOT what I would have expected and I applaud the filmmakers for having the nerve to show us the full violent extent of Wolverine’s powers. And if, like myself, you’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for an R-rated Wolverine film, well your patience is rewarded in ways you cannot understand until you see for yourself.
Logan is the greatest of any of the X-Men franchise, yet also manages to be the greatest send-off for a pop culture icon. Batman got nuked but then he didn’t, Spider-man either went emo or fought a cgi plasma globe man depending on which film, and Superman… let’s not even speak about BVS. Logan is incredible in so many areas, but it’s true strength is something no superhero franchise in recent memory has been able to do: end. An incredible last outing for a beloved character, and if you are in any way invested in this journey it is not to be missed.