With Logan being Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine, the clawed X-Men antihero with the sweet mutton chops, the actor is going out very much on top.
There’s a distinct lack of tights and an abundance of emotional grit in the excellent adventure (***½ out of four; rated R; in theaters March 3) directed and co-written by James Mangold (The Wolverine). Easily the best Wolverine outing, Logan is The Dark Knight of the mutant-filled X-franchise, a gripping film that transcends the comic-book genre by saying something important — and for Logan, that means coming to grips with needing loved ones in his life.
Set in 2029, the movie catches up with the gruff old man years after he’s hung up the hero mantle and is now a chauffeur in El Paso. He’s not quite the best at what he does anymore, but what he does still isn’t very nice. (Try to steal his tires and you’re likely to get claws buried in your face.)
Logan is caring for his old friend and mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) south of the border when he’s sought out to deliver a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) — who has all of Logan’s superpowers — to a sanctuary for mutants in North Dakota. There are cybernetic Reavers on her tail, led by the malevolent Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), so Logan’s bunch hits the road for a trip involving casinos, convenience-store shenanigans and a lesson in family.
Embracing R-rated violence for the first time allows Jackman’s Logan to unleash more brutality than in any of his previous films. (Fun fact: He and Xavier use some seriously saucy language.) It’s not gratuitous, though, and puts an interesting perspective on the former Wolverine’s older, desperate side. His body is failing him and every unleashing of his animalistic self underscores his growing weakness, alongside a primal nature that continues to want to help people.
Logan is about 20 minutes too long, and a subplot about processed foods, while relevant, feels a smidge heavy-handed. But mostly the movie is brilliantly on point in its influences — the 1953 Western classic Shane plays a key role — and how it ties in to the previous movies without being beholden to them. The film even cleverly brings in actual X-Men comics, which Logan amusingly disdains.
While there’s no shortage of action, Logan is free of the usual superhero trappings, working well as an exploration of age and mortality. Jackman’s character has saved the world multiple times and is now driving around bachelorette party girls. Xavier is the world’s most powerful telepath, but what happens when that guy has a degenerative brain disease? The movie digs into a lot of big questions, though its most winning aspect is the way Logan and Laura, both inherently wary, begin to connect and figure each other out.
Jackman has never been short on machismo, muscles or charisma in this role, and he brings all those to bear, plus a lot of heart, giving the surly icon a sendoff fans won’t soon forget.
By Brian Truitt
Courtesy of USAToday