Hugh Jackman has stated that the new Wolverine stand-alone film, ‘Logan,’ will be the final time he portrays the character. It is only fitting that he does so as X-Men comic book movies produced by 20th Century Fox have entered the ‘baroque’ phase of genre evolution, when an art form transcends the confines of its’ previously established structure. Last winter’s ‘Deadpool’ and now ‘Logan,’ both hard R-rated films, skewer and explore (respectively) the tropes set-up by the films that came before them. Where ‘Deadpool,’ and star Ryan Reynolds poked acerbic fun at the X-Men franchise, ‘Logan’ takes a mythical, legend-building approach to its’ subject.
The original ‘X-Men’ movie, released in the year 2000, ushered in the current age of super-hero blockbuster entertainment and introduced audiences to Jackman as Wolverine/Logan, the gruff, aggro loner who realizes the importance of family and team. He held onto the role for 17 years in films of wildly varying quality, ranging from the incoherent jumble of ideas in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine,’ to becoming a time-displaced force of change in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ arguably the best film in the series to this point. ‘Logan’ deposits him in a film noir / neo-western / road trip movie where he has to transport a feral, mute, mini-me (introducing Dafne Keen in a physically arresting performance) and a nonagenarian Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart also reprising his iconic role) suffering from dementia (yes, it’s as scary as it sounds – the most powerful mutant mind has lost functional control) from the Unitied States’ southern border to its’ northern one. Their journey takes them through a hardened landscape of the near future (it’s 2029 and things have taken an economic turn for the worse) where mutants are near extinct and the X-Men’s past exploits have been relegated to exaggerated comic book adaptations.
Director James Mangold doubles down on the mature, melancholic, lonely vibe he set up with ‘The Wolverine,’ a film that saw a figurative ronin samurai Logan literally adventuring in Japan, although there is more of an air of desperation here. It’s certainly a violent kick to see a no holds barred depiction of claws unleashed on limbs and skewered heads. The action sequences with he and his pre-teen female clone X-23 playing off each other are excitingly, viscerally staged, unlike anything audiences have seen in previous movies with PG-13 restrictions. Jackman and Stewart flourish in the liberating adult environment created, dropping f-bombs and riffing off each other as only old friends can (this particular movie would not work with different actors, thereby losing the history). ‘Logan’ can be a dour affair that could have used some cuts to its’ bloated runtime, but overall its’ sweet spots, Logan’s obvious affection in his care of the only father figure he’s ever known, and the protective love that grows for his genetic ‘daughter,’ elevate the material to a fitting send-off for these characters, ultimately ushering them on a path of redemption, into the annals of myth for the next generation . . .
Directed By: James Mangold
Written By: James Mangold, Scott Frank, & Michael Green
Running Time: 137 min.
* * * (out of 4 stars) -OR- B