“Logan” is the first X-Men film to fully reach the depths of tragedy the other films of the series have striven for.
As a franchise, the X-Men series ranges from excellent, like “X2” and “Days of Future Past,” to the kind of tripe that makes you want to gouge your eyes out in the vain hope you’ll never have to see something that awful again, like “X-Men: The Last Stand.” The standalone Wolverine films have generally fallen a little lower on my excellence scale, with “The Wolverine” being decent and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” being one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life.
But I’m happy to report that “Logan” easily tops its mediocre predecessors.
“Logan” begins with the titular James “Logan” Howlett (Hugh Jackman), the Wolverine, making a living as a limo driver in the year 2029. Mutants are nearly extinct, with none having been born in 25 years. Logan struggles to care for an ailing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, which causes Xavier’s telepathic abilities to dangerously spiral out of control.
While working, Logan is approached by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the cybernetically-enhanced chief of security for the Transigen research facility. He is looking for a little girl and wants Logan’s help to find her. Logan turns him down but is later found by Transigen nurse Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and Laura (Dafne Keen), a mutant child illegally bred by the research facility. When Logan’s hiding place in Mexico is attacked by Transigen operatives, he reluctantly agrees to transport Laura to Eden, a supposed haven for mutants in North Dakota.
“Logan” has gained plenty of notoriety because it is supposedly Jackman’s last portrayal of Wolverine after 17 years and nine films. It is also the first Wolverine movie to be rated R. Director James Mangold takes advantage of the rating by adding the graphic violence fanboys have been begging for for years. But while the film always looks good, the violence felt over the top, as though it were added to the film just because it could be, not because it was necessary to the story.
The cinematography looks excellent, especially in the action sequences. Rather than cutting from one short burst of action to the next, as in many modern action films, cinematographer John Mathieson allows the fight and chase sequences to play out more naturally, keeping the camera back a little so viewers can see what’s happening.
Jackman plays Logan as perfectly as he has for the past 17 years. Fans of Wolverine and X-Men in general will likely shed a tear over his final performance as the beloved character, as well they should.
Keen is also impressive as Laura. I’ve never seen an 11-year-old perform in an action film so naturally before. She runs, jumps and screams so easily you’d think she does this all day. She’s also able to hold her own alongside Jackman and Stewart, which would be difficult for even a seasoned actor. Considering that “Logan” is Keen’s first film, her work becomes even more incredible.
The story is much more subdued than any of the other X-Men films, so viewers may get a little antsy. The slow pacing mostly works, though I wish that the story had taken off a little quicker, especially with it being the last Wolverine film.
Overall, “Logan” sticks the landing almost perfectly and stands as a testament of Jackman’s embodiment of the character. Saying goodbye to such an iconic character was a little heartbreaking, but Mangold brings the Wolverine’s arc to a satisfying conclusion. Is “Logan” a flawless film? No, but being able to see Jackson’s deeply moving performance is worth each slower moment.
And of course, many viewers will be left wishing for Jackman to break his word and come back again. My fingers are crossed, too.