The X-Men cartoon that aired in the 1990’s was a show I absolutely could not miss as a kid, and Wolverine was always among my favorite team members. I loved his dynamic and rivalry with Cyclops (who was usually tied with him for my personal favorite), and how he always came off like a cool badass who still had moments of vulnerability in many episodes. As one of the many people who grew up playing with his action figures, reading his comics and controlling him in the various Capcom fighting games, going to the movies and watching such an adult-skewed interpretation of a childhood staple twenty years later is an interesting experience.
In Logan, Hugh Jackman’s world-weary Wolverine gets a film that not only has a narrower focus than his previous two Fox-produced films, but a journey that feels appropriately climatic for his character. Writer and director James Mangold uses a heavy neo-Western influence, appropriate enough given its setting in a near-future Texas where mutants are gradually becoming extinct.
It’s a clever aesthetic choice that makes the ferocity of the action stand out that much more. But aside from how intense it is, the elements that elevate this newest Wolverine film above his previous two is how much weight its story has, and the increased emphasis on Wolverine’s humanity- and how it conflicts with his animalistic nature.
For me this was the most emotionally stirring X-Men film to date since First Class. The performances of the cast seriously amplify how strong the connections between the characters are, especially Patrick Stewart as a Charles Xavier who suffers from a degenerative disease that causes his psionic powers to cause havoc. As Wolverine runs odd jobs to help him stay properly medicated, the professor constantly pushes his old pupil to become closer with people, and Jackman is entertaining as he stubbornly refuses, but inevitably opens himself up more. His admantium skeleton is slowly poisoning him, and he hasn’t gotten any less cynical with the knowledge that his time is limited. Their chemistry lends a ton of heart to the story, balancing out how dark it can become.
Wolverine’s no more eager to align himself with Donald Pierce, a henchman for a laboratory who specializes in experimenting on mutants. Boyd Holbrook does a good amount of hamming in the role, and he works as a good foil to Jackman in their scenes. Pierce is hunting for a mutant girl named Laura (A.K.A X-23), who has similar abilities and powers as Wolvie. True to his nature, he forms an initially begrudging relationship with her as they and Xavier make their way towards a safe haven for mutant children.
There’s some entertaining but understated comedic moments between them, but it doesn’t interfere with the rough, tough tone of the film or descends into being goofy. Dafne Keen shows considerable confidence and presence as Laura, who is downright scary when she tears who Transigen’s security team like a swiss army knife through butter. During many of these scenes, Marco Beltrani’s score is brooding but sophisticated, and he employs sharp strings at certain periods that make the events occurring more haunting.
If Logan has any real flaws, it might be the length- some scenes go on a bit and felt like padding- and how it’s a little too in love with its R-rating. It made sense for Deadpool to flaunt how adult it was, as that approach suits the irreverent spirit of Wade Wilson. I’m fine with a well done dark or grittier superhero film, and Logan is certainly that. But not only does it has an absurdly large body count and constant gore in vivid detail, Wolverine and the rest of the cast’s swearing is so constant to where it gets a bit silly.
Though that wasn’t too bad an issue to ruin my overall enjoyment how of strong the direction was, the way in which the action was choreographed, and especially the emotion of the story. It really feels like Mangold both wanted to try something different in terms of making a good comic book film- mainly in how stripped down it feels, its separation from the rest of Fox’s X-Men canon and its content- and as a good tribute to the Wolverine franchise in general.
As it stands, I think Logan is the Wolverine character’s defining film, in the same way Superman’s 1978 film represents him, or perhaps in the manner how The Dark Knight means so much to Batman. Your mileage will probably vary on how graphic and excessively adult it can get, and I think there are some pacing issues, but the sheer amount of drama and character development in this film I feel blows his previous two movies away. I enjoyed it for the most part, so I’ll gladly recommend this thrill ride starring the best there is at what he does.