Logan (aka Wolverine 3) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
I’ve been watching Hugh Jackman play the iconic role of Wolverine for 17 years, but I’ve never seen him play it this well. I didn’t feel much for the character considering his invulnerable healing ability, but now I can feel his pain, both emotionally and physically. It’s the first time that an X-Men film has been able to hit so many high notes. Attribute it to the hard-R violence or the western flavor added in, but this is one of the most excellent superhero pictures since The Dark Knight as a film that can ascend past its comic book origins and the superhero tropes of the day.
Jackman plays the Wolverine of the near-future in a much different light. No longer cocky and headstrong, he’s become a tired and flustered individual, struggling to scrounge up some cash and cope with a poison that’s coursing through his body for years, slowly killing him. With nearly every mutant wiped off the planet due to the quiet involvement of genetic corrections, he struggles to keep a low profile and take care of the ailing Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a once calm and collected force now babbling in nonsense and prone to seizures that could wipe out city blocks. Their relationship has grown bitter with uncertainty about the future, now arguing and shouting at each other with a weariness they have for a mutant-free world. If it weren’t clear this isn’t the PG-13 X-Men when Patrick Stewart starts cursing up a storm, it’s made crystal clear when Logan starts slicing up criminals with gory results.
But then the mute mutant child Laura (Dafne Keen) stumbles into their lives, and there’s a new sensation in the air. Xavier perks up and finds himself hopeful for his kind, while Logan finds himself reluctant to help her reach her destination. But when a private army of an evil genetics corporation is hunting her down, well, an X-Men doesn’t have much choice. Laura isn’t helpless by any means as she has fought her way out of a lab to Logan and is more than willing to move to North Dakota with him. Her mutant power: Invulnerability and the ability to grow claws from her fists, making her Logan’s daughter. She is far more powerful, however, as she doesn’t have the same crippling disease as her clawed counterpart. She also has claws on her feet which Xavier cleverly explains away as a trait found in the females in nature.
Unlike the other X-Men movies, Logan has both a tone and a story that is refreshing and divergent. Taking place mostly in Texas and North Dakota, it’s a western tale, made abundantly clear by both the insertion and quoting of the classic western Shane. The trio of Logan, Xavier, and Laura set off on a road trip through the dusty plains of middle America, slaughtering their way through the cybernetic bad guys tracking them. Cars are ditched/stolen, drinks are had in bars, and the kindness of strangers help them make it through another night. Their goal is simplistic enough to warrant an adventure and bloody fights; there’s no alien invasion to thwart, no mysterious MacGuffin to obtain and no doomsday device to shut off. There’s also no off-screen kills, plot armor for the heroes or simple moments of quips. It’s about as raw and gritty as an X-Men movie may ever be.
Keeping the story simple allows for the most character out of scenes where the characters are not viciously fighting for their lives. There’s a more natural flow in the way that Logan and Xavier argue about everything from taking medication to using the bathroom. The somber moments become much more potent with the added baggage of having known these characters for so long. When the three mutants take in a night at farm family’s home, Xavier tearfully encourages Logan to treasure the quiet and simple life of a family, a life they have long since been denied. The father/daughter dynamic of Logan and Laura does eventually become a moving element, but only after all the bickering and feuding has adequately been drained from their minds and their claws. For a movie that realizes it’s coming to the end of the road of a long legacy, it does its best to squeeze every bit of character out of it.
Just as detailed and subtle is the near-future setting. There are a few technological enhancements from cybernetic hands to driverless trucks, but no towering skyscrapers or laser rifles, feeling very much like a relatable and reasonable future. The past of the X-Men exists in comic book form as a big middle finger to the past X-Men movies, with Wolverine stating that only a fraction of the material is real. The world about the previous X-Men movies is revealed slowly over time and just when vital to the central story. It’s rather remarkable this film can build up such engrossing lore within a short time with such ease as if we’d already lived the many decades that these characters have experienced.
Logan is some kind of miracle. It’s a superhero picture, a western, a road trip, a father/daughter bond, a tutor/mentor end and still has time to be a savagely brutal action picture. It’s the Wolverine I’ve always wanted to see, past the silly plots of fighting men in robot suits and trying to wedge in as many mutants as possible. Mixing intelligent writing with badass action, it’s the send-off that Hugh Jackman rightfully deserves as the longest-running superhero in cinema. And it’s one hell of a finale that won’t soon be forgotten.