Long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe revitalized the comic book film industry as the most profitable film genre, Bryan Singer put out the first modern comic book film, X-Men in 2000. Starring Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine/Logan, the then unknown Jackman attained world class stardom along with his costars Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Since 2000, there have been ten installments in the X-Men series that range in tone and subject matter drastically. There have been three sub trilogies within the series along with last year’s Deadpool, yet the latest film Logan completes the Wolverine trilogy. While Logan has been the star of the first trilogy and Days of Future Past, these stories always displayed a canvas of the larger world of mutants including Professor X, Magneto, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Storm, and dozens of others. The Wolverine trilogy has always told smaller scale stories focused on Hugh Jackman’s journey outside of his membership of the X Men. The first Wolverine film, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is almost universally accepted as the worst X Men movie. Hugh Jackman still brought his all to the performance in a script that made very little coherent sense. The second Wolverine film, The Wolverine, brought Logan to Japan where he got entangled with corporate scandals and had to protect an heir to a company from Yakuza. The Wolverine was a far better film than the first one, and Logan’s fish out of water in Japan was a very enjoyable experience. Finally, the third and alleged final appearance of Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine has come with Logan.
Directed by The Wolverine director James Mangold, Logan propels the story into 2029 when most mutants have died out due to a manufactured virus by the Transigen Corporation. Logan’s mutation of his healing factor has kept him alive past the virus, yet the adamantium bonded to his skeleton is slowly poisoning him as his healing factor diminishes. With his X Men days behind him, Logan works as a chauffeur and cares for a senile Charles Xavier, portrayed for the last time by Patrick Stewart who originated the role in 2000 before James McAvoy took the role for the prequel trilogy. Xavier too has lost much of his control over his power of telepathy and is confined to living inside of a protective tank, cared for by mutants Logan and Caliban, surprisingly played quite sternly by The Office creator Stephen Merchant. Rather than going out with a bang, the trio is rather fading out of the world rather quietly as they all succumb to the unnamed virus.
Not everyone has forgotten about mutants, as Logan soon is found by a nurse who pleads for his help to protect a child from Transigen. Soon Transigen too finds Logan, and pressures him to cooperate with them to recapture this child that they have experimented on. Named Laura, she represents the new breed of mutant that is factory raised by Transigen and not given the chance for self-determination. With similar powers to Wolverine of enhanced healing factor and adamantium limb extensions, she soon meets Logan and Professor X much to Logan’s dismay. Soon after Transigen finds the band of mutants as well, and from there Logan, Charles, and Laura must traverse the US Midwest with Transigen forces hot on their tale.
As always, Hugh Jackman brings his all. This rendition of Logan is a much deeper and comprehensive understanding of the character than ever before. Logan’s aging and depressed state lead to a darker movie than ever before. Like last year’s Deadpool, Logan is the second-wide reals R rated film, and it relishes in the rating. Never have we seen Wolverine’s claws literally tear through people with as much depiction of the blood and gore which that would entail. Limbs are a flying, and unlike Deadpool where the violence was put in for comic effect, here it has the full levity and impact that one would want.
Performances from everyone are top notch. Dafne Keen holds her own as the young Laura, and Stephen Merchant truly shines outside of his comedic home in Logan. Patrick Stewart may well be the show stealer as the senile Professor X, bringing to the role a new sense of identity and compassion that we have not seen before from Stewart. Boyd Holbrook even holds his own against Jackman as the head of the Transigen forces perusing the mutants as a relentless villain who channels the motivation of the sinister company while maintain a menacing presence on screen. Logan is not the fun mutant clash that was seen in last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse, nor is it the irritant comedy that Deadpool was despite the R rating. On the R rating, seeing Jackman and Laura cut through their pursuers is a brilliant way to put a character we have known for 17 years in a different setting that completely reinvents our perception on him. The claws do not look cartoonish for a second, nor does the blood that splatters all over the screen.
One of the best parts of Logan is Mangold subtly putting in elements that suggest a very realistic sci-fi future that is not too farfetched. Set in 2029, the landscape is not too unlike the real world, yet components like automated trucking containers on wheels with no drivers, as well as commentary on the corporate farming industry. An entire subplot is a family farmer defending his corn farm from the muscle of a large corn syrup producer that neighbors and shares the water supply, leading to unethical cut offs that are very reminiscent of the Monsanto phenomena to monopolize the market. Even drones are heavily utilized for surveillance, as well as Google Glass like glasses. These subtle elements represent the best of sci-fi: saying something meaningful about modern society while adding in the fantastic sense, yet Logan is not too over the top making it more believable, in an analogous way to the subtle sci-fi elements of Children of Men.
While there are rumors that Jackman may appear in a future Deadpool movie, if this is the last appearance of Hugh as Logan, he has earned this retirement in a film that may well be the best of the genre.