It’s hard to believe it’s been close to 20 years since the original “X-Men” was released in theaters, and now, we’ve reached the end of an era with “Logan,” Hugh Jackman’s final performance as Wolverine, the role that made him a star.
Although Wolverine has had solo films before (to varying degrees of success), fans have long been asking for a gritty, violent, and R-rated take on the character. “Logan” certainly delivers. The film easily earns its R rating in just the opening moments, when Logan dispatches a gang of thugs who mess with his car.
The year is 2029, and Logan is currently working as a limo driver and has very clearly hit rock bottom. While he can still summon claws from his knuckles, his ability to heal isn’t as effective and the mutant who once seemed invincible is slowly dying. The outlook for mutant-kind as a whole isn’t bright, either, and they are close to going extinct. Almost everyone Logan cared for is dead and gone, except for Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose neurodegenerative disease causes his mutant abilities to go haywire and harm those around him.
Wolverine just wants to stay off the grid and ignore the world; however, he crosses paths with a mutant girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who has powers like his and is on the run from evil forces who want to harness those powers. Although Logan is great at putting up a tough exterior and pretending he doesn’t care, we know from the X-Men franchise that he cares far more deeply than he lets on. He decides to help Laura escape from danger, no matter how much it ends up costing him in the end.
“Logan” has a very different feel from the other films in the X-Men franchise, at times seeming more like a modern-day Western than a superhero movie. Hugh Jackman always gives 100 percent as this character, but his final performance as Logan may be his best. The Wolverine in this film is grizzled, worn out, and broken, and his better instincts have been buried deep inside him. One of the things I have always appreciated about Jackman is how well he captures the darker aspects of this character, despite the fact that Jackman appears to be such a friendly, charming person in real life. Perhaps that’s also what helps Jackman capture Logan’s heart. I’ve heard rumors Jackman took a pay cut to allow this movie to be made the way it was; that just shows the depth of his commitment to the character.
I suppose one could argue the story’s basic narrative isn’t groundbreaking; the reluctant father figure and misunderstood child on the run are archetypes we’ve seen before. However, “Logan” never feels less than authentic, and the movie’s strength lies with its three leading actors: Jackman, Keen, and Stewart. Keen handles a very intense role well for her young age, and Stewart gives a heartbreakingly poignant performance as an aging Professor X. There aren’t really a great deal of special effects to talk about, which is a bit unusual for a superhero film. However, too much CGI would have taken away from the grittier, more realistic tone.
Before I saw this movie, I had wondered if it really would be the end of the Wolverine character. Without giving away too many spoilers, I will say that the character’s story definitely does end; the movie’s conclusion is sad and poignant — and final. We may see Wolverine pop up in cameo roles (please, please, please be in “Deadpool 2”!) but Wolverine’s forward-moving journey has clearly come to an end. I admire the director, who was willing to end such an iconic character’s film legacy on an uncertain and tragic note. But the movie is better for it, and even if Jackman never suits up as Wolverine again, even for a cameo, I think he can be proud of the legacy he left.