The X-Men franchise has been one of the most perplexing properties of the last 18 or so years in genre film making. They have attracted talent and made stars. They have alienated fanbases and confused audiences. They have rebooted, soft rebooted and botched continuity. You would think a studio like FOX could understand the value of a cohesive and balanced franchise, especially in a post Marvel Cinematic Universe world. But alas, the X-MEN film franchise is a “never know what you're going to get” every time you sit down in the theatre. Through all of that one thing has remained constant and at the forefront throughout, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.
In 2000 nobody had heard his name before. Jackman was a stage actor in Australia, who stepped into the role of a lifetime due to scheduling conflicts with Doughy Scott who was initially cast as Logan. Destiny extended her hand to Jackman, and here we are 17 years later saying goodbye to him in the role he defined.
Logan is a film that not only wraps up this iteration of the Canadian X-Man, but also the portrayal of Dr. Charles Xavier by Sir Patrick Stewart. If Jackman was the one we never knew we were going to get, Stewart was the one we always wanted. His name was always the only one on the list when it came to the father of the X-Men. Though it could have been any actor with a follicle challenged hairline, I believe it has more to do with his capability than his physical appearance. Stewart is Professor Charles Xavier.
Just as X-Men gave us Hugh Jackman, Logan has given us Dafne Keen. The young miss Keen was absolutely brilliant as Laura. Forget the fighting and choreography. Just her stares will cut you in half. Her dialogue is minimal in the film, but she steals every scene she is in and I really hope to see her again in the role. To see an actor so fresh in her career bring in a performance like she did is impressive. I hope the best for her in her future endeavors and film roles.
Logan opens up with our hero in a bit of trouble with local gangbangers. He is making money as a limo driver. While taking a much deeded nap, he is interrupted by the aforementioned troublemakers. He is reluctant and offers warning. Then he does what we have been waiting for 17 years. He opens the bad guys up. Literally. Logan does not pull any punches with the violence. It puts claws on the ends and lets the blood flow and appendages fall. This film is violent. Though not gratuitous, it is necessary and almost impossible to stop if you think it was too much. Logan is a freight train when he gets moving, and you do not want to be in his way. This is so satisfying but at the same time, it feels almost like it is too late in this incarnation of the character.
I am not quite sure if it is a shame that we never got what we wanted in earlier X-Men films. Would we be numb by now? Or is this our poetic justice for Wolverine on film? I remember being disappointed by 2013s The Wolverine where our hero is stopped in his tracks by a multitude of ninja. I was waiting for him to unleash on them. I wanted to see the "berserker mode" Wolverine fans have clamored for, only to be disappointed in his defeat. The audience and fans have finally earned what we have waited to see.
Back to the story, Logan is obtaining medicine needed to help keep the ailing professor from going into mental breakdowns that cause his sickened mind to send uncontrollable convulsions to people within an undetermined radius. These breakdowns have killed X-men and others in the past and he needs to be treated to keep another occurrence from happening. At one point in the film, one of these attacks take down a good portion of a city. Charles is held in a modified and makeshift chamber on the outskirts of a desert hideaway. There, Logan is assisted by the mutant Caliban, who can track other mutants. This time he is portrayed by Stephen Merchant, who is quite fantastic to be honest. I liked the dynamic between him Logan and Charles very much. The film does a good job establishing their past and current living situation really well. You can almost tell the stories yourself, which is a good thing. Through altercation, Caliban is captured and Logan, Charles and their new friend Laura hit the road.
Logan is pursued throughout the movie by Boyd Holbrook's Pierce, who wants Professor X’s brain out of the way and Laura. Pierce is evil enough and you want Logan to one up him, he just does not have any gravitas and he will not be making your top 10 lists of villains anytime soon. He does serve his purpose well in the plot though. This is Logan’s story, but a stronger villain could have been more satisfying. They try to give an emotional connection with Richard E. Grant's Zander Rice, but it was like using tape where we needed a steel chain.
I won’t write too much of the plot and some of the reveals, though you can see some of them coming a mile away. At one point Logan, Charles and Laura meet up with a family and you get to see some great moments between Logan and Charles. There is a scene here that is absolutely beautiful and I feel they ruined a perfect send off with the introduction of a plot device that just had no pay off. Then they did it again later on. Again without giving anything away, I think that the film could have avoided this and had a more satisfying villain with Pierce.
As Logan, Charles and Laura travel to the mutant safe haven Eden, there is some backstory revealed on who Laura is and what she means to Logan. We learn that there also X-Men comics that exist and Logan is not particularly fond of them. They romanticize the very things he has encountered, and the film makes a very meta commentary on why they don’t go the comic book route on costumes and some choices that have been made in past films. Namely continuity and character choices.
It is no secret that this is Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine. I think he has been fantastic in the role, in every film. Even when it has been a weak X-Men film he has been a great Wolverine. His goodbye in this film is appropriate and beautiful. There is a point at the end where I was not sure if something would happen. When it actually did, I found it more poignant than I initially thought. It has been done before in films. Most recently in last years X-men Age of Apocalypse. But here it marked the end better than words. A character does something and I think it is brought on by their worldview of who Wolverine is. He was a hero, but most importantly he represented them. He was an X-Men.
In closing, Logan is a great film. It is satisfying and makes your mourn that this is the last one for now. Probably the best of the Wolverine/ X-men films we have received since 2000. My issues are minor, and that just may be my expectations over quality. James Mangold has given us a definitive Wolverine tale. It feels like a modern western. It has gorgeous tones and natural grit. When you leave the theater, you may catching yourself dusting off your pants.
When the inevitable happens and the powers that be will recast. Wolverine is too hot a commodity to never return. I suggest he sits out for a good 5 years.
For a few reasons.
Let us miss him.
Let us want him back so much that we don’t care that it is not Jackman returning. Then give us something different. This is the most human take on the character we have seen. It would be good to see the tiger striped costume wearing version of the character. Maybe somebody who takes the backseat a little bit more.
In my dreams, it would be amazing if the next time he appears he can be apart of the overall Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not sure that is possible in my lifetime, but I think Wolverine deserves to be with his 9 panel brethren one day. Wolverine transcends the X-Men. He grew up there, but he is bigger than them as a whole. Hence, why he is at the center of every film.