What’s most remarkable about the Wolverine series is just how far it’s come since the first film. To say that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was disappointing would be a gross understatement, but The Wolverine was an improvement, transporting Wolverine to Japan and delving into the character’s comic book roots. Hugh Jackman dons the claws one last time as the titular character in Logan, crafting a story that struggles to live up to its lofty ambitions, but still offers a dark, mature take on the iconic character.
It’s 2029 and the government wiped out all mutants, except for Logan and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The two heroes hideout in Mexico. Charles suffers from a neurodegenerative disorder and dementia while he loses control of his powers. When a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), with powers similar to Logan’s enters their lives, Logan must come out of the shadows one last time to save her from a nefarious group of cyborg mercenaries, the Reavers, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
From the outset, Logan was described by many as an unconventional superhero film, focusing more on character development rather than mindless action. It’s not a superhero film, but a western of sorts. The plot beats rhythmically and characters have a lot in common with the Spaghetti Western subgenre of the 1960s: Logan is the gunslinger with a mysterious past, Laura the girl he tries to protect and Donald Pierce the scenery-chewing villain. The shots of barren deserts and the red and orange color pallet paint a grimy world of lawlessness and decaying morality, reminiscent of Sergio Corbucci’s Django. It’s the most visually dynamic Wolverine film yet and perfectly sets the tone for the story director James Mangold tries to tell.
The film proudly sports its R-rating, with enough graphic violence and gore to make Quentin Tarantino blush. Point-blank shotgun blasts to the head, claws through the face and decapitations are the tip of the iceberg for what the film has in store, and it’s all rendered close-up or in brightly lit set pieces. A couple scenes are more horrifying than some horror movies, which was a welcome surprise in a superhero film.
Jackman doesn’t get much recognition as a serious dramatic actor, but he puts all his effort into his acting in this film. His passion for Logan is reflected in his performance, particularly in the quieter scenes between him and Keen or Stewart. Jackman portrays Logan as a man who life has constantly beat down, a man struggling to find the motivation to fight back one last time. Stewart and Keen are no slouches either, with the latter giving a good performance despite her young age. The majority of her acting involves little to no dialogue and relies purely on facial expressions.
I do also have to address some major problems I have with the film. The villains are poorly and criminally underwritten caricatures: Donald Pierce and the Reavers were never particularly compelling antagonists in the X-Men comics; they’re generic soldiers for hire. The writers could’ve opted for a more compelling villain for this role, like Mister Sinister or another member of the Hellfire Club. That’s not to say Holbrook does a bad job; he’s actually rather charismatic and has some of the best jokes in the film. However, Holbrook cannot even be compared to Ian McKellen’s Magneto. This becomes more of an issue when a mid-film reveal upstages Pierce’s role entirely. From that point on, his character becomes superfluous and never regains traction.
At its core, the film is a road trip, with the motley trio travelling across the country; however, like most road trips, things get monotonous. The glacial pacing of the middle portion of this film teeters on the edge of completely draining the life out of the story.
The film hints at a compelling backstory of how Logan and Charles ended up the way they are and what happened to the other X-Men, but our questions are never answered. It’s frustrating because the dropped hints make it sound like a more interesting story that should’ve been further developed.
For an R-rated superhero film, Logan does what it needs to and then some, even if it sometimes misses the mark. It’s brutal, uncompromising and downright heartbreaking at times, especially if you’ve followed the characters since the beginning of the franchise. It’s not perfect by a long shot, but for Jackman’s last hurrah in this iconic role, he exits on a good note.