Since the debut of the X-Men on the big screen as adapted from their Marvel Comic counterparts, there has been one ageless constant that has remained at the center of the franchise throughout the different storylines, directions and decades spanning ensembles – Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine. For 17 years and across films and timelines, Jackman’s Wolverine has been the glue, keeping a convoluted universe together by the tips of his razor sharp adamantium claws, making sure he kills those who deserve it along the way. But the training and nutritional discipline can only go one for so long before the burnout comes – Logan brings an end to a legacy forged over 17 years.
Set in the year 2029, mutants have become an extinct species for the past 25 years when co-writer-director James Mangold reintroduces us to Logan (Hugh Jackman). But this isn’t the same Logan we’ve come to know, adore and respect over the years – Logan’s famed healing factor has been failing which has sped up Logan’s aging. His claws ache when they come out, sometimes not even fully leaving the mutant to pull them out creating more pain for Logan to endure. Jackman’s physique is still there, looking as ripped as ever, however there are just more scars, bullet holes and bruises that are taking their time to heal properly.
Logan, who goes by James Howlett when we meet him again has become a limo driver in Texas near the border of Mexico. His claws rarely come out but when they do, limbs are cut through like butter and thanks to the R rating, the blood and gore flows from every cut and stab wound that’s inflicted on the nameless bad guys who get in Logan’s way. When he’s not driving a limo and earning money for an escape from humanity, Logan cares for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) suffering from dementia along with another mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant).
The story gets its legs underneath it when Logan is begged to transport a woman and former nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and mutant refugee Laura (Dafne Keen) to the American Canadian border for a safe haven known as Eden. Of course, this being a Wolverine centric film, not everything goes smoothly for Logan and those in his care. Nor is the job he reluctantly accepts so cut and dry. Mangold and co-writers Scott Frank and Michael Green give Logan a wide range of emotions and layers of depth to it that not a lot of films in the genre are given to fully explore.
For as long as Jackman has been playing Wolverine, the rabid character has been tamed by a more family friendly rating but with Logan, all bets are off, Wolverine is finally unleashed. The ferocity and rage you would expect to see from the adamantium claws is put on full display by Mangold as scenes are bathed in blood and limbs fly through the air in multiples at a time. And still with every bullet that gets shot at Logan or every blunt object that gets swung at him, the bad guys never relent. Strength in numbers I guess but when Laura is revealed to be a mutant to Logan, the odds begin to shift more to Logan’s favor and his instincts begin to shift; though on the run in an endless game of cat and mouse by the villains called the Reavers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
In his final turn playing Logan, Jackman is at his best in his portrayal. Intimate, personal, vicious and brutal fill every frame that cinematographer John Mathieson sets up and Mangold directs. Logan quickly becomes a love letter to Jackman’s legacy in the role and the character that is more than the gruff loner he displays to the world in which he resides in.
3 hour workouts and 6 meals per day can only last so long before the body and mind begin to get tired of the routine.
Though this is Jackman’s swan song, his walking into the sunset and best performance over the course of these extraordinary 17 years, newcomer Dafne Keen becomes an instant favorite, often pulling the rug out from under Jackman whenever the two share the screen together. Keen is a complete natural in the role, taking the emotional burden off of Jackman’s brute shoulders from time to time that signals a passing of the torch to a new generation. And out of the 137 minute runtime, Keen does most of her acting without saying a line of dialogue or speaking in a different language that Logan understands – her facial and body expressions do the talking (along with the claws that protrude from her knuckles and feet).
Keen matches Jackman’s high intensity and energy bar for bar and the experience only benefits from it.
Mangold with his direction pays homage to the character through its brutality and unflinching and engaging action. Every death is individualized and personal, saving the more poignant ones for last, leaving no dry eyes from whoever watches. Action that never becomes repetitive in its abundance but lets the more mature tones take control of the wheel. Within every action sequence comes an emotional purpose and payoff driving the characters for the unrelenting violence, at least the heroes. The reavers, Donald Pierce and their boss Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) just exist to cause chaos for Logan and Laura on their tumultuous journey north.
It’s not about them so when Logan and Laura get their claws out, each death ends with complete satisfaction.
Very few actors are meant to play a particular character, but Jackman is at the top of the list when Wolverine is mentioned, the two have become synonymous. Same goes for Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier and it’s their bond and relationship built over that same span of 17 years that commands the attention from us all. Over that same span of time we have seen the character of Logan grow from a loner fighting in cages In Canada, to becoming a part of a team, accepting a family and finally subverting the expectations of who he’s supposed to be or experimented on to be. Through the characters exceptional growth comes a significant, landscape altering change for the genre. Logan is full of heart, honor and respect for a generational pairing of actor and character for a genre that rarely goes beyond skin deep.
Story By: James Mangold
Screenplay By: Scott Frank, Michael Green & James Mangold
Directed By: James Mangold
Music By: Marco Beltrami
Cinematography: John Mathieson
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen
Where to Watch: Disney Plus
Edited By: Dirk Westervelt & Michael McCusker
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Running Time: 2 Hours 17 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%
Based On: Wolverine by Roy Thomas, Len Wein & John Romita Sr.