Hamptons fan Hugh Jackman’s latest and final turn as Wolverine, Logan, lets audiences know right away that this is a grown up film and a decidedly darker turn for the already troubled X-Men character. The very first word uttered in the movie is “f_ck,” and what follows is an utterly brutal two hours and 20 minutes of blood-soaked action peppered with a fistful of raw and very human moments—not necessarily what we’ve come to expect from our favorite onscreen mutants.
And while the crepuscular tone and viciously graphic violence cannot be understated, it’s the small shafts of light breaking through that elevate Logan to something greater than Jackman’s eight previous appearances as the clawed Canadian.
The film is set in the bleak near future of 2029. No mutant has been born in 25 years, and the few who remain are essentially in tatters. Now using James Howlett, his birth name, Wolverine is no exception. Mirroring the world he inhabits, our hero is a faded and broken version of his former self—his healing factor has slowed, he’s suicidal and drowning in booze and pills. And instead of cage fighting or saving the world with his long-dead X-Men brethren, he’s driving a limousine and earning just enough to care of his invalid, nonagenarian mentor Charles Xavier, aka Professor X (played wonderfully by Patrick Stewart), in a dingy, rusted desert hideout on the Mexican border.
Unlike Steve McNiven’s dystopian Old Man Logan comic book which provided some inspiration for the film—though not nearly as much as fans initially anticipated—Wolverine is still popping his claws and fighting, when necessary. But he’s no longer the unstoppable bundle of sinewy muscle, razor-sharp adamantium and unfettered rage.
Moments after he drops the first of the film’s many F-bombs, this graying, fully bearded Wolverine is nearly defeated in a scuffle with some run-of-the-mill cholos. SPOILER ALERT (not really): He prevails, but it’s messy—his claws aren’t functioning properly, his wounds don’t heal quickly and his moves are closer to a drunken barroom brawler than a skilled warrior.
Logan (as friends still call him) is a man with almost no hope aside from a dream of getting on a boat with Charles and escaping it all. But everything changes when he meets a 10-year-old mutant girl whose powers are remarkably similar to his own. As it turns out, Wolverine is no longer the best at what he does, but what he does still ain’t pretty.
The girl, Laura (X-23 to comic fans), played by Dafne Keen, leads Logan and Charles on a cross-country road trip to what she believes is the planet’s last holdout for mutantkind, but nothing is ever easy in Wolverine’s world.
With the cybernetically enhanced Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his likewise enhanced Reavers—a group of X-Men villains well known to comic fans—in tow, Logan, Charles and Laura make for greener pastures. And the closer they get to this possibly apocryphal mutant Eden, the closer Logan, grudgingly, comes to the redemption he so badly needs.
With Logan, director James Mangold makes bold choices and holds fast to an uncompromising vision throughout the film, never giving in to the costume-clad tropes of past superhero fare. He even opted to eschew Marvel’s post-credits scene trend in favor of leaving audiences to feel the weight of what they just experienced without some final distraction.
Thanks to the success of 20th Century Fox’s first R-rated X-themed romp, Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool (2016), it’s clear the old rules no longer apply. Mangold, who directed Jackman’s last Wolverine film, The Wolverine (2013), had his shackles removed for Logan, and the movie is so much better for it. This is a ride that will have you laughing, crying, cringing and groaning out loud more than once. It’s also something meaningful and poetic that lingers long after those final credits fade to quiet, contemplative black.