8.5 out of 10
Hugh Jackman as Logan / Wolverine
Directed by James Mangold
With violence befitting a character with a bunch of knives sticking out of his fists, Logan finally delivers the R-rated action adult fans have been wanting. But it also features landmark performances by Jackman and Stewart showing superheroes in their greatest internal and external battles in the twilight of their lives.
In the year 2029, mutants are all but extinct. Those that have not died off have been hunted down by Donald Pierce and the Reavers. One of the few survivors is Logan, but he’s not the man he used to be. His healing powers are failing, he’s beginning to age rapidly, and he’s laying low in El Paso, Texas as a limousine driver. Hiding along with him are Caliban and Charles Xavier. Unfortunately, Xavier is beginning to lose his greatest strength – his mind. Plagued by dementia, Logan and Caliban must keep his telepathic powers under control by heavily medicating him.
Amid this dark and depressing future, something unexpected arrives. A woman tracks down Logan and begs him to take a young girl named Laura to safety in North Dakota. A shadow of the hero he used to be, Logan refuses. However, he soon discovers that Laura is being hunted down by Pierce and the Reavers, and they will stop at nothing to capture her dead or alive.
Logan soon finds himself faced with the choice of becoming the hero he once was or fading off into the sunset.
Logan is rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity.
Adult fans of Wolverine have long wanted to see an R-rated version of the character in action. When I got to visit the set of The Wolverine years ago, I asked Hugh Jackman about that. While he was keen to do an R-rated movie, he was also keen to make a movie that as many Wolverine fans as possible could see and didn’t want them excluded due to the rating. But he’s finally given the adult fans their wish and they’re going to be happy. For a character with six knives coming out of his fists, it’s always been a bit ironic that we didn’t see more blood. Logan makes up for about six movies of near bloodless violence all in one go. In the opening scene, we’re treated to Wolverine cutting off limbs, impaling skulls, and more. They kill bad guys with Logan’s claws in almost every way imaginable. It’s almost a Freddy Krueger level of violence, but it’s appropriate for the character and the tone of this film. The R rating also allows Logan and Xavier to drop the F-bomb as many times as they want and one of the limo passengers to flash her breasts, but it’s irrelevant compared to finally letting Wolverine be the violent character he’s designed to be. We thought we had seen him unleashed in the previous films. It was nothing compared to this.
As an X-Men comics fan, it’s been cool to see every one of the films have a different tone. The first X-Men is different from X-Men: First Class, which is different from The Wolverine. It’s like hopping from Stan Lee’s comics to Chris Claremont’s comics to Jim Lee’s comics and so on. Logan is such a wildly different film from the rest, it’s a refreshing change of pace. It’s part-Western, part-road trip movie, part-superhero movie, and part-futuristic movie. It’s a strange blend, but it works. The overall film is darker, grittier, and bleaker. It also lacks the flashy, big, effects-filled finale. It’s more intimate, but that allows the spotlight just to be on Logan, Xavier, and Laura and it ultimately makes you care for them more.
Another unique aspect of Logan is that it shows comic book heroes in their twilight. Most films focus on the characters in their origin or their prime. This story features them at their lowest and their weakest. Wolverine can barely heal much less read his cell phone without needing glasses. Charles Xavier is in full dementia, needs Logan to help him use the bathroom, and floats in and out of lucidity. It’s a bold choice for the film to show these superheroes as human. I doubt we’ll ever see Captain America using a walker or Tony Stark putting on Depends (OK, I don’t want to see that). Yet amid seeing the characters suffering from their bodies breaking down, there’s still hope. And they find that hope in family and the future.
And that future is Laura / X-23, played by Dafne Keen. The young actress doesn’t even have a line of dialogue for most of the film, but she makes a jaw-dropping impact early in the story. The trailers and commercials show that she is a mutant with claws like Wolverine, so I’m not spoiling anything. But when she goes into action – wow. We see all of these big, brutal, well-armed mercenaries backing away from Laura in fear. Director James Mangold goes all-in and earns that fear by showing her in full action. It ends up being one of the best action sequences of the film as the pint-sized mutant tears apart the bad guys. This could have easily looked stupid, but they pull it off in magnificent fashion. But it’s not all action with Laura. Dafne Keen handles the tender moments with Logan well and adds a lot of heart to the character.
While Laura steals many scenes, this is still Hugh Jackman’s movie. A lot of leading men would balk at looking old and weak, but Jackman embraces it and ultimately makes it one of the best Wolverine performances in the series. He ends up putting a nice bow on his run as the character, something that not many actors get to do after playing a character for 17 years. But you can’t overlook Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier who gives an equally landmark performance. He’s filled with so much pain and hope, weakness and power, anger and love, confusion and authority. It’s easily one of the highlights of his acting career and an equally impressive cap to a 17 year run performing the same character. I also have to acknowledge the supporting cast. Boyd Holbrook is a great villain as the cyborg Donald Pierce. He has youth and cockiness, which is a great contrast to Wolverine. Then Stephen Merchant steps in as Caliban and has a small-but-noteworthy role.
What Didn’t Work:
At 2 hours and 15 minutes, Logan is a long haul. This unfortunately leads to some pacing issues. While there are a lot of fast-paced action scenes, there are a lot of slow scenes and unusual detours for the characters along the way. Some are more relevant than others. I think you could have easily trimmed 20 minutes from the film and had the same story and critical beats.
Along the lines of pacing issues, some of the best action scenes in the movie are at the beginning of the film. The final battle isn’t nearly as intense or breathtaking as the first couple of action scenes early in the movie. This makes the ending a little bit of a letdown, especially when hitting the 2-hour mark.
And finally, why make Logan a limo driver? For a guy that is laying low and is generally sick of people, this is a job that requires you to be in public a lot and interact with a lot of people. It was an unusual choice in the script and didn’t seem in character for Logan.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, Logan is a great addition to the X-Men films and it should please adult fans of the series. It’s well worth seeing on the big screen and a fitting end to Hugh Jackman’s run on the character if that’s what he chooses. But parents should heed the R-rating. I’d hesitate taking a kid under 15 to this film.