Right to the chase: Logan was fucking badass. All kinds of badass. Legendarily badass. It had a sullen Wolverine hacking off limbs, swearing, lots of ass kicking, good acting, gripping story, everything. Probably the best movie in the entire X-Men series. Logan was a refreshing departure from the typical world-threatening comic flick loaded with property destruction, and was a story told with more depth and emotion than we’ve come to expect from the genre.
Historical precedent provided reasons to be concerned initially. There have already been two previous Wolverine movies, the first of which is probably the worst of the entire X-Men franchise. Just a total piece of shit with an utterly preposterous final act. The second, The Wolverine, was solid, but also suffered from a mess of a final act.
Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold may have convinced Fox to release a rated R movie full of swearing and violence, but that didn’t guarantee a home run. Jackman’s Logan/Wolverine is one of the greatest comic movie roles of all time, a perfect marriage between actor and character and the driving force in the X-Men franchise for 17 years. Coming out and saying this would be his last time in the role added a lot of pressure, and teaming him up again with Patrick Stewart’s Professor Xavier – another brilliantly cast part – for one last hurrah held promise, but I wasn’t sure. Then I saw Logan…twice.
The year is 2029 and mutants are all but extinct. Logan is an aging limo driver, gray-haired and limping about, and learning to live with diminishing healing powers. He is living off the grid just over Mexican border with fellow mutant Caliban (a surprisingly strong performance in a serious turn by Stephen Merchant), taking care of Professor X, who is suffering from a degenerative brain condition. The world’s most powerful telepath losing his mind has him suffering seizures which cause his powers to spike, nearly killing anybody in the vicinity, and he is deteriorating more and more each day as Logan and Caliban try to keep him medicated and isolated.
Logan is drawn away from this merry life of misery when his path crosses that of a little girl named Laura – a mutant with very familiar abilities – and he embarks on a road trip with her and Xavier. Played by newcomer Dafne Keen, Laura was surprisingly completely fucking awesome. I am never sure about children in movies, especially children with superpowers, and especially powers like Wolverine. Then I saw her slice and dice her way through some bad dudes and I stopped worrying.
But Logan is about much more than carnage. The relationship between the three leads forms an emotional core which carries the movie. Xavier seeks to teach Logan one more lesson in humanity and hope through the mysterious Laura. Keen and Jackman have an immediate chemistry that lets her slip seamlessly into the established X-Men universe – not a small feat considering the legendary stature of her co-stars, and the fact she’s 11. The interactions between the three, and especially between Logan and Laura, provided a nice variety of laughs and heartfelt moments, and it is the latter which really separated this from other comic movies.
Much like The Dark Knight broke the mold by basically putting Batman and the Joker into Heat, Logan obliterated the cookie cutter, formulaic structure of today’s comic movies by instead cribbing the formula of a western and throwing in some serious emotional heft. Stewart and Jackman have clicked since the very first X-Men movie all those years ago, but there was a heart and feeling to their interactions this time that wasn’t there before. Here we saw new wrinkles in the relationship as Stewart’s Xavier went from the clean-cut, stoic mentor, to a kooky, disheveled, tired old man who has to pull it together to give Logan one last push. It made me feel things.
In a departure from the previous two Wolverine flicks, Logan has a satisfying and exciting final act that honestly gave me goosebumps. I don’t get goosebumps watching movies since that’s silly, but this one got me. Rare is the film that reaches you on an emotional and human level as well as a visceral one, but this flick did it. There is character development, depth and a warmth that really separates it from your standard comic book blockbuster fare. And also savage, primal, bloody violence.
I cannot stress enough how much this movie delivered on every level. James Mangold (who also directed The Wolverine) co-wrote a heck of a script and did a wonderful job directing. The Xavier seizure sequences really stand out on that front – it is a neat concept that gave way to one of the coolest Wolverine moments. The action was excellent throughout, and Jackman remains right at home in the role, nailing every bit of it. The R rating really helped too, since Wolverine stabbing people in other movies is cool but Wolverine hacking off arms and legs and stabbing people with blood flying all over is exactly what this world needs. Some of the best violence in a non-John Wick movie I’ve seen in a long while. And a lot of uses of “fuck” – always a plus.
Of course, no comic movie is complete without a villain. Boyd Holbrook hasn’t blown me away on Narcos. I like him on it, but I’ve never expected to see him in anything else, or for him to be particularly good if he showed up somewhere. Turns out he was very good as the menacing Donald Pierce. The vibe I got from him was sort of like a white trash, talented Charlie Hunnam, if Charlie Hunnam wasn’t British and only played Jax Teller. Maybe they aren’t that similar and just have similar hair and facial hair. Whatever. Pierce was the exact dickish, redneck villain this movie needed, and such an improvement on the cornball villains of The Wolverine. He doesn’t do a ton, but he’s effective when he shows up.
A note on continuity. The timeline in the X-Men movies is notoriously fucked. It makes absolutely no sense. Attempts to make it make sense have only made it more confusing. Logan does not do anything to clear that up. Xavier mentions his first meeting with Logan – after Logan was fighting in a cage. That’s a reference to 2000’s X-Men, even though the events of 2014’s Days of Future Past rewrote the timeline and instead saw them meet in very different circumstances. Also, Caliban showed up in last year’s Apocalypse, yet is totally different here in Logan. To me these things didn’t matter since I felt Logan worked on its own and was so strong that ties to the franchise at large weren’t that critical beyond a surface level familiarity with the X-Men.
And if you’re familiar with the X-Men, you will love Logan. If you’re a fan of the X-Men movies, you will love Logan. If you’re a fan of watching bad guys get sliced and diced by a feral man and little girl with claws popping out their hands, you will love Logan. If you like good movies, you will love Logan. It is a welcome change of pace, and a herculean send off for Hugh Jackman. And a whole lot better than the other Wolverine movies.