Wolverine has been stabbed, shot, burned, and hit by a nuclear bomb. He’s lost family, friends and probably a pet or two. But make no mistake Logan is the end of the line. It’s not just a farewell it’s a swansong for Marvel’s best loved character ever since the beginnings of their cinematic universe hit the big screen back in 2000. Logan is not the first character to leave the X-Men series for good but he is the one who does it with the most dignity, grace, and well-deserved praise.
Logan begins in 2029; there are no more mutants being born, the world is still a shitheap and hope is harder to come by. Logan (Hugh Jackman), formerly known as Wolverine, is taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in Mexico with the help of sunlight sensitive mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Logan is raising money as a limo chauffeur in order to get Charles and his degenerative seizures away from the general populace. Their plan is upset by the arrival of mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) who has very similar powers to Logan. Hunted by mutant catchers and evil scientists Logan, Laura and Charles embark on a road trip to the safety of the Canadian border.
Logan is rated 16 here in Ireland for very good reasons. Gone are the bloodless kills of the old X-Men films. Instead Logan wields his adamantium coated bone claws like butcher knives. Heads roll, blood fountains and limbs fall like pruned branches. It feels very different from the superhero films of the last decade but not in a weird or unnecessary way. Instead it looks like what a Wolverine film should look like. That’s thanks mainly to director and writer James Mangold.
Mangold, who directed 2013’s The Wolverine, makes Logan feel like a very grounded film. It is grounded in its themes of Americana, redemption, and family. Natural considering Mangold also directed the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Few control superhero films with such a steady hand. Logan always knows where it’s going and knows how it’s getting there. Logan is as long as it needs to be and every story beat hits its mark which just shows Mangold’s commitment from page to set to cutting room. But it takes a great cast to follow great direction.
This year’s breakout star might just be Dafne Keen. Like Hailey Steinfeld in True Grit or Auli’i Cravalho in Moana Keen is adept at matching her much older and much more experienced cast mates beat for beat and line for line. Hugh Jackman is no longer the sprightly thirty-one-year-old he was in 2000, like Logan he too has aged even if it might not look it. The man is just as ripped as ever but the skin around the muscles has wrinkled and there’s a lot of salt and pepper in those formerly luscious brown locks. Patrick Stewart lost twenty pounds to play the decrepit and wizened Charles Xavier. His mind has degraded worse than his body has as he says things and roars curses as if Professor X was a different man.
Logan is the end for this Wolverine. And what an end! Like Deadpool before it the film is not afraid to stick to its tonal guns throughout. The ending is enough to make even the most diehard superhero hater choke up. Fanboys will, obviously, be in floods of tears. There’s been a lot of talk about who should play the next Wolverine. Personally, I think it should be Dafne Keen. Call me crazy but that little girl can gut a man in a way that’d make Wolverine proud.