Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine in near-perfect, emotionally powerful “Logan”

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

After playing Wolverine for 17 years, Hugh Jackman is retiring from his iconic role with “Logan” — one of the most moving superhero films of all time.

In his follow-up to 2013’s “The Wolverine,” writer-director James Mangold finds heavy influence in classic Westerns, giving “Logan” a style which makes it more comparable to the 1953 film “Shane” than “The Avengers.” As a pure Western, “Logan” would feel slightly formulaic, but as a superhero film, it becomes an entirely new, modern genre. Within this structure, Mangold finds room for engaging characters who form a powerful bond both with one another and the audience.

Set in the year 2029, the film springs to life with a brutal, bloody fight between Logan and gangsters attempting to steal his limo. The battle immediately sends a message to the viewers that this is unlike any superhero film before: The violence has consequences, the brutality stays on-screen and the villains can fatally injure the hero.

Unlike last year’s “Deadpool,” the tone and content of “Logan” actually earn the R rating, utilizing explicit blood and language in a way that heightens the brutality and pseudo-realism of the world. By holding the camera on the acts of violence Wolverine commits, Mangold forces the audience to see the distressingly massive trail of bodies in his wake.

After this grisly massacre, Logan returns to his home in Mexico, where he lives with albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and former professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now struggling with a form of Alzheimer’s. In a tragic twist of fate, the once-great professor must now take medicine to prevent a mental episode that could incapacitate all surrounding humans.

The post-apocalyptic setting combined with Professor X’s mental health issues and Logan’s deteriorating physical state give the entire movie a darker, more somber tone than any previous film in the X-Men universe.

Predictably, conflict arises in the form of a powerful villain (Boyd Holbrook), forcing Logan to stand up and fight for a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who has a similar set of superpowers to Logan himself. She completely steals the film with a combination of a catty wordlessness and surprisingly brilliant fighting skills, able to tear enemies apart with a
merciless efficiency.

Though it takes a good amount of time to get rolling, “Logan”’s plot kicks into gear when he agrees to take Laura to Canada, accompanied by Xavier. Mangold described what follows as “Paper Moon” with claws — an episodic road trip meets post-apocalyptic Western meets superhero epic that somehow works. 

A lazy and uninspired choice to introduce an equally skilled adversary late into the second act really weighs down the film, bringing up unfavorable comparisons to “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” unquestionably the worst X-Men film. It does not entirely undo the successful parts of the film, but this choice feels like the result of a studio-mandated need for Wolverine to participate in a large-scale battle and ends up
falling flat.

Throughout the film’s 135-minute runtime, “Logan” keeps up a strong pace by never meandering and always driving toward the final destination — literally. A lesser film may have fallen into the need to deliver more epic action sequences, but the highlights of this movie come from its quieter moments: an argument between friends, dinner with welcoming strangers and a bond between family members.

These more personal scenes serve to remind the audience why they love Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. It is not for his fighting skills or ferocity, but the human that lies underneath. And now, after appearing in every X-Men film in some form, Jackman’s swan song retires the Wolverine in a brilliant, beautiful love letter to the character.

“Logan”

  • Rating: R
  • Runtime: 125 minutes
  • Score: 4.5/5 stars