One of (the many) problems that I’ve always had with the Wolverine movies and with the X-Men films where Wolverine was concerned, is that the action sequences were so focused on showing Wolverine heal himself, that it became a ridiculous crutch for the filmmakers use. What I learned, according to the movies, is that Wolverine was either such a terrible fighter or so off the charts reckless, that he would get bested and killed about half a dozen times per fight if it weren’t for his healing ability. Even in The Wolverine where part of the plot is that his healing ability is temporarily disabled, we’re still all shown that your boy is back to normal by him taking a katana blade straight through the chest, just to walk it off. For a character we were introduced to by him saying it hurts “every time” his claws come out, he sure does willingly take a lot of death blows, just to counter attack.
By virtue of the plot, Logan, based on the premise of Old Man Logan, is dying. Slowly. Logan’s vulnerability and decaying existence is omnipresent throughout the film and brings a much more human and endearment to the Wolverine character that Hugh Jackman hasn’t really had the opportunity to showcase previously. In the same vein, is Patrick Stewart in what was touted previous to the movie’s release in his last role as Charles Xavier. This is a different Xavier than we’ve seen him portray before. Xavier is suffering from dementia, which you can imagine is quite a big issue for a mutant of his telepathic gifts. Mutants are almost all but extinct in this not too distant future, but Logan is Xavier’s keeper in isolation, both for other people’s safety and because the once proud patriarch of mutantkind is wanted by the federal government.
Like Jackman, Stewart gets the opportunity to flex some different acting muscles than he’s been allowed to use in previous incarnations of Professor Xavier. In addition to his debilitating mind state, Xavier is less measured and polite, cursing and sarcastic when dealing with Logan to express his judgment, but also soft and nurturing with their new mutant companion about a third of the way through the film.
Of course, as the previous trailer highlighted, the driving factor for this adventure is the discovery of Laura or X-23 if you comic book nasty. She has escaped the very group that created her and wants to join up with other possible child escapees at the opposite end of the country. The Spanish-American actress Dafne Keen is remarkable and instantly likable as the unrefined and brutal Laura especially in the first half of the film that serves as the character’s introduction. Laura spends much of the movie doing what she was trained to do. Kill. Everything.
Which gets to the hard R rating of this movie. It may have taken two previous Wolverine films and a ton of X-Men flicks, but we actually have a realistic portrayal of what happens when someone is stabbed with unbreakable metal claws. The violence and gore is cranked up to ten, and it doesn’t matter if it comes at the hands of Logan or Laura. No punches or claws are pulled. This coupled with Logan’s physical vulnerability adds visceral level to the Wolverine franchise. Fights have stakes. Decisions like who the group encounters have very real and visible stakes. And there is a true sense of danger for the protagonists as well, which is something the Wolverine franchise has sorely needed.
Also adequate, for perhaps the first time, is the prospect of an actual villain that doesn’t feel silly or cartoonish. Donald Pierce and this movie version of the Reavers as mutant hunters feel like a tangible threat to our trio throughout the film, while also having some other big threats that are both a surprise and logical given the plot.
Logan also tells a good story this time around. Outside of the familiar plot of the aging warrior taking someone under the wing as an act of redemption, the story of what happened with the mutants, Charles’ condition, the facility that created Laura, it all fits together well and suspends disbelief in a relatable way the previous films did not even attempt to do. While not being far enough in the future to be considered dystopia (and the world itself isn’t dying, just the one occupied by mutants), it still has an end of the world feel where our characters are concerned.
The one place that Logan falters is not even the third act, but the conclusion to the film. For a movie that handles the emotional investment of these characters and story for 90% of the film so expertly, it doesn’t stick the landing and devolves into sentimental mush with some odd choices for closure on the story. In a vacuum, it does seem harsh to penalize what is a great film for such a small amount of screen time, but the last 15 minutes of the film should be weighted differently and the reality is, the writing in the dismount wasn’t up to par for what came before it.
With that said, Logan is probably the best X-Men centric film since probably X-2, but definitely the most mature one in the X-Men universe. This is the grown up version of these films and given the history of the movies, its absolutely earned. The performances from all the actors involved, the writing almost the whole film and the backdrop where all this takes place, puts this enters the cannon of one of the best comic book movies created and stands side by side with Deadpool as evidence that Fox can make a great comic book movie, if it has the desire to do so.