On July 14, 2000, the very first X-Men movie hit theaters. That was the first time we saw the then 31-year-old Hugh Jackman portray arguably the most iconic mutant: Logan, better known as the Wolverine. Jump ahead 17 years and seven movies later, Jackman puts on the claws one last time and bids adieu to the character in Logan.
Logan is less a superhero flick and more of a pseudo-Western. Over the top action and cliche superhero tropes are instead replaced with a dramatic, character driven story. There’s action, sure (boy is there ever action; I’m not telling you how to raise your kids but please don’t take your kids), and characters with superpowers, but that’s not the point of Logan.
Logan is about its titular character grown weary with the world. Jackman, the actor, is not yet in his 50s, but Logan the character has lived a full life of misery and pain. There’s scars on his body and lines on his face, yet the physical fatigue pales in comparison to the losses Logan and Charles Xavier have endured.
Set in a post-apocalyptic (at least for mutants) 2029, Logan and Charles are the last of their kind. The mutants, X-Men, and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters are all gone. In its stead are a 90-year-old Xavier suffering from degenerative brain disease, and Logan who’s tired of the world and all of its shit. There’s a weariness to Jackman but it’s purposeful. It’s not like, say, Jennifer Lawrence mailing it in during X-Men: Apocalypse, this is a character — I sorta got an Andy talking about Zihuatanejo in Shawshank Redemption vibe — who’s ready to buy a boat and live out his days at sea or die, whichever comes first.
Logan plays up the parallel to the Western movie Shane but I’ve never seen it so I can’t comment on the similarities. However, there’s a book I read a month or two ago which fits the bill: Frederik Backman’s “A Man Called Ove.” The plots are essentially the same: older man tired of the world finds a (reluctant) new purpose when he crosses path with a young girl. In Logan, the girl is X-23, or Laura, who is, as Professor X says, “very much like” Logan.
Sharing similar abilities as Jackman, Laura is for all intents and purposes Logan’s daughter. Laura is played by newcomer Dafne Keen and she is positively delightful. Keen doesn’t need to speak to command the screen, she does it all with her eyes; her quiet, innocent nature is complemented by a feral and striking rage. The same girl that is awed by Hello Kitty sunglasses isn’t afraid to use her own set of claws to cut down those who cross her.
And that’s where the meat of Logan lays. Logan, Charles and young Laura are the last remnants of a species that’s hated and feared by the rest of the world. The trio is a family, maybe not by choice, but they’re all they have now. Charles, the eldest, wants Logan to take Laura to North Dakota to an alleged Eden, a place where she can be safe from persecution and other harm; Logan, the middle, reluctantly takes the job if only for a big pay day that can help make his dream of buying a boat and living out his days peacefully at sea a reality; and Laura, the youngest, wants to escape the hardships she grew up in and maybe snack on some Prinlges along the way.
Logan is slow but not boring; it’s a movie with a story to tell. It’s a family drama that just so happens to include people with special abilities. Logan is unlike previous X-Men tales. There aren’t any Sentinels threatening mutant kind; there’s no social commentary on discrimination or prejudice. Logan is an intimate story that sends off it’s marquee character in style. Think Peyton Manning or John Elway winning the Super Bowl in their final starts. Or Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven. Jackman saves his best performance for last and Logan goes out with dignity and grace. Logan’s story is one we’ve seen before but few are executed as beautifully as this.
Review: 3.5 stars out of 4