It’s the end of a cinematic era. The third standalone Wolverine movie is the ninth and final appearance of Hugh Jackman’s grizzled superhero, eighteen years after first being cast in the role. Such a contribution deserves a fitting send-off, and thankfully Logan is exactly that.
The year is 2029, and mutantkind has all but disappeared. Logan, of course played by Jackman, now makes a living as a limousine driver along the U.S.–Mexico border (which is suspiciously free of any “wall”). When not on-duty, he takes shelter south of the border with fellow-mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and his former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The latter is now a shadow of his former self, weak, frail and suffering from Alzheimer’s.
After one of his regular nightly jobs, a mysterious woman offers Logan $50,000 to transport her daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) to a safe haven in North Dakota. The result of a military experiment, Laura has been genetically-modified to have an adamantium skeleton and retractable claws – just like Logan. With the military trailing them, and pressure from Charles to help the young girl, Logan isn’t given much say in the matter, and so agrees to help keep Laura safe.
Wolverine’s solo films have never met the standard set by other films in the X-Men franchise. His first outing, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine is best forgotten, while 2013’s The Wolverine was somewhat entertaining but otherwise ordinary. Both movies have contributed to the so-called “superhero fatigue” that many audiences claim to have been experiencing, hence why Logan has taken a remarkably different direction to that of its predecessors.
Immediately noticeable is how Logan seems less like a blockbuster and more like a western. As well as the desert setting during the film’s first act, this impression is enforced by some not-so-subtle allusions to the 1953 classic Shane. Additionally, Logan brings forward a VERY sincere tone to set itself apart – it’s ironic that the previous film in the X-Men franchise, Deadpool, doesn’t take itself seriously at all, whereas Logan at times takes itself too seriously.
Also, be warned – the violence in Logan is incredibly graphic. The blood and dismemberment doesn’t particularly irk me, but it does look out-of-place in the already-established X-Men universe. Conversely, this bold approach has given Logan the most thrilling action sequences of any Wolverine movie. And it’s not just our hero who’s given the opportunity to go all-out – even Laura gets in on the action, going toe-to-toe with the villains.
Speaking of which, if any member of the Academy is reading, please take note: THIS GIRL DESERVES AN OSCAR. Dafne Keen doesn’t speak for a good two-thirds of the movie, and if she’s not staring in wide-eyed wonder at the world around her, she’s giving the adults a run for their money. Jackman’s performance, meanwhile, is as enjoyable as ever. Every time he lets out that primal scream, one can’t help but crack a smile, and if Logan doesn’t cement the Wolverine role as his own, I don’t know what will.
It’s with thanks to these performances, and a refreshing change in tone, that Logan can lay claim to be the first film worthy of its venerable character’s name – and it only took 17 years to do it. Although it is sad to see Jackman relinquish his role, he can at least leave on a high.