Logan Review: Hugh Jackman’s Emotional Final Fight For Mutantkind

Midway through Logan, there’s a scene at a dinner table where Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Logan (Hugh Jackman), a.k.a. Wolverine, exchange light jabs at each other about the school they used to run, one as a teacher, one as a student. They’re father and a son at this point. The relationship is undeniable. Logan spends much of the first half caring for his ailing mentor, administering medicine, helping him to the bathroom, and enduring powerful seizures that, amplified by Xavier’s powers, paralyze everyone around them. But at the dinner table, their exchanges breathe a long history, an obviously difficult one (you don’t get ten X-Men movies by giving the characters an easy time), but also one built on genuine compassion. Too few superhero movies take the time to display small moments like this, where characters simply reflect and smile. But Logan isn’t your average superhero movie.

Hugh Jackman’s final bow as Wolverine is appropriately grand. James Mangold has constructed a dystopian, western road film that is both remarkably fresh yet built on the characters’ long-standing legacy. Logan is different from every superhero film that’s come before it thanks not only to it’s look, but it’s rich character study as well. Playing Logan for the ninth time, Jackman gives this one his all, slowing down from the usual overblown CGI antics to show Wolverine as a human being full of fear and anger. Mangold’s goal here is to build this mutant hero from a place of despair to one of inspiration before he walks off into the sunset. I suspect it won’t just be the X-fans with tears streaming down their face by the end.

But where Logan starts is just as important as where it ends. In 2029, mutants are all but extinct, with Logan and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) caring for Xavier in a hideaway just south of the US border. But then Logan finds Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant girl who’s clearly been experimented on in a way all too similar to Wolverine. Laura doesn’t speak at first, instead using her metal claws to rip apart the militarized organization hunting her down. They’re led by Donald Pierce (Boy Holbrook, making for one of the most charismatic superhero film villains of the last few years), a mercenary who leads a gang called the Reavers, many of which have robotic limbs. There’s an ultra-violent scuffle (the film often delights in showing off its R-rating), and Laura ends up in the backseat next to Xavier while Logan drives. Their destination? A supposed mutant sanctuary called “Eden” on the border of North Dakota and Canada.

With Laura joining their little family, Wolverine and Professor X are once again put on a path to fight for the oppressed mutant race. For Logan, it’s going to take some serious introspection on his own past and the role he’s had in fighting for the future of his race. Jackman expertly sells his arc over the film, showing us his Wolverine at his most beaten and battered. Whatever 20th Century Fox does with the character after Logan is up to them, but finding an actor to replace Jackman after 17 years of iconicism seems like a near-impossible task. That said, the performance of the film might go to Stewart, who recently announced that this is to be his last time with the series as well. This Xavier is all but defeated by guilt and dementia, but through Laura, he finds hope again. Stewart delivers each and every line with the entire life Xavier has lived before this implied. At times, it’s powerfully melancholy, but then hints of the Xavier that believed in Logan and mutants in general shine through.

Despite all this, there are a few things that make Logan imperfect. There’s a physical metaphor of Wolverine’s demons that’s just too on-the-nose to take as seriously as the more thoughtful pieces in the film. There are also a few emotional beats that don’t quite get time to breathe, thus lessening their impact on first viewing. I’m sure Logan is a character study that, with repeat viewings, will deliver more rewards, but these moments could have hit just a bit harder to push this beast over the edge.

But still, there’s no taking away the accomplishments of Mangold, Jackson, and Stewart here. Logan stands tall in the plethora of superhero flicks that are churned out each year. It takes its time not only to be different, but to really say something about its character and life at large. I can’t imagine a better way for Jackman to leave the series that built his film career. We may still have Robert Downey’s Iron Man and Chris Evans’ Captain America, but the superhero film world already feels a little bit smaller without Jackman chewing on cigars and roaring as he charges his foes. Logan gives us plenty of all that while delivering genuine closure for an all-time great big-screen hero. For Jackman was the best as what he did, and Mangold constructed a film worthy not only of the Wolverine, but worthy of the man when his claws are retracted. Worthy of Logan. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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