Review: Imperceptibly, it’s been 17 years since then-relatively-unknown Oz actor, Hugh Jackman, was casted as Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. The character’s popularity among fans and Jackman’s nuanced performance have made Wolverine more popular to the extent that this character has become the backbone of X-Men cinematic universe making a trinity with Professor Xavier and Magneto.
After appearing in all X-Men films including 2 spin-offs, it’s high time Wolverine received the highest appreciation as a superhero icon: one last chance for a heart-warming farewell.
Imperceptibly, it’s already 2029 in ‘that’ X-Men universe, where there’s no new mutant for a quarter of century. Existing mutants are degenerating and nearly wiped off the earth for a reason that is never explicitly mentioned on-screen. In that world, our titular hero, Logan a.k.a. Wolverine has surprisingly aged; his mutant ability is waning and his physical power is weakening. Once a powerhouse, now he is even overwhelmed by a band of gangster. Worse come worse, his cells do not regenerate properly anymore.
Working as an online chauffeur and living in a countryside hideout, Logan tends his ailing long-time friend and mentor, Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) – once a most powerful telepath, now the most ‘dangerous’ mind with degenerating syndrome – with the help of a surviving mutant from X-Men Apocalypse, Caliban (Stephen Merchant). At the most vulnerable and desperate time of their life, those pariahs find a new purpose of living when a band of mercenary is hunting for a mutant girl with super-similarities to Wolverine named Laura (Dafne Keen).
While there are so many questions about the background story that leads to this ‘last chapter,’ yet, Logan doesn’t feel the urgency to unravel them; instead, it never shifts the focus from its titular character and the battles he fight – internally and externally. It might take cues from Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan, Logan isn’t necessarily an adaptation of the comics; it only is inspired by the version of the character and nothing else. It’s purely director James Mangold’s take on how this Wolverine should progress from a part of a greater ensemble into a more personal old man’s diary.
In presenting this somber, character-driven memoir, Mangold, who writes the screenplay with Scott Frank (Oscar-nominated writer for Out of Sight and writer of The Wolverine) and Michael Green (the next big thing for Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, and Murder on the Orient Express remake), distances Logan from being a CGI-fest like its X-Men predecessors. He instead makes it a more grounded, practical, and profound action-drama with shades of classic Western (it even includes scenes from Shane) and a three-generation road trip. Logan’s vulnerability is exposed in emotional ways – peeling off audiences’ sympathy; but, it’s the battles he actually fights that grip the hardest.
Logan desperately fights his current condition in order to protect Xavier and Laura. There’s more genuine compassion emanates from the titular character than in any of his incarnations. It’s not that kind of save-the-world, vigilante-driven compassion that moves Logan, yet, a more personal one – to protect what matters most for him and, most importantly, to break the stigma that everyone whom he cares about dies eventually. In making this more ironic, Logan sets the tone into an R-rated one – unleashing the beast inside our titular character.
The rating isn’t only a gimmick; it’s a necessary one. With this ‘violence license’, Logan is finally able to unravel the character’s concealed potency and irony. He berserks as he slaughters people, spills blood and over-kills everyone who does him wrong. To make it more ironic, it enables Laura, as a figure of a feral child, to achieve the same level of ultra-violence. All of that violence leads to a conclusion that: it’s a tough battle he fights outside.
The real question comes after that: how tough the battle Logan fights inside? With all those bloods he spills, we can simply judge his character simply as a nihilistic figure or a beast who kills out of its primal instinct. This conflict arises inside the character, too, confronting his barbaric nature with his eagerness to only be a decent man. Therefore, he keeps his own Chekov’s device – an Adamantium bullet – in case things gone south. This emotional tension drives most important decision in the film.
While it’s apparent that this supposedly final chapter is quintessential; it often finds the story lacks of definite answers and emotional pinnacle. Some questions about Laura’s origin and where she’s headed often leads to cringe; but, we can forgive it as long as her relationship with Logan paves a more satisfying road. In addition, as an emotional ride, Logan keeps the emotional meter high most of the time; but, in some events that might become pinnacles, it gives up on that too soon. Too bad, the ‘final battle’ isn’t as climactic as it should’ve been. Despite that Chekov’s gun that works perfectly as a plot device, Logan and Laura’s kinetic chemistry cannot quite live up the expectation.
However, as a geri-superhero film, Logan does not feel old or obsolete; it instead is fresh and visceral like those bloods the Wolverine spills. With sympathetic gravitas and emotional ride, this final goodbye feels much grounded as neo-Western, X-Men road trip.