The very first word spoken by the protagonist is an expletive. After the critically panned X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the slightly better received film The Wolverine, Hugh Jackman makes his final outing as the titular Logan, the now-bearded mutant with a penchant for violent attacks with the metal claws that extend from his hand. With the success of Deadpool, the idea of R-rated superhero movies became a fiscally sound possibility. Although the filmmakers claim that Logan would have been made with such a rating regardless, the connection is certainly there. The movie revels in its more mature rating, with all of the violence and cursing that go along with it. The year is 2029 and mutants, the hot-button issue and a motif throughout nearly every X-Men movie, have become a relic of the past. The few remaining include Wolverine, whose healing ability has begun to deteriorate, as can be seen by his grizzled hair and aging face. The mutant, alternatively known as Logan, subsists on funds from his limousine service, akin to Uber.
With the simple title of Logan and a popular trailer incorporating Johnny Cash’s cover of the song “Hurt,” this superhero movie was looking to be like something more of a film, one which would transcend its genre. The lyrics “I hurt myself today to see if I still feel,” paired with imagery of a tired Logan, battered by old age and a difficult life definitely gave off this impression. The decidedly gritty appearance coupled with the dysfunctional “family” set-up of the mentor, the fatigued and unwilling protagonist and the young ward only helped contribute to this appearance.
The story begins with a plea for help to Logan. There is a woman who wants to bring a young girl—at first believed to be her daughter—to a place of safety under Logan’s protection. He refuses until the offer of significant money comes into play. This is a Logan who has lost all his loyalties and any sense of pure goodness through loss and heartbreak. When push comes to shove, he only does the right thing when there is no other alternative. This is a Logan who has lost all his loyalties and any sense of pure goodness through loss and heartbreak. When push comes to shove, he only does the right thing when there is no other alternative.
Meanwhile, Logan has been taking care of the far more elderly Professor Xavier, or Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart. With the rebooted X-Men films starring James McAvoy in Stewart’s role and the expansion of X-Men into the world of television, Stewart is beginning to feel less relevant within this universe. Along with Jackman, he announced that this would be his last film as Professor X, barring any unforeseen circumstances. Much like Logan has lost the strength of his healing factor, Professor X struggles with diminished control of his powerful mind, one with abilities including telepathy and mind control. As a result, he must be kept drugged, lest his decomposing mind brings danger to the rest of the world.
In the care of these two is the adapted form of the comic book character, X-23, here known as Laura. Played by Dafne Keen in her first appearance in film, Laura is a young girl with powers like those of Logan. Although she is mostly silent, she can emote well. Her inclusion sets up sequel potential, one of the first cracks in the possibility of Logan becoming a great film to be remembered. Within minutes of Logan’s opening profanity, the first fight sequence in the film is bathed in a gorgeous purple light, with a look distinctly unique from the rest of the X-Men movies.
The rest of the action moments are not quite so carefully constructed. While the gore and rage fit the character of Wolverine much better than the previously neutered depictions, it feels out of sync with the aim of cinematic greatness. Showing short individual clips over a powerful song in a trailer is reasonably simple, for one who is willing to avoid the cliche trailer conventions. It may be more difficult than the finished product makes it seem, but nonetheless it is relatively simple. Constructing a film over two hours long and maintaining or developing the tone with consistency is much harder.
For all the criticism that can be leveled against it, Logan is a good movie. The only problem is that it is not quite great. The limits of the PG-13 rating are not missed, yet the attempts to prove how much the new rating allows feels excessive at points. The silence of Laura is a powerful device, but is mishandled by the end. The final shot of the film is one that feels like a sentence of dialogue said with a certain weight. It is not exceptionally meaningful, but when delivered with gravity, it sounds important enough. The fights come with a ferocity that is quite unique to this film.
Anger, revenge and tiredness are all forces propelling Jackman in his performance. The emotions are what give the brutality less of a gratuitous feeling and more one of catharsis. Wolverine is any one who has had it up to his or her neck and just wants to tear the world apart with some adamantium claws. As an X-Men movie, Logan ranks above any other Wolverine movie. However, it does not surpass the first two entries of the prequel trilogy, X-Men: First Class or Days of Future Past, and has a tough case for itself to make against X-Men and X2.
The inability to maintain tonal focus and to make Logan an isolated movie in cinematic history is disappointing, but is an otherwise solid movie.