Hugh Jackman’s latest turn as mutant superhero Wolverine is, we have been told, also his last. If that is the case (skeptics, like yours truly, exist), the James Mangold directed “Logan” is a pretty solid exit. Certainly, it is better than the first two solo Wolverine adventures, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and “The Wolverine,” and better than some, not all, of the “X-Men” team films (Jackman has been in all of those, at least in cameo form).
The screenplay for the new film, from Michael Green and Scott Frank & James Mangold, finds our antihero in the near future, 2029. The world has, seemingly, gone to pot – there is a definite sense of trouble everywhere, mutants largely seem to have disappeared, no more mutants are being born, and Logan is working as a limo driver on the Mexican border. He has stashed an aged Professor X (Patrick Stewart) south of the border with the mutant, Caliban (Stephen Merchant) acting as nursemaid, and… is contemplating heading off in a boat so that whatever seizures are plaguing Professor X don’t hurt anyone else.
Those in the audience who look for the least bit of logic in what happens or want the scantest of answers about any of the above will find themselves sorely disappointed. How exactly were the X-Men and all other mutants eliminated? That’s talked around more than at. Why are there no more mutants being born? Same answer. Where is all of Professor X’s money (he had more than enough to buy a boat)? Unclear.
What is most troubling though is the fact that we go back to having a Logan who shirks off any notion that he might be a hero. This is disappointing not for what it doesn’t answer about the plot, but rather because it’s a Logan that we have seen repeatedly; it is an idea that has already been explored. As soon as a woman, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), asks Logan for help taking a girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), to North Dakota, everyone in the audience knows that he’s going to take the job. A guy named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) asking Logan about Gabriela only makes the direction of it all more clear. Logan protesting for an extended period before embarking on the trip, and then protesting again during the entirety of said trip, not only covers well trod territory for the character but just delays the inevitable.
Laura, Logan learns (and this is only spoiler-y if you haven’t watched any trailers or read anything about the movie), is a mutant with abilities similar to his own. Born and raised in a lab run by Richard E. Grant’s baddie scientist, she also exhibits some of Wolverine’s antisocial tendencies, and Gabriela (her nurse), believes there to be a sanctuary up north as she read about the sanctuary in X-Men comics. Why does she believe the comics and how did these comics come to be in the first place? See above about the movie not bothering to offer up very many explanations on that level.
Now, I said the movie was a “pretty solid exit” for the character before I spent a few hundred words talking about what didn’t work in it. So, what does? Well, as uninteresting as it is to see Logan work through areas he’s already explored, it is satisfying to see Jackman sink into the character. Jackman makes Logan’s pain palpable every step of the way. He inhabits and portrays this superhero so perfectly that at this moment the thought of seeing someone else as Logan is impossible (which is not to say that Fox won’t recast… unless they can somehow lure Jackman back, they most certainly will hire someone else at some point).
Additionally, the action sequences are enjoyable to watch unfold. Mangold and company utilize their R-rating to allow for blood and guts and gore in a way that feels heightens the affair without going over the top.
In the end though, “Logan” feels much more like a side affair than the main story. The story is about mutant-kind and about the failings of the X-Men (including Wolverine himself). It is about a great evil which has wreaked some sort of havoc on the world. The movie only ever offers the tip of the iceberg of the villainy, showing it as it relates to Laura and consequently Logan as well. That could certainly work for a movie, but because the issues with which Logan are dealing have already been dealt with many times, it makes them less compelling and thereby shines a light on all that the film ignores.
Fans of the “X-Men” films in general and Wolverine in particular will certainly enjoy themselves watching “Logan” despite its faults. In fact, it is a movie perfectly in keeping with a series of films that have been more than a little uneven over the course of the past 17 years.
photo credit: 20th Century Fox