Wolverine’s last(?) film is gloriously depressing, exhilaratingly violent.
Has it really been 15 years? Yep, fifteen years since we first saw Aussie actor Hugh Jackman take the role of Canadian X-man and arguably the most famous and beloved mutant of all, Wolverine AKA Logan. From the original X-men film by Bryan Singer, to X2: X-men United, X3 The Last Stand, X-men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine and X-men: Days of Future Past, we’ve seen the triple-clawed warrior slash his way through evil mutants, commandos, cyborgs, ninja and giant robots- who’d have thought it would be his own secret weapon- his adamantium skeleton- that would be his downfall? Reuniting with fellow X-men mainstay Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, Logan takes us into the waning days of a beloved comic book-turned-film hero. The result is depressingly glorious but strangely satisfying.
Sometime in the future, we are reintroduced to Logan= The Wolverine- a once infamous superhero and mutant, but now noticeably older, more scarred and looking more vulnerable than we’ve ever seen him. No longer a scion of Xavier’s School, or even a care-free drifter- ‘Old’ Logan is now apparently working as a Limo driver for some kind of Uber service. A scuffle with some car thieves near the border with Mexico reveals that Logan isn’t as formidable as he was before, but he’s still go the claws, and when he connects it does DAMAGE.
Unfortunately, it is soon learned that Logan is dying. His adamantium skeleton- since time immemorial his claim to fame and invulnerability- is now poisoning him, causing his incredible healing factor to slow and even fail. And he’s not the only one on his last legs. We learn that Professor Xavier is also still alive, cared for by Logan and the living mutant-detector Caliban (Stephen Merchant) in an abandoned factory, the Professor being housed in a huge metal silo in an effort to contain his often-out-of-control telepathy. Stricken by Alzheimer’s and dementia, Xavier’s mind can potentially release a lethal, paralyzing psychic attack in a wide radius unless he takes regular medication. In fact, we learn (in no ready detail) that one such psychic episode was responsible for the deaths of many of the X-men (and presumably the decline of the School). Now all Logan and Charles have to look forward to is a hopeful solitary, final vacation out to sea- if Logan can gather the funds to buy them a boat.
But of course, that isn’t to be as Logan is soon sought out by a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who pleads with Logan to take her and a girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota. Laura is soon revealed to be a mutant- the first seen by Logan and Charles in years (mutants having seemingly gone extinct in the last several years for some reason), and she’s naturally being pursued by the ones who created her. So now it’s up to Logan, a dying warrior who just wants to slink into a dark hole to die quietly in peace, to find what remains of himself within to protect the next generation of mutants from some truly despicable villains.
Taking inspiration from films like Unforgiven, Logan is in some ways a breaking down of the superhero movie- the film itself takes potshots at itself, with Logan remarking at how X-men comics don’t actually show the real deal. Nope, not at all. In Logan, heroes aren’t clean and flawless and always save the day… they can die, and along the way, other people, even good people, can get caught in the crossfire with them. Somehow though, there is still redemption to be found even if everything is at its bleakest and there’s no happy ending in sight. Just lots of blood and more blood.
Logan is a gloriously depressing road trip movie- certainly a radical departure from all the previous X-men films, and it prospers because of it. The down-and-dirty, R-rated action is never truly gory or gratuitous, and at times is quite satisfying thanks to how truly needing of some much-deserved killing the baddies are. Jackman and Stewart, as the franchise mainstays, decisively give their onscreen characters their most memorable performances. In no other film is the bond between Logan and Prof. X this more profound and touching. As X-23 AKA Laura Kinney, Dafne Keen is eye-catching and amazing in the fight scenes- one hopes that perhaps there will be future romps with her, but only time will tell.
I’ll admit, I would have wished for a slightly less depressing conclusion to Logan, but then again, the guy’s had over 200 years to walk the earth, and he’s made his three-clawed mark on it many, many times. You’ve earned your retirement, Wolverine. What a way to go.
The Lone Gamer’s Movie Rating: 4 of 5