James Cole Clay // Film Critic
After 17 years and eight films of retracting his claws, LOGAN is finally a film about Wolverine that’s worthy of its own story. It’s crazy to think the kids who were born in the year 2000, when the first X-Men film, was released are just now going to be able to buy a ticket to see Hugh Jackman play the surly hero one last time. In a way, we’ve grown up with Wolverine. There have been some pains along the way (2009’s X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE), but seeing Jackman go is a bit sad and ceremonious.
Director James Mangold (THE WOLVERINE, WALK THE LINE) a grisly superhero film that’s visceral, and has one of the more jarring opening scenes I’ve seen in some time. While back in the earlier films Logan would unsheathe his adamantium claws and baddies would fall to the floor, you could see he was a formidable presence, but you could never truly feel the gravity of his power, or the emotional burden he’s carried for well over a century. Mangold has made a film that is technically a superhero film but rests its laurels on the dramatic elements that allow the violence within the frame to actually carry the weight of its high body count.
While the hard R-rating may appear to be a novel gimmick, it actually serves a purpose to reinforce the mature themes of mental illness and mortality that are affecting Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and a broken down, barbiturate addicted Logan (Jackman), who are living a barren life on the Mexican border. Just trying to get by and seemingly both waiting to die, there’s not much for them to live for as Charles Xavier’s school has disbanded after no new mutants have been born for over two decades. These men who once carried so much hope are now hopeless and have lost their way.
LOGAN exists in a world where the legend of Wolverine, Magneto, Storm, Cyclops made an impression, historically. Logan can’t escape, and all he wants to do is hide and blend in with the shadows. He’s a jaded everyman that we’ve seen time and time again in detective stories, but as audience members, we bring so much emotional baggage to the character that the empathy pistons are pumping harder than ever before.
Mangold worked with screenwriter Scott Frank —who has some excellent screenplays on his resume, including OUT OF SIGHT and MINORITY REPORT — to create a dusty desert setting that seeps off the screen and into the popcorn bucket. To its credit, LOGAN is a bit of a mashup between MINORITY REPORT, MIDNIGHT SPECIAL and MAD MAX: FURY ROAD.
While the film has enough personality, the script is not without a few hangups. Since this is an R-rated movie there’s enough four lettered words to even turn the head of shock-jock Howard Stern. The thing is, the “F-bombs” are forced and they stick out heavily, making for a few awkward moments. However, there is a charm that arises. Maybe its just odd seeing Jackman curse this much as Wolverine. But we’ve also seen him play tough roles like this before, and this version of Logan is a shell of what we once knew. The complaints are minor, but no doubt are worthy of a red pen. It’s just not a seamless transition from page to screen as the plucky DEADPOOL script was last February.
However, LOGAN is a dramatic force that takes its time building its plot and suspense by celebrating the legacy X-Men left behind and bringing in new faces that bring extra flavor to the screen, namely in Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and to a lesser extent Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Holbrook (GONE GIRL) is a fabulous actor who brings a slow like molasses southern charm to a relentless bounty hunter of sorts, that, aside from Magneto, is the best villain in the history of the franchise. Merchant should have stood out more. While he does a serviceable job as the gangly albino, ultimately, compared to other characters of his ilk, he pales in comparison.
LOGAN is a film that’s all about family, letting go and moving on, and a heartfelt last ride for Jackman, who has given so much of himself to the role of Wolverine over the many years. While fans will adore the references to previous entries, you don’t have to be a diehard fan to appreciate the film, which stands alone as its own adventure. This is easily the best Wolverine movie and it’s a bittersweet sendoff for Jackman.
LOGAN opens nationwide on Friday, and opens in special screenings on Thursday night.