Hugh Jackman’s final adventure as Wolverine is not just the best film in the X-Men franchise, but the fondest farewell Logan could hope for.
We all got introduced to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men seventeen years ago. It is one of the best casting decisions in superhero movie history, and ever since then Hugh Jackman has become so synonymous with the character as he has appeared in almost every X-Men film since then.
The superhero genre itself reached its highest point when The Dark Knight was released in 2008 and has been frequently called the best superhero film ever made since then. It has been the gold standard in which every superhero has been measured against. To me, no other film has matched or duplicated that film in terms of greatness since then. Several films have come very close, but I can say with full confidence that Logan is the best superhero film since The Dark Knight. It is really the first superhero film to really match it in terms of greatness, excitement, emotion, and transcending the genre into something more than just a comic book film.
Much like how The Dark Knight was a crime film in the same vein as Michael Mann’s Heat or how Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the equivalent to a political thriller, Logan feels, at times, like a neo-western (it reminded me a lot of Unforgiven since that film also features a character who is years past his glory and ventures into a “one final time” adventure), and a small scale drama that focuses more on the characters and story, and still has time to be a superhero film. Ultimately, it feels entirely mature and adult in its style, tone, scope, and action.
The action scenes in this film are highly violent, so much so that it definitely earns the film its R-rating (well that and multiple F-bombs) with many limbs and heads being cut off by Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). This happens right in the opening scene as Logan stops a group of thieves from stealing his tires and it gets more and more violent as the goes along. The thing is that the bloody violence never feels gratuitous as it does showcase the anger that Logan feels (much more than previous films). You feel the rage and anger of Logan with each slice of skin and body parts with his claws. The film also features a great visual metaphor in one fight sequence that adds more to Logan as a character in both a smart and affective manner. These sequences are filmed in a way that makes these scenes both chaotic and slick (plus, it’s just plain awesome to see Wolverine go in full rage mode in ways we have never seen before. I have always said that Nightcrawler’s attack on the White House and Stryker’s attack on Xavier’s mansion from X2 to be both the finest action sequences in the entire series, but the action in this film may have upstage it.
While we have seen Wolverine kill before in the previous X-Men films, those films were obviously toned down for its PG-13 rating (essentially we just saw people get stabbed without seeing blood or throats being slit, or body parts being cut off). Some of those films weren’t bad (some of them were even great), but this is the way the violence should be in a Wolverine film. This is the Wolverine movie we have all been waiting for.
The story begins in the not too distant future of 2029 where mutants have become all, but extinct. Only a few are still around, one being Logan/Wolverine. This, however, is not the same Wolverine that he once was. He has become more broken physically with multiple scars and mentally as he seems more reserved and angry than he was in the past .
Logan spends his days working as a limo driver while also taking care of a significantly weaker Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is essentially on his death bed, with another mutant named Caliban (Stephan Merchant).
Throughout a series of events, we are introduced to a girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), who shares some of the same mutant traits as Logan, such as the fact that she too has adamantium claws and has moments of rage. Her goal is to get to a place in North Dakota called “Eden” where other mutants are said to be. Logan, after being persuaded by Xavier, decides to take her there. So the three head out on a road trip while being chased by a man named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his men, who are trying to capture Laura.
The introduction of Laura is one of the film’s biggest strengths (and there are plenty strengths). Half of the action scenes are devoted to her and, just like the scenes with Logan, the fight scenes involving her are excitingly violent and Keen brings fierce intensity to the character. The scenes involving her slicing and killing people are also chaotic and slick with great, fast pace stunt sequences that are, again, the best executed in the entire series (another great action scene includes one of the best car chases in recent memory).
What is impressive is that the action and story is small in scale, but yet the stakes feel all the more important (which makes the film all the more exciting). This is true even in the third act, which is both widely thrilling and heartbreakingly poignant due to the fact that we actually care about these characters on a deep emotion level. I have kind of grown tired of the “world ending beam in the sky light show” in the third act of some superhero films, but Logan’s third act is wonderfully executed because of its refreshing small, personal scale. While the action in the film is very much adult, this is, like I said, mainly a character driven drama in scope and tone with superhero characters.
This is particularly true with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine has always been memorable, but this is the best he has ever been as the character and it is the best performance of his career to date, Jackman brings much more depth to Logan/Wolverine than ever before. You can tell by Jackman’s melancholic body language that he is worn out after all these years and, since pretty much all of the people he has cared about are gone, seems to be lost without a sense of his place on the Earth anymore. You can feel his pain and suffering both physically and mentally. Even though it was short, one scene that really stuck me was when Caliban confronts Logan about finding a bullet in his pocket. It is a rather quick scene, but still an entirely powerful one that shows really how far Logan has fallen in terms of loneliness and sadness. What makes Logan a great superhero film is that James Mangold, like Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder, touches upon dark and relatable human struggles at a deep level of brutal honesty much more than recent superhero films.
Logan/Wolverine has always been a psychologically troubled and conflicted character, but the way Jackman portrays him in this film adds even more layers to him. The subtle nuances in Jackman’s brooding tone and body language add even more to the character as he does seem haunted by the loss of his friends and tries to repress those memories the best that he can. Sometimes the emotions get to him, and Jackman makes those emotions quietly reserved, which packs a much more emotional punch. The quiet moments in which Jackman has quiet moments with Stewart (also the best he’s ever been) or Keen are the emotional highlights of the film and really tug at the heart. This is the way a Wolverine film should have be, one that does focus on Logan’s internal and emotional struggle, his emotional relationships with the other characters while also some supplying bloody action in which it adds more to the character (which Logan does) instead of being there for show.
Jackman is great, but Keen almost upstages him in ways I wasn’t anticipating. What is impressive is that she relies mostly on her expressions in the performance and she does at tremendous job at expressing anger, curiosity, fear, empathy, and joy in almost every scene she is in. She also provides some of the most emotional moments in the entire franchise, including a scene that had me on the verge of tears. If this really is Jackman’s last time playing Wolverine then I wouldn’t mind seeing her as his successor.
The chemistry they have together is excellent. They do provide a lot of emotion and the development they have in the film is organic and well-paced. The way their relationship starts is quite interesting as she has read stories about Wolverine in X-Men comic books (which is the closest we will ever get to seeing Wolverine in the yellow suit on film). The X-Men comic books in the film are meant to tell the stories of the X-Men saving the day in the past all those years ago (even though Logan says the comics aren’t entirely accurate as the truth may have been stretched a bit). It does add some sort of mythicism to the characters to the X-Men, as if Wolverine and the other members can be seen as a sort of inspiration/hero to people like Laura in the world they live because of their past stories of heroism (even if they aren’t all entirely true), which is something I actually found quite moving because that is kind of what happens. Logan does ultimately become the hero that he was reluctant to become once again. He does eventually, in a way, become that hero in those comic books that Laura read, and what is so remarkable is that it is done in such a subtle manner that makes it all the more emotionally affective. This is just one of the many layers that makes their relationship compelling (on top of a few other things) and this lead to a highly emotional payoff.
What is refreshing about the film is that the film isn’t entirely uplifting either. It is quite sad, but that is whats so great about it. This film feels entirely human in the way it depicts superheroes facing the hardships of the human condition in ways that are much more realistic and adds to that character study drama that the film feels like. There is one moment in which there is one brief shining moment of happiness in which all the characters smile and laugh, and yet this moment is extremely heartbreaking because this is the first time they have been happy in a long time and it is really the last time they may ever be happy. That is the beauty of this film; even the shortest scenes in the most trivial settings can bring out the film’s relatable humanity and emotion. The film is essentially a human drama first with superhero characters.
I also want to say that Boyd Holbrook’s performance as the villain Donald Pierce is the best villain portrayal in an X-Men film since Brian Cox since X2 (I know I keep bring that film up because it is that good) and one of the best villain performances in any superhero film. He is intimidating and ruthless and he brings such despicable pleasure in what he is doing. He is another highlight of this film.
The X-Men film series as a whole has experienced a lot of ups and downs as it includes some of the best films in the superhero genre (X2, Days of Future Past) and some of the worst (Origins: Wolverine, Apocalypse), but James Mangold’s Logan stands above the rest with its great performances, grounded setting, and stylized action that features a final shot that literally had me tears. It is not just one of the best X-Men films ever made, it is one of the finest superhero films ever made.