Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart are the two names that have been associated with the franchise since the beginning. While the latter didn’t make an appearance for a long time, the former has been in every film (barring Deadpool), supporting the brand like a rock. And he has had a remarkable run playing the character. When he first appeared in Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000), he wasn’t a star. It’s his perfect embodiment of the growling, vulnerable superhero that made him a celeb. And it took him 17 years to finally call it quits with the third solo Wolverine outing aka Logan.
The incredibly talented James Mangold (who directed the terrific western film 3:10 to Yuma) has given the actor and his character a farewell it deserved. While in 2013, he attempted something different by making the adamantium clawed hero nearly mortal, he’s broken various new grounds this time. Entirely deconstructing the comic book genre, Mangold gives us the best superhero movie in recent times. He prioritizes on delivering a story first, spectacle second.
Identical to conventional films that begin with credits, Logan opens in a similar fashion. We find our beloved hero (Hugh Jackman) lying drunk in the back seat of a Limousine. Sporting a thick beard, he wakes up swearing to the noise of the car rims being pulled off. With bloodshot eyes and a damaged leg, he somehow manages to get out of the car and ask the burglars to walk away. Expectedly, things don’t work out and he gets beaten up.
In contrast to his ability of quickly healing himself, he stays grounded, bleeding heavily with wounds half open. If he was a younger version of Wolverine, he would have retaliated promptly. But here he recovers at snail’s pace. And when he blades the men down, he’s as gruesome as it gets.
This is where we know Logan won’t be a generic superhero outing.
Carrying on the legacy of Tim Miller’s Deadpool, it’s abusive and bloody violent. F-words are audible throughout, including the highly virtuous Professor X (Patrick Stewart) throwing them as well.
Set in 2029, a time far off than other X-Men entries, the atmosphere is downright grim. The team of mutants we once knew is now gone and no new mutant births have taken place. Cinematographer John Mathieson captures this gloominess to perfection. The melancholy stays from the first frame to the last. The most unsettling thing, however, comes in the form of X-23, the little Wolverine, aka Laura (Dafne Keen) who decapitates dozen men single-handedly. Embodying similar powers, she idolizes Logan. The admiration isn’t mutual as Logan is no more the same person. Despondent, he struggles with traumatic memories and a body poisoned with adamantium. Whatever he earns as a chauffeur, he spends it on buying meds for Charles.
Charles, now 92, suffers from dementia. He gets seizures if not dosed on time. Caliban (last seen in X-Men: Apocalypse), a fellow mutant with the ability to track people of his own kind, nurses him in a remote location. Too weak himself for taking care of the Professor, he requests Logan to find a new spot. Things function in the same, disturbing manner until one day Logan is reluctant to protect Laura from a troop led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who represents an evil organization that threatens to wipe out the already desolate world of Mutants.
While Deadpool was marketed as a film for adults, Logan is the first superhero film, in its truest sense not meant for kids. Graphic violence and mature themes aplenty, it’s a ride exclusively for grown-ups. And it’s the most innovative film since Zack Snyder’s Watchmen that completely defies genre conventions. The director stays true to his words of delivering a film different than previous Marvel movies. It is dark, depressing and devoid of humor. And everything works in its favor.
Just like the title of the film, which puts the man before the hero, there is no costume to be spotted. Neither are there any flashy visual effects. With no intentions of spoiling anything, you don’t get any heroic moments to cheer for as well. Everything is as real as it can get. Corresponding to the elevator scene from The Winter Soldier, the action in Logan is fully warranted, never forced. The realistic approach adds to the film’s dolorousness.
Hugh Jackman has given several remarkable performances in his career. But Logan is easily one of his finest. Jackman astutely displays the pain and baggage of being an ailing superhero. Not only does he deserve applause for the excruciation he went through for the part at an age of 48, but also for bringing novelty to a character he’s played for 17 years.
Vet Patrick Stewart also excels as the sick and mentally disturbed version of Professor X. Rendering his dialogues emotively, he bridges this distinct X-Men installment with the primary series. Preceding one of the most shocking scenes in the film, his confession to Logan about how happy he feels is deeply moving. If this is his final performance, as he proclaims in the X-Men canyon, then it’s another fitting valedictory.
Dafne Keen as X-23 is a real find. In her very first performance, the 11-year old girl has showcased a rare aggression in the visceral action scenes. If Jackman and Stewart are the elderly souls, she is the firecracker that balances the overall feel and tone of the film.
There are some genuine shocks and surprises which are best left unspoiled. But to the director’s credit, it has been a while since I’ve seen an action scene with stakes so high that I strongly wished for a happier culmination.
Overall, Logan earns its R-rating. It is a mature film that successfully permeates first-rate action amidst melancholia and (relatively) low budget. While a reboot is on its way with a new league of X-Men, and in particular, a new Wolverine, it’s certain that we won’t get another Jackman to fill the shoes. Watch it for him, Mangold’s unwavering approach and the breathless spectacle as our ‘bub’ bids farewell.
P.S. There is no post-credits sequence.