Rating: A- or 8.5 out of 10 SNIKTs!
Synopsis- Mutants are about to become extinct and Wolverine and Professor X are on the run. A lot.
I’ll be referring to the movie as Logan and the character as Wolverine from here on out. There are a few distinct memories I have of being in the theater and really feeling something about what was on the screen. Cried like a baby all throughout Return of the King. Enthralled by Birdman. Terrified by Jurassic Park- I was 4. Thanks, Dad. The first X-Men was one of the first action movies that I remember I was really amazed by. (Another shout out to Dad for dragging me to see it.) Its sequel X-2 remains one of the earliest “serious” movies I actually understood.
X-Men has had a special place in my heart for a long time. As I told John, “I’m a waste for anything with Ian McKellen and anyone who doesn’t care about Patrick Stewart as Professor X can go die.” Granted, the series has had its ups and downs (I didn’t even see Origins: Wolverine) but a serious Wolverine movie? Possible last outing for Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman? TOGETHER? On a road trip!? Take my money. I never liked Johnny Cash’s cover of Hurt, but suddenly I DID. And then I saw the movie and I wasn’t disappointed. At all. And I went in, prepared with a big bowl of disappointment, but I didn’t need it!
This is literally what I’ve been begging for from an X-Men movie. I get it, action sells, CGI, blah blah blah, money. But X-Men was never a blow-’em-up action series to me and to a lot of other people. It had two classically trained Shakespearean actors in the leads! It had Darth Maul handling all the stunts! It had the guy from West End’s Oklahoma chewing a cigar and asking people if their nicknames are Wheels! It had a cloaked in-the-closet talk with parents! There was a real practicalness and subtlety, some wonderfully choreographed scenes, some real do-or-die moments… until The Last Stand hit and anything substantial in X-Men went poof like the dust of Nightcrawler.
But Logan goes back to the (more) serious nature of the first two X-Men (or as I refer to them, the good X-Men), before every single comic/superhero movie was based on the end of the world. It takes place in 2029 and mutants are on the brink of extinction. As always, there are some government agents (played by Not Tom Felton) after Wolverine and Professor X, who is now known as a weapon of mass destruction. A woman approaches Wolverine, begging her to help a child escape- perhaps one of the last mutants in the world. It’s like X-Men, I am Legend, and City of Men all rolled into one. There’s a real sense of urgency and end of the world sense to it without an oversaturation of mutant powers and special effects.
The movie is driven (sometimes literally) by the relationship between Wolverine and Professor X, characters, actors, and actors as these characters we have come to love in close to two decades. “Trust me, Logan,” Professor X told Wolverine in the first X-Men series and we finally get to see what has built up between them in action. It’s the core of the movie, as well of several outings of the series. By the time Logan hits, each character is deteriorating mentally and physically, but they endure together. There are some really quiet, poignant scenes that show the characters (and actors) love and respect for each other and willingness to see each other to the end. Stewart and Jackman have never been better together and it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in either role. It’s fucking special. I shed several tears.
Don’t let me forget the little girl! Dafne Keen as Laura, who Professor X believes to be as the last mutant, gets some of the best fight choreography and is a complete scene-stealer. More than that she serves as Wolverine’s antithesis that the fight isn’t over yet and yes, the world is worth saving. Keen does a wonderful job of providing a child’s pureness along with a sense of guilt that she has seen too much in her short life. She’s also a nice little representation of the student body Xavier was responsible for. Several of the Laura/Wolverine scenes are callbacks to the not-so-gruff moments he had with Rogue and those are the parts where I truly appreciated Jackman as Wolverine. He’s come such a long way.
Are there holes, inconsistencies, and not-so-great parts? Sure. Not Tom Felton never uses what is “his power” and he’s not actually Wolverine’s nemesis in this, even though we are led to believe this several times. We get a double dose of Jackman, and I’m still not convinced it was entirely necessary. The body count is HIGH. There’s complete obliviousness halfway through the movie where they forget they’re being chased for a day or so. Some of the characters are throwaways for whatever reason, and Patrick Stewart sticks out his tongue in a very non-X-like moment.
Sure, it’s not perfect (what movie is?) but there’s a lot of stuff I’m willing to overlook for the sake of meaningful entertainment, both in the filmmaking process and audience experience. When I say Logan takes it back to the first two X-Men movies, I’m talking about a whole lot. There’s a real desperation for tolerance and acceptance here that hasn’t been seen in a long time. Sure, it’s been talked about in the past few movies, but it hasn’t been felt in the way Logan shows it. It’s a highly personal and internal journey for Logan, not just some adventure outing. Real world issues come into play here. Some really incredible practical stunt work and effects.
And, most importantly, Logan goes back to making common humanity the focus and heart of the movie, rather than relying on the dazzle of mutant powers. It’s a really meaningful and emotional high point of the series and I’m glad Jackman can walk away with this kind of Wolverine movie under his belt.