Paradise regained: 'Logan' gives Wolverine his well-deserved redemption
4.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: James Mangold
Writers: Michael Green, Scott Frank, James Mangold, David James Kelly
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
Rated: R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity
Recommended to: Those who have waited impatiently for a Wolverine film that does the character justice
Synopsis: Set in the near future, Logan (Hugh Jackman) tends to a dying Professor X (Patrick Stewart) with the help of Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Tracked down by a mysterious woman named Gabriela, Logan reluctantly agrees to help transport a young mutant girl with extraordinary healing powers who is being hunted by a well-armed organization.
Review: Once, on a road trip to visit my grandparents in Wyoming, I stumbled across a reprint of Wolverine’s first appearance in “The Incredible Hulk” #181. I don’t recall exactly how old I was, probably 12 years old or so, but the joy I felt reading that particular comic has stuck with me for the rest of my life.
I was fortunate enough to be a fan of the X-Men comics during Chris Claremont’s run on the title. I, like many of my generation, found an affinity for Charles Xavier’s band of misfits with a particular devotion to James Howlett (AKA Logan AKA Weapon X AKA Wolverine). The Avengers were the popular kids, the X-Men were the outcasts, loners and otherwise rejected goods. I could identify with that. I’ve always identified with that.
When Hugh Jackman made his debut as Wolverine in 2000 in Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” the landscape of cinema was incredibly different. Superheroes weren’t the soup du jour. There were many who questioned if comic books, were really suitable material to be adapted into movies. I know it sounds absurd now, but it wasn’t until “Blade II” (2002), “X2” (2003) and “Spider-Man 2” (2004) that Hollywood took notice. “Iron Man” arrive until 2008.
There’s no denying that a lot of the success of the first two X-Men films was due to their focus on Wolverine. It wasn’t until 2011’s “X-Men: First Class” that audiences were given a narrative that didn’t feature Wolverine as one of its headlining characters. Of course at that point the X-Men franchise wasn’t in the healthiest of positions. “X-Men: The Last Stand” botched the “Phoenix Saga” storyline and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was a complete disaster.
Wolverine would get back on his feet with 2013’s “The Wolverine,” but for all its improvements, it still wasn’t the film that the character deserved. Simply being better than “Origins” wasn’t so much a triumph as it was a couple steps in the right direction. 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past” was another step forward. Wolverine’s brief appearance in 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse” was nice, but beyond a few moments in the first two X-Men films, we still hadn’t really seen Wolverine as he really deserved to be presented. This had little to do with Jackman, who as far as I’m concerned will always be a favorite of mine. Jackman’s dedication to and love for the character has always evident. It was the writing.
When it was announced that Jackman would be putting on the claws one last time I must admit I was worried that “Logan” would never live up to my hopes and expectations. Even when it revealed that the “Old Man Logan” storylines were being worked into the new film I couldn’t help but be skeptical.
Ladies and gentleman, “Logan” does not disappoint. It’s a bloody, visceral and haunting story about redemption and a young girl’s desperate need to be loved. It is a deeply human story that transcends the capes, boots and brightly colored costumes that have become the hallmark of comic book cinema. This isn’t a story about the end of the world (that may have already come and gone in its own way). It is a story about a handful of people and the dark future that sits on the horizon.
Wolverine was never a straight-laced character. His penchant for vulgar language, booze and violence lingered in the various PG-13 films, but a true look at the man had yet to be offered. “Logan” is the Wolverine film that long-time fans have dreamed of. It is intimate, raw and unhinged. Like “Deadpool,” “Logan” features its share of gore and explicit language. However, “Logan” also has a massive amount of depth that goes well beyond the funny, but inconsequential, aspects of the Deadpool character. “Logan” isn’t a send up of comic book films. It doesn’t really even feel like a comic book film. It’s more of a Western, an idea backed up by the scene in a hotel room where Xavier watches 1953’s “Shane.” Those familiar with the classic film will note that there are many similarities between Logan, particularly at this point in his life, and the weary gunman Shane.
Ultimately “Logan” is the artistic triumph that I hoped for. Behind the blood and gore are tremendous performances from Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura. The dialogue is particularly sharp and, while it certainly strays from its source material, I can’t imagine that many Wolverine fans will have any issues with the story. You might find yourself wiping away a tear or two. I know I did.
“Logan” breaks the comic book movie mold. It is a beast unto itself, just like it should be.
If Fox were wise they would build the New Mutant universe from here. Let X-23 lead these young mutants into a new era of X-Men films free to explore the future without having to rewrite the past.