It’s hard to believe that it’s been seventeen years since we first saw Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart in the very first X-Men movie, now almost two decades later they bring this cinematic relationship to a beautiful close. And I do mean beautiful, sure this last outing with everyone’s favorite badass is full of blood and carnage, the film is rated “R” for a reason, yet the central theme of this movie isn’t about the violence but instead it’s all about love.
The movie takes place in the near future of 2029 where we learn that no new mutants have been found in over twenty-five years, Logan (Hugh Jackman) himself has put his superhero life as an X-Men well behind him as he now spends his days working as a limo driver while taking care of a mentally unstable Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), with the help of the mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant), and the last thing he wants to do is get involved with anything remotely heroic. This Logan is twelve miles of bad road, his Healing Factor has begun to fail him and he limps along in constant pain, and that physical pain is only matched by the agony of watching his oldest and dearest friend mentally waste away. Not to mention the problem of taking care of the “World’s most powerful telepath” who has seizures that can kill. What did happen to all the other X-Men?
When Logan is approached by a Hispanic nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who asks to Logan escort her and an 11-year-old girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to a safe place in North Dakota called “Eden” he at first refuses, his desire to not get involved is heightened by being approached by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the head of a cybernetically enhanced group called The Reavers who are working for Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) the head of a genetics weapons facility in Mexico. Their desire to retrieve Laura (or X-23 as they call her) puts them in conflict with Logan’s dream of he and Charles living out their halcyon days on a boat. But of course Logan will eventually take the job, the boat plan does require a substantial amount of cash, but it’s Xavier’s desire to help the girl that is the key factor here, and when it’s revealed that Laura is not only a mutant but that she was genetically engineered from Logan’s DNA things get a bit nuts.
This movie is basically a Road Picture with Logan and Charles both seeking redemption and a little girl looking for a family. As I stated at the outset this movie is about love, with paternal love being the key element here as the love Logan and Charles feel towards each other is more deep and more heartbreaking than what you’d find in a dozen so-called dramas, and Laura having grown up in a lab is more in need of family than almost anyone.
Having seen almost all those close to him die Logan is not too keen on adding more to his family tree but though Laura may be young she’s also damn persistent and her silent stares are stronger than adamantium. Now I don’t want to make this film sound like a movie of the week that you’d find on the Hallmark channel because director James Mangold does everything one could hope for from an “R” rated Wolverine movie, the action sequences are frenetic and brutal as blood sprays and limbs fly, the death toll mounts in staggering numbers, and the introduction of Laura as an almost feral child takes these action moments to a whole new level. There is just more on display here than what you get in your typical comic book movie.
This may be the last time we will see Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier and as sad as that seems what Mangold does here is open up the possibility for many more great stories in the X-Men universe, stories that don’t have to be big epic superhero battles but instead tales with heart and intelligence.
It’s almost hard to call Logan a superhero movie as it’s more a western with mutant powers standing in for six guns, and at one point Charles shows Laura the movie Shane to teach her that “That there’s no coming back from killing” and it’s certainly clear that films like Unforgiven and Shane influenced this depiction of a retired fighter stepping up to the plate one final time, and comparisons to an aging Clint Eastwood are quite justified.
With the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe filling the multiplexes almost every month with action packed tapestries it’s nice to see Fox slipping a smaller, albeit graphically brutal one, in amongst all the exploding spandex clad heroes. Logan is easily the best of the franchise and I do hope that if we do get more X-Men movies that they follow the story of Laura (who if you read the comic books becomes the New Wolverine) as young Dafne Keen is an incredibly gifted actress, and not just for her age as she is damn good period, and I’d love to see where her and her story goes.