A recurring theme in the X-Men universe has been to celebrate being different. This normally applies to the mutants being discriminated against. That’s certainly present in James Mangold’s Logan. However, unlike previous franchise entries, this one strives to be celebrated for its own efforts to be different. It’s a hard R rated venture where Hugh Jackman’s title character has developed a drinking problem and considerably more F bombs in his vocabulary (it’s the first word he utters). His claws shed the kind of blood you won’t witness in a typical PG-13 comic book adaptation.
This is a somber affair with a tone that is legitimately jarring at first. Deadpool may have been the first hugely mainstream R flick of the genre, but that’s all they have in common. Logan is different for sure, but I found that to be cause for celebration only some of the time.
There is little for Logan to be happy about as we open. It’s 2029 and the world’s mutant population is aging. No mutant has been born in a quarter century. The former Wolverine spends his days driving a limo in Texas for fat cats and bachelor parties. He drinks a lot and does his best to hide those infamous claws.
He also serves as caretaker for a frail Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose brainiac abilities have been threatened by brain disease. Logan is assisted by albino mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant in a fine performance). Our title hero’s past glories are sought again when he comes into contact with a mutant who isn’t supposed to be exist.
Laura (Dafne Keen) is a young girl with mutations similar to Logan’s. It turns out the military is raising youthful mutants for their own destructive purposes in Mexico. She escapes and Logan is asked to take her to a North Dakota location where others of her kind have set up a safe haven coined Eden. Logan isn’t eager to do so, but soon enough he, the girl, and Professor X are on a savage road trip. Standing in their way is Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), head of a military organization termed the Reavers and Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the scientist who’s experimented on the new mutants. In a series that has seen villains both memorable and not, this pair resides more in the latter category.
Logan isn’t really about its bad guys though. It’s more focused on the demons that Logan is battling himself. Oh… and he’s actually literally battling himself too in the form of a nifty genetically engineered version of himself created by those villains. The toned down story (albeit with plenty of hardcore violence) allows Jackman to go places he’s never entered into before with his signature character. Same goes for Stewart’s Professor X. The movie’s points on being a caretaker may resonate with many viewers not accustomed to seeing it in a comic book adaptation. Both actors give impressive performances, as does young Keen in her often silent work.
Ironically, it’s when we realize that the new mutants have been so inspired by the X-Men tales that came before it that Logan generates its greatest power. In other words, that would be the kind of stories we saw in the previous movies that this strives to be so dissimilar from. The final act is most potent and I felt at times it takes a little longer than it should to get there. When it finally does, Logan provides a fulfilling conclusion to Jackman’s work as Logan/Wolverine as the claws draw to a close.
*** (out of four)