Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Synopsis: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
Genre: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: R (For strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity)
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Every hero, every story, every journey has an end.
It’s been 17 years since Hugh Jackman first drew his adamantium claws in Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000). Over the years, Jackman has portrayed his now iconic "Wolverine" in 10 X-Men films, including (now) 3 solo Wolverine films. The actor's career has been defined by this role, so it’s unsurprising that Jackman wanted to give his character the perfect sendoff to audiences.
And Logan accomplishes just that. And so much more.
The film is set in the near future, where mutants have become nearly extinct and the few remaining are in hiding. A dejected, alcohol-consuming, and weak Logan is caring for a similarly ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) in a hideout near the US-Mexico border.
The only purpose Logan feels left in his life is caring for Charles, and even that is done more reluctantly and out of pity than a genuine care for him. A tragic accident has left Logan without his X-Men family, and so he is literally waiting out his days for his death.
Logan's measly daily routine is disrupted, however, when a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) approaches him pleading with him to take her and her young daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) to safety up north to escape a band of mercenaries tracking them. After being offered $50,000 for the trip, Logan begrudgingly accepts.
Logan is a drama first (a family drama at that), a road trip film second, and a superhero action film last. That isn't to say the film doesn't have many action sequences--Logan takes full advantage of its R rating and sports many scenes of Jackman going "full Wolverine"---cutting anyone and everyone down in his path with his signature adamantium claws. The difference this time is that the film isn't hampered by a PG-13 rating---victims are fully shown getting decapitated and brutally mutilated in many fashions, with the camera showing you the devastating effects of adamantium claws slashing through human flesh rather than quickly cutting away as in previous films.
While the film should be praised for truly honoring the violent nature of Wolverine, Logan excels past other superhero films for the screen time when the violence isn't taking place. The film deals with extremely strong and resonant themes of mortality, death, finding one's purpose in life, and discovering and holding on to what is most important in life---our relationships with family and friends. In essence, the film explores the human side of Wolverine (this is evident even in the title itself--Logan). This is accomplished through scenes of Logan's interaction with Xavier as well as Laura. Throughout the film, Logan is internally desperately searching for something to make life worth living, something that is especially difficult in his case due to him being hundreds of years old. These scenes throw a wrench at audiences because they aren't expecting to be challenged like this in a superhero film, as traditionally films of this genre are meant to do one thing: entertain. And while Logan certainly entertains, it does something much more important in making audiences think about their own purpose in life, where and who they'll be with towards the end of their life, and how they will handle the inevitability of death. Again, this will shock audiences not only because the film is in the superhero genre, but because the demographic seeing the film is largely the younger generation that doesn't bother taking time to think about death--that only comes when you reach your fifties or sixties, not your late teens, twenties or thirties.
I can honestly say that of all the superhero films I've ever seen (I've seen almost 40 to date) Logan was the first superhero film that made me stop and think about these deep issues that all humans will have to come to terms with at some point in their life. You think about them on your walk out of the theater and in your car ride back home. It's a strange and scary feeling that, like it or not, will almost certainly come over you after seeing the film.
Finally, Logan is a film layered with strong and multi-faceted performances from its leads. Without question, Hugh Jackman delivers his finest performance as Wolverine, sending us off with the rage, fury, and torment (both inside and out) that has defined his character for the last 17 years. I would go as far to say that Jackman could and should earn an Oscar nomination for his performance, which would be the first in a superhero film since Heath Ledger's post-humus Oscar nomination and win as the joker in The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008). Patrick Stewart also delivers a strong emotional performance as the ailing Professor X, one that some critics say also has some potential for attention from the Academy. Finally, the young Dafne Keen (in her film debut) delivers the most surprisingly strong performance, especially considering she doesn't speak a word for half of the film. It's a nuanced performance that didn't receive much attention in the trailers for Logan but is without question a memorable role for the actress that will live on for many years down the road and should put her on the map for future main roles.
Logan is a rare superhero film that entertains as well as touches audiences, forcing them to think about deep issues that will come down their way in their own journey in life. It is also an exceptional sendoff to Hugh Jackman's beloved Wolverine, featuring grisly character-true violence that's balanced with the quieter, emotional scenes. And that's the definition of a great film--one that entertains and challenges audiences in a balanced manner.