The Wolverine we wanted. The Wolverine we deserved.
To some, comic book movies are the plague of the earth right now. With the exception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, which even at this point have somewhat of a cut-and-paste feel to them, there appears to be an over-saturation of comic book films. One outstanding example was last summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, an overlong special effects-fest that featured actors who flat-out didn’t care even though the film centers around their actions (*cough* Jennifer Lawrence *cough*). Even I find myself at times wondering if there will ever be an end to comic book movies, and have prayed for something different to come along to revitalize the genre.
It seems my prayer has been answered, and its arrived in the form of a new Wolverine movie, Logan, based loosely on the popular comic “Old Man Logan”. In the not too distant future where mutants are all but extinct, Logan finds a past his prime, sickly Logan AKA Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) slumming through life as a limousine driver. When he’s not driving his limo, Logan hustles for prescription drugs in an attempt to care for the now senile Charles Xavier AKA Professor X (Patrick Stewart) with the help of fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). He then encounters a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who enlists his help escort a mysterious 11- year-old girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to a supposed safe haven for mutants in North Dakota called Eden. As a result, Logan becomes entangled in a deadly circumstance, as Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) along with the assistance of the leader of the Reavers Donald Pierce (Boyd Holdbrook) are looking to capture Laura for unknown purposes. A reluctant Logan finds himself having to protect Laura and Professor X while on the run from the deadly duo.
Lets face it, with the exception of X2: Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past, the X-Men franchise doesn’t have an illustrious history. 2000’s X-Men, 2006’s X-men: The Last Stand, 2011’s X-Men: First Class and 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse all fall in-between mediocre and awful on the comic book movie greatness barometer. The franchise has been especially weighed down by the fact that it’s most recognizable anti-hero, Wolverine, has never gotten a great stand-alone film. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not only one of the most underwhelming comic book films ever made, it’s one of the biggest middle fingers to comic book fans after the filmmakers bungled the mythology of Deadpool. 2013’s The Wolverine was solid, up until the last 30 minutes which featured its titular character battling a giant samurai transformer in its climax. Logan, however, finally rights the wrong of not only previous Wolverine films, but also past X-men films as well.
Logan isn’t your typical comic book film. It’s a character study. Logan is Hugh Jackman’s finest hour as Wolverine. Jackman aptly embodies a harden man who wants to be left alone to die, but still has enough of a conscious left to care for those in need. We feel Wolverine’s pain throughout this film and sympathize with him greatly, probably the most since his origin was explored further in X2: X-Men United. Sure, the character is essentially a mirror image of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name and/ or Dirty Harry, but Jackman’s performances as Wolverine have always been the strongest of his career.
Not to be outdone, however, is Patrick Stewart as Professor X, whose dementia has rendered him a walking nuclear weapon if he is not medicated properly. Stewart is a classical actor, so we expect this of him regardless. More surprising is Stephen Merchants’ performance as Caliban, a tortured albino mutant who aides Logan. Known more for his comedic roles such as in Hello Ladies, Merchant puts his acting abilities on full display, which should result in him obtaining more serious work in the future. Boyd Holbrook continues to show he’s a rising star with his performance as the villainous Donald Pierce, and injects the humor into the film (*because God forbid there not be any humor in a comic book movie*). But the real showstopper here is Dafne Keen as Laura, who barely speaks throughout the film, but gives the performance of a lifetime. You want this girl to make it to Eden, and she doesn’t come off as an annoying kid like most kids do in comic book movies (*cough* Iron Man 3 *cough*). It also helps that she kicks butt too. We haven’t seen such rooted characters in a Marvel Comics movie in quite some, and when something does happen to these people who you’ve grown attached to, it’s as if Wolverine himself claws you in your gut.
Now while Logan is a character piece, it doesn’t forget the main aspect of why people come to see comic book movies: the action. No longer are the days when Wolverine would stab someone and hardly any blood was shown. Logan takes full advantage of its R-rating by showcasing numerous ways to stab people in the head, stomach, and neck. Logan’s action sequences finally quenches my and the audiences’ blood thirst we have begged to see from Wolverine for years, and once the action starts, the blood doesn’t stop dripping. The film also has the feel of a classic western as well, most notably in the film’s scenery. The barren wasteland of Wolverine’s hideout in Mexico, the sequences that take place in Oklahoma City, and the final battle in the woods of North Dakota add an element we haven’t witnessed in a comic book movie. Think True Grit but with claws.
While I have to this point praised the film immensely, Logan shares a flaw like its other Wolverine stand-alone film predecessors: the big bad final boss. X-Men Origins: Wolverine had a mutated Deadpool that had sword Wolverine claws and numerous other mutant abilities. The Wolverine had a giant samurai transformer. While I won’t reveal the seemingly unstoppable force that Wolverine cannot overcome by himself, its one of those moments where you just look at the screen and say, really? That’s it? That’s the best you could come up with? For one reason or another, the standalone Wolverine films find a way to fumble the ball as it pertains to the final boss, and Logan is the franchises’ latest victim.
However, that’s not enough to hold myself back from proclaiming Logan as not only the best Wolverine and maybe even X-Men movie ever made, it could one day be regarded as the pinnacle of comic book films. It delivers on everything we’ve ever wanted in a Wolverine/ X-Men film and more. We get the character depth. We get the action. We get the blood and gore. We get the Wolverine movie we’ve always desired despite its one major blemish. One can only hope that after its successful theatrical run, Logan will be the new gold standard in how to make comic book films for years to come.
Rating: 3 1/2 out of 4 stars. Pay Full Price.