Who would have thought that after 2009’s X-Men Origins there would be a Wolverine movie that would actually make you give a damn about the franchise?
Prepare to be surprised because Logan is a violently nihilistic, at times quite depressing and also brutal social commentary on the current state of things in America. But more importantly, it’s the most perfect, emotionally resonant possible send-off to Hugh Jackman in his final performance as the titular character.
The first scene itself gives you the realisation that Logan is unlike any other X-Men movie, and in fact, unlike most other superhero films. The hero wakes up in a car which is being robbed by hooligans, but he looks old and haggard and struggles to dispose of them.
A younger Logan would have finished the goons in two seconds but this time he lets himself get beaten up, almost as if he wants the pain. Seeing Jackman’s bitter and gaunt figure living in a dusty, isolated little quarry near the Mexico border is reminiscent of the setting in Unforgiven. We realise Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is now very old and senile is living with him in a cramped up space, a far cry from the Xavier mansion he grew up in. Logan works part-time as a cab driver to pay for Xavier’s medicines. It’s all gloomy as hell.
Things only change for the worse when Logan’s hideout is attacked by a group of mercenaries led by a robotic armed Donald (Boyd Holbrook) looking for a mysterious angry girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who may be a mutant of some kind. The film then becomes a road trip where Logan attempts to ferry the girl to a safe haven while taking care of Xavier who seems to have lost control of his mental powers.
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This information of things having gone bad for these characters is rendered in an unforgivingly bleak fashion. It almost feels like you’re watching something set in the Juarez section of Sicario. Then there’s the violence, which is spine-chillingly vicious – Logan does little to restrain himself from stabbing people in the face, slicing off their limbs, beheading or impaling them.
It’s been some time since I’ve seen a film in which the violence rendered an emotional reaction – this is because the violence is not glamorised but used as a tool to send the message that bloodshed and murder is a reprehensible act.
These are desperate people living in desperate times, and even Logan is sick of the desolation around him.
Then there’s the father-daughter dynamic between Logan and Laura that is just beautiful and also reminiscent of Terminator 2. The physically broken and emotionally shattered Logan is to deal with a child who seems to face the same predicament as him – it’s as heavy a theme an audience-friendly superhero film could carry, but it just works as masterful storytelling rather than a contrived diatribe.
Much like last year’s Deadpool the action sequences are pulled down in scale so it’s a nice change from the usual set up of a building being destroyed. What’s more – it’s in 2D instead of 3D – a ballsy move by the studio especially since this is a big superhero movie.
As a bonus, director James Mangold, who is well versed with Westerns (he made the excellent 3:10 to Yuma) incorporates his love for the genre right into the heart of the film. And if your tear ducts tend to open easily you might want to carry some tissues to the theater and whip them out in the final act – which is a poignant goodbye to seventeen years of the Wolverine we knew, but also a tender look into the future for the franchise.