It’s 2029, and Logan (Hugh Jackman), the mutant once known as Wolverine, is now older, scruffier and grumpier. He works as a limo driver at the US-Mexico border, and what little cash he earns goes to buying medication for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now 90 and suffering from a degenerative brain disease that gives him seizures.
Helped by the albino mutant Caliban (an almost unrecognisable Stephen Merchant), Logan’s sole aim is to take care of the only mentor and father figure he’s ever known. A shadow of his past self, he’s been stripped of most of his rapid healing power, and his age and wounds show in every step he takes.
Their paths cross with Laura (Dafne Keen), a mysterious young mutant with powers that are suspiciously familiar to Logan. Hunted by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and a group of cyborg soldiers called the Reavers, the three mutants go on the run as they search for a safe place far, far away.
There’s been quite a lot said about audiences getting superhero fatigue, but I truly think that Logan might be a real game changer for the genre. Sure, the box office success of last year’s Deadpool (see our review) might’ve helped to pave the way for Logan to get made, but Logan is as different as you can get in the X-Men franchise. This is a superhero movie with real stakes, because it’s about what happens when superheroes are near the end of their lives instead of at their peak.
Logan is a movie that is many things. For one thing, it defies genres. It might be about characters who used to be superheroes, but there is nary a spandex suit or world-ending apocalyptic event in sight. Surprisingly, it is rooted in realism while being dark and gritty in all the right ways (Synder and co., take note). It’s also a (very violent) road trip movie and a story about how lost souls finally find themselves a family of their own.
The sepia-tinted scenes which make up the bulk of the movie also serve to emphasise the movie’s Western roots, painting Logan as the last cowboy standing in an age where mutants are few and far between. Director James Mangold has taken full advantage of the movie’s R rating, and swear words aside, the action sequences come fast and furious and don’t give you a chance to catch your breath. But to Mangold’s credit it never feels old or stale.
As one would expect with a Wolverine movie, people are killed in many, many creative and gory ways. But the movie isn’t just a mindless gorefest. More than any other X-Men movie, Logan gets right to the heart of its main character and what it really means to be Logan, and it’s in the quiet moments where the characters really shine. Raw and visceral as it is, there are pockets of humour and real emotion between Xavier, Logan and Laura that elevate it beyond its superhero premise.
But more than anything, it is a labour of love for Jackman, who has played Logan for almost 18 years and has sworn up and down that this is his last outing as Wolverine. And what a finale this is! Underneath that untidy tangle of a beard, Jackman portrays Logan with real vulnerability and pathos. True to the good, honourable man he’s always been, he’s long given up caring for anything else other than Xavier.
Stewart is brilliant as usual in his fifth outing as Xavier, but I found myself feeling a little distressed the same way I did with Ian McKellen’s performance in Mr. Holmes (see our review), in that seeing him portray a man near the end of his life was profoundly moving. In fact, I found myself tearing up more than once whenever he was onscreen. Given that he has also said Logan will be the last time he plays Xavier, his performance here has additional poignance.
But the real surprise here is 11-year-old Dafne Keen, whose piercing gaze and outsized screen presence is remarkable in an actress this young. She is the perfect foil to Jackman’s Logan and brings out a more human side of him. Additionally, fans of the comic books will be absolutely delighted to see how she fares in the fight sequences as she punches and slashes her way through the movie.
That said, Logan marks the end of an era. I’ve been an X-Men fan since the 1992 animated series, and when the end credits for Logan rolled, I turned to my friends and told them that they had finally done my favourite X-Men characters justice. This is the Wolverine movie I have waited my entire life to see. It’s a fitting end to a chapter that started with Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000), but mark my words, it is by no means the end of this beloved franchise.
Logan opens in Singapore today. Tell us what you think of the movie!