By Gavin Arucan | Staff Writer
After nearly two decades of X-Men epics, origin stories, and spinoffs, “Logan” is the somber final chapter of the Wolverine’s story. The X-Men franchise has always been a bit more intelligent than most superhero blockbusters. The mutant discrimination narrative puts X-Men above other action films with its profound social commentary and the inspirational story of these brave outcasts fighting for equality and acceptance. “Logan” takes all of that hope, all of that spirit, and rips it to shreds. Yet, strangely, that depressing notion that all of the previous X-Men efforts were for nothing drives “Logan” to become the most emotional character story in its genre.
“Logan,” much like “Old Man Logan,” the comic book it was inspired by, explores a future in which mutants are nearly extinct, and the world has moved on. The entire X-Men cause is long gone and the age of superheroes has passed. Hugh Jackman, in his final portrayal of the savage Wolverine, plays an old, weathered Logan who’s exhausted of the world around him. Sir Patrick Stewart reprises his role as Professor Xavier, albeit with a deteriorating mind and a past almost as damaged as Logan’s. Together, these veteran actors, who have been playing these characters for 17 years, deliver nuanced and deeply captivating performances that work perfectly in the environment that “Logan” sets up. Part of this is thanks to the liberty that comes with an R rating. With an unlimited amount of f-bombs, Jackman and Stewart are able to capture the reality of two tired, grizzled men being thrust back into action against their will.
And the action itself is groundbreaking among the franchise, even with Deadpool’s previous R-rated ventures. “Logan” is one the bloodiest superhero movies out there, and by far the most gory out of the recent surge of superhero films. Wolverine is a character that works best when he’s at his most violent, and that is definitely the case here. Countless arms, legs, and heads are sliced off in the most gruesome ways possible. The stakes are higher as well, since Logan is no longer healing as fast as he used to, and he’s slower and weaker in his old age. You’re no longer certain that the Wolverine will come out on top because he’s now the one who’s outmatched. Fox is taking welcomed risks with its X-Men universe, and and R-rated Wolverine film was a necessity. If this is indeed Jackman’s last film as Wolverine, I wouldn’t have wanted him end on any other note than the gore fest we get to witness in “Logan.”
Despite how perfect the action is, I found myself much more compelled by the drama rather than the action, which is unprecedented in my viewings of comic book movies. The characters and their motivations inform the action scenes, so without the drama, the action wouldn’t be nearly as interesting. Logan and Xavier have already been developed in several other movies over the last 17 years, so it’s no surprise that I care about them in an action sequence. However, even the new major and minor characters are introduced quickly and seamlessly so that the drama and action have more personality. The obvious stand-out, of course, is 11-year-old Dafne Keen’s character, Laura. For a tween, Laura is surprisingly equally adorable and immensely intimidating. She’s just as savage as Wolverine was in his prime, and this young actress portrays pure rage naturally. Laura is the last glimmer of hope in Logan and Xavier’s bleak, depressing life. She’s what motivates the two former heroes to dig themselves out of whatever hole they fell down years ago and find something worth living for.
That’s what makes the joyless world of “Logan” work as opposed to the similar mood that the colossal failure, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” tried to promote. “Logan” is incredibly sad for both the audience and the characters. I’m sure that both Logan and Xavier would rather die than continue living in the cruel world that took so much from them. That depression may have been too polarizing for audiences if not for Laura’s presence. She, like Logan and Xavier, has a terrible past, but, unlike the two aging men, the young girl represents a possible better future that the two never fathomed could’ve existed. In such a dark and unforgiving movie, Laura provides that one sliver of hope that both the audience and characters can grasp on to and treasure.
“Logan” is exactly what it should be. It’s a small, violent, somber, and humble character story and farewell to an icon so deeply rooted in movie culture. It never tries to be that over the top superhero film with a third act monster to fight or a beam in the sky to combat. It’s about a tired man and a little girl learning to love, hope, and be a part of a family again after decades of loneliness and oppression. That man and girl just so happen to be killing machines with indestructible metal claws protruding from their knuckles.