By Murphy Kenefick, Columnist
Seventeen years after debuting the Wolverine character in Bryan Singer’s “X-Men,” Hugh Jackman returns to the role for the final time in “Logan,” a new spin on an otherwise fatigued franchise. James Mangold, director of the previous lackluster stand-alone Wolverine film, returns to conclude the series in a Western-style story that subverts the usual tone and plot points of related films. Going with a first-time R-rating, an isolated setting and a minimal amount of characters, “Logan” makes a 180 from the oversaturation of superhero films and instead channels the classic Western genre to make a gruff and gritty farewell to one of Marvel’s most famous characters.
The film opens with the eponymous Logan waking up in the back of his own limo, disturbed by a gang attempting to rob the car. He’s older, possibly drunk, clearly exhausted and really not in the mood for a fight. When pushed to his limit, however, he does so anyway, and ends up in a fight that’s very different from what we’ve seen before. He gets knocked to the ground by these four criminals, shot even, and for a while, he might actually have to walk away defeated. But then, they make him angry, and in classic Wolverine behavior, he launches into his rehearsed fighting motions and ends up tearing the guys apart. We see him at his lowest right off the bat, his new normal, and it’s just the beginning.
We now find that in classic Western lore, he’s an outlaw, living a life of solitude. His only interactions are with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose illness has started to cause him to have severe seizures which can, in essence, freeze time. To combat this, Wolverine and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) have a strict regimen of medicines that Charles is ultimately resistant to. This is the bleak world Mangold puts us into, for once focusing on the character primarily as a human being as opposed to a superhero; a caretaker, a makeshift-son, a man, as opposed to a product of a comic book. This approach was largely effective, causing me to care more about the character than I ever have before.
The real catalyst comes later in the form of a silent little girl who tears apart an entire brigade of militia men trying to capture her. Wolverine and Professor X are caught up in the action, and without giving away too many of the surprises of the plot, they all develop a connection. It functions as a Western, a road movie and, by the end, a superhero action film that feels more grounded in reality than anything since “The Dark Knight.” While it doesn’t have the same complexities and the pacing can lag at times, “Logan” consistently wears its heart on its sleeve, despite being about gruff, vicious people.
Ultimately, “Logan” is more impressive than it is enjoyable, but it serves as a necessarily sturdy final entry in the Wolverine story. If you’re a fan of the character, Marvel or superhero films in general, I would emphasize how much of a welcome change of pace this is. Hopefully the other X-Men films can take some notes.
BONUS POINTS: The final shot is one for the ages
NEGATIVE POINTS: Maybe too many liberties were taken with that “R” rating…
3.5 stars out of 5