Hugh Jackman’s last ride in his most iconic role is the Wolverine picture we’ve deserved for years. It took 9 installments, but we’re finally seeing Logan unleashed. And best of all, it’s in an intimate conflict that removes the tired end of the world narrative in which every single previous outing has placed him.
Logan, which is adapted from the beloved Old Man Logan arc, is essentially a cinematic one-shot. Even held up next to last year’s R-rated anti-hero extravaganza, Deadpool, Logan doesn’t feel like a picture in the same franchise. And that’s wonderful news. We’re worlds away then, from the Logan of the original X-Men trilogy and the First Class trilogy. Wolvey isn’t different at his core, he’s still testy and brooding and tortured, it’s just that he’s now allowed to live in his truth.
Forget more or less everything you think you need to know about the timeline of the rest of the universe. Logan exists in its own world — all you need to bring with you on this trip is your sense of the mutant struggle in the human world, an understanding of the darkness of Logan’s life and times and a bit of mettle to see Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier in a very bad way. We leap forward to the near future, where Logan is looking grizzled and tired. He’s basically driving an Uber limo and he’s grim. All of this hustle, it transpires, in to maintain his alter ego, and keep secret the location of his ailing mentor, Charles. Charles is dying, his mind as turned against him, and as a result he’s quite volatile. Meanwhile, a desperate woman is tracking Logan in the hopes he will help her get a young mutant girl named Laura (the alarmingly good Dafne Keen) across the Canadian border. Naturally, his pursuers are also being pursued and he can’t hope to travel quietly with Charles in tow and a knack for attracting trouble.
Thrillingly, the overall superhero tone of Logan is muted. Less the mutant abilities this movie is actually much more a hybrid of a classic western and a hard-boiled crime story. You can feel the dirt and grime on your skin throughout. That R-rating, it’s earned. The violence isn’t cartoon-y or over the top, it has all the texture of that curb stomp in American History X and the shock value that only restrained realism can deliver. Instead of the idyllic silhouette in the moonlight, we get the tired, greying, broken man who can’t help but act, even if it is against his better judgement.
There are moments in Logan when I would have sworn I was watching a Coen Brothers film. Even amidst the tableau of violence and the weight of the mythology, this story is powerfully emotive. In many ways, it’s absolutely devastating. Even if you’ve never enjoyed a single X-Men film, or other superhero entry, give Logan a chance. Much as The Dark Knight was actually a layered crime epic, Logan is an intense and brutal character study that more or less demands the works that come after it rise to its quality and vision.