In an age where you can get your fix of superheroes on TV and in film, it’s kind of hard not to feel overwhelmed. Amid the chaos of all the Marvel and DC films that continue to thrive, 20th Century Fox’s “Logan” is easily one of the best and memorable films in this genre. Hugh Jackman’s last film as Wolverine is both bittersweet and emotional. There are no “we must save the world” shenanigans, no theatrical heroics, and no display of excessive righteousness or clashes between other superheroes that result in the destruction of major cities. If anything, “Logan” is a contemporary western that is grounded in the reality of the future it is set in while strongly paralleling the current sociopolitical climate in a way that makes a clear statement about belonging.
Set in 2029, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is now going by the name of James Howlett and is keeping a low profile on the outskirts of El Paso. He, along with Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a mutant who can sense other mutants, care for an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The elder, telepathic mutant is suffering from seizures that paralyze the minds of everyone within a certain radius. When a woman, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), seeks out Logan for his help getting her and her daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), across the border to Canada and to safety, Logan finds himself taking on the role of protecting Laura, a mutant who shares his adamantium claws, from a branch of the government, led by Boyd Holbrook’s Pierce, that is creating supersoldier mutants.
“Logan,” the second superhero film to earn an R-rating behind last year’s “Deadpool,” is unlike any superhero film you’ll see this year. This isn’t to say the rest will be bad, but “Logan” is far more grounded. By not trying to get involved, the mutant finds himself in the midst of a battle for justice. A superhero film can’t get anymore socially and politically relevant than “Logan,” about a man who has lingered on the sidelines of society who’s sought to help a group of Mexican children cross the border to safety. It is the ultimate act of heroism, in a way, to help those who need to be helped (and under threat from a government agency) and expect absolutely nothing in return. Logan may be a reluctant hero, but he’s a hero who sees evil and chooses to fight it.
Besides being a self-aware film, “Logan” is a great send-off to a character who has been a part of our lives for the last seventeen years. Between six “X-Men” films and three standalone Wolverine movies, Jackman has certainly left his mark on the character that will forever be associated with him. Director and co-writer James Mangold, along with writers Scott Frank and Michael Green, give a send-off worthy of the beloved character. His journey comes to a close in the most bittersweet and emotional of ways, and in a way that fits who Logan is as a person and who he has become.
James Mangold knows exactly what he wants out of this film and it’s clear from the start. The cinematography is fantastic and it’s easy to tell that “Logan” draws reference from old-school western films, one of which is shown briefly in a scene. In a lot of ways, “Logan” is the passing of the torch from one generation of mutants to the next. It showcases hope and allows for Laura to bond with Logan in a way we’ve never seen anyone else do before. She brings out the humanity within him that seems to have been lost at some point prior to meeting her. Their relationship is at once filled with conflict and a camaraderie that is unique to them. Besides that, “Logan” also continues to deal with the theme of belonging and finding a place in a world that hates. The previous “X-Men” films have constanly dealt with this theme and this movie continues in this vein.
However, this isn’t to say “Logan” is a perfect film. At over two hours long, the film can drag for a bit and there’s nothing particularly surprising about where the journey takes us. I suppose in its predictability, “Logan” allows itself to be a bit more emotional than we’re used to seeing in a superhero film. There’s a lot of violence and some of it is too gruesome to watch. It’s very much a roadtrip movie, albeit a dark, seemingly hopeless one with just a hint of light. As the culmination of the Wolverine trilogy, it is certainly better than its predecessors and its plot more tightly held together. It’s simple, but effective.
One of the primary benefits of “Logan” is that the film is grounded in its own reality. There isn’t some apocalyptic event that is threatening the world, a villain hellbent on destroying humanity and everything it’s built. No, the film’s strength lies in its parallels to the real world, a harsh reality that permeates throughout the film, visible in everything it touches. It’s these everyday villains, who threaten to harm children, use them for their own gain, and prevent them from being free that will truly resonate. “Logan” works phenomenally well as a standalone Wolverine film while still playing a role in the larger “X-Men” universe. Aside from being a great film, it speaks to bigger themes that will make it relevant for far longer than most other superhero movies.
"Logan" works phenomenally well as a standalone while still playing a role in the larger "X-Men" universe. Aside from being a great film, it speaks to bigger themes that will make it relevant far longer than most other superhero movies.