FILM REVIEW – LOGAN. With Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Eriq La Salle. Written by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green. Directed by James Mangold. Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity. 137 minutes.
In the world of Marvel’s “X-Men,” Wolverine has always been a standout, at least on the big screen. He’s been played by Hugh Jackman in seven previous movies (and a video game), including two solo flms. So now that Jackman playing the character for the last time, it’s fitting that it’s a story of Wolverine’s last stand, sometime in the future. The character may pop up again in future movies, but it won’t be quite the same.
LOGAN (Wolverine’s real name) is in hiding with Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who once trained and led the mutant X-Men. They’ve been decimated by the anti-mutant forces, and are now just trying to survive. This is when they learn of new government experiments looking to create mutants who can be controlled as weapons. They take on a young girl Laura (Dafne Keen), who the government wants to destroy as part of an earlier, failed experiment. Much of the film is them on the run, looking for a sanctuary which Wolverine doesn’t believe is real.
This is a lot grimmer than the other entries in the series, the best of which were powerful metaphors for finding one’s way in the world for people who were “different.” Here, those who would destroy the mutants are winning, with Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) eager to test out his new breed of mutant, which is essentially a killing machine.
One can see what might have attracted Jackman and Stewart (who is reportedly also exiting the series) to these stories in the first place, but after a while they seemed to be just spinning their wheels. There was no point to making them except, of course, that they scored at the box office. So we get an almost mournful tone here as Xavier sees his dream die and Wolverine, always the angriest misfit among the good guys, more bitter than ever.
Partway through they are taken in by a farm family led by Will (Eriq LaSalle), and they seem re-energized by both the kindness of strangers and Wolverine’s being able to return the favor when they come under attack. The sequence plays out unexpectedly, moving the film into even darker territory. This all leads up to the climactic showdown in which we get tragic heroism and a hint that the story is not yet over, although it will go on without Wolverine.
For fans of the “X-Men,” this is easily the best entry in the series in some time, a film that’s more interested in the characters than in the special effects. Jackman brought serious acting skills to a character who might easily have been reduced to a ball of rage who can produce blades from his hands. With “Logan,” he gets to see that character through to the end. Both the actor and the character are treated with the dignity they deserve.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.