Sitting down to watch “Logan,” Hugh Jackman’s latest and presumably last take on the Wolverine character, I couldn’t help but to feel some level of skepticism. While I’ve always been a fan of the X-men, the movies have proven to be fairly sub-par experiences. The stories presented have never been very compelling, and always seem to fall victim to a certain level of campiness and super-hero movie tropes that most of the fan-base doesn’t find appealing. Over the years comics have progressively matured, and fans have come to expect the same from the movies.
As an X-men fan, I’m happy to report that “Logan” has finally broken the mold. Leiden with gratuitous violence, adult language and thought provoking, mature subject matter, “Logan” finally allows for the Wolverine character to be presented in a way that better resembles the mentality of his comic counterpart. Director James Mangold has done away with the typical plot devices that have ultimately hurt the X-men movie franchise for years, offering up an X-men tale that is still very much grounded in reality. Gone are the alien threats and ludicrous, over the top CGI spectacles of past films. “Logan” is in many ways the “Dark Knight” of the Marvel cinematic universe.
Based very loosely on the “Old Man Logan” mini-series, the film takes place in a distant future, the year 2029, where mutants are all but absent from society. Logan, along with fellow mutant Caliban, played by Stephen Merchant, care for a mentally deteriorating Professor X, played by Patrick Stewart.
The professor is a mere shadow of his former self. Prone to violent seizures that result in intense, ground shaking psychic attacks, Logan and Caliban have hid the professor away in an abandoned smelting plant on the Mexican border. The professor’s brain has been classified as a weapon of mass destruction, and Logan, working as a simple limo driver, hopes to earn enough money to purchase a boat for both him and his colleagues to live out the rest of the professor’s life on the ocean, completely segregated from the human population.
Patrick Stewart’s return to the role of Professor X is a welcomed one. Given the professor’s mental state and failing health, Stewart is able to explore the character in ways that viewers have yet to see. He’s no longer limited to the high-brow, thespian roll that viewers have come to expect, and instead comes off as more of a tragic character still clinging to his last shreds of hope for the mutant population. He swears, discusses the tragedies that being a mutant entails, and even cracks a joke from time to time, the result of which makes for a more grounded, believable character.
The film really picks up when Logan is approached by Gabriella Lopez, a nurse who wants him to escort both her and an 11-year-old girl named Laura to a remote area in North Dakota dubbed “Eden.” She claims that there are people looking for Laura, and that “Eden” is the only place in which she will be safe. Hesitant at first, Logan eventually accepts the job only to find Lopez has been murdered, and Laura left in his care.
Laura, played by the young actress Dafne Keen, is one of several mutant children being hunted by a mutant research facility that had hoped to use them as weapons. She, like Logan, bares adamant claws that pierce through her knuckles, and fights with a primal ferocity that is sure to make audience’s jaws drop. Viewer’s first taste of Laura’s combat prowess is arguably one of the greatest fight scenes in Marvel movie history. It doesn’t only capture a viewer’s attention, it demands it, and helps to set the stage for the rest of the film.
However, the best aspects of the film are not found simply in its incredibly brutal fight scenes. The heart of the film resides more so in the developing relationship between Laura and Logan. The character of Logan tackles some pretty dark feelings, wrestling with alcoholism, nihilism and thoughts of suicide, but through his interaction with Laura, the character manages to find reasons to persevere, even if he is hesitant to do so at first.
All in all, Logan is a much heavier picture than fans of the X-men will be use too, but the result is a much more rewarding theatrical experience. The story and its characters have depth, and the relatively dark subject matter is a refreshing new take on the super hero genre. As Marvel continues to expand its theatrical universe, I can only hope that they will continue bolster their stories with mature themes instead of playing to younger audiences, which comics no longer adhere too.