REVIEW: Final Wolverine film ‘Logan’ bloody yet heartfelt


‘Logan’ movie poster

Michael Nied

After 17 years, Hugh Jackman is ready to declaw himself and move on from his portrayal of one of Marvel Comics’ most beloved X-Men, the Wolverine.

Jackman played the quick-healing, metal-clawed Marvel hero since 20th Century Fox launched its “X-Men” film franchise in 2000, and his characterization of the rough but good-hearted Logan (known to most by his superhero alias, Wolverine) is one of the most celebrated portrayals of a comic book character in years.

But before he can hang up his uniform and officially remove himself from the mutant roster of heroes, he teamed up with Fox to deliver a thrilling conclusion to his character in “Logan.”

In the timeline of the “X-Men” franchise, “Logan” is the first release since 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse;” however, it takes place multiple decades later in 2029. Logan and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) are two of the last remaining mutants on the planet, and they’re not in great shape themselves.

Both members of the original team are ravaged by time and loss. Their incredible mutations are no longer functioning at optimum levels; Logan’s prodigious healing abilities are drastically slower, and the scrapper’s body is a map of scars from recent injuries. He drinks liquor copiously to numb the pain of still-healing wounds, while Xavier is forced to take mind-numbing medications to control his telepathic abilities that threaten to overwhelm his aging mind.

Hiding out from their past just over the Mexican border, these are not the proud heroes we’ve come to love. Even Logan, who’s frequently battled the ghosts of a violent past but always overcame his demons, has been broken.

That all changes when Logan is propositioned by Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse who offers a large reward for the former X-Men to shepherd her and Laura (Dafne Keen) to a safe house in Canada. At the urging of Xavier, he reluctantly agrees; however, before they can embark on their mission, Gabriela is tracked down and killed by a group of enhanced soldiers after Laura.

It’s revealed that Laura was created in a lab and possesses the exceedingly rare mutant X-gene. Even more, she was created using DNA from Logan, and she has the same healing ability and some unbreakable adamantium claws of her own.

Logan is now kind of a father, and his “daughter” inherited many of his distinctive characteristics, along with his mutant abilities. She manages to escape with the former X-Men and what follows is a desperate race across America as the battered heroes attempt one final mission.

It’s a bloody mission that pushes the superhero genre to new extremes in violence and gore.

After the overwhelming success of 2016’s “Deadpool,” 20th Century Fox has proven that there is a market for mature superhero projects. The red-suited “Merc with a Mouth” exploded into theaters boasting a controversial R-rating, and the risk of alienating younger fans paid off. The bloodier film is the second highest grossing R-rated film of all time, with an estimated domestic gross of more than $363 million against a projected $58 million budget, according to Box Office Mojo.

The success of “Deadpool” proved that appealing to a younger audience isn’t the only way to proceed within the genre that’s flooded with formulaic face-offs between good and evil.

If Deadpool, the ultimate foul-mouthed anti-hero, was the ideal character to pull off an R-rating, then Wolverine follows at a close second.

Renowned for moments of berserker rage, Wolverine is a violent character. His kind-hearted nature and deep sense of honor, however, make him less of an anti-hero than Deadpool, but a darker, primal nature burns under his skin.

Jackman allegedly took a pay cut to ensure that “Logan” received an R-rating that would allow the perfect representation of his character.

Because of the rating, fight scenes are dramatically bloodier and Logan swears so frequently that almost every other word could be censored.

In fact, the film is almost so grotesquely violent that it takes away from the story. The hero’s adventure becomes less about saving a young mutant from a life of captivity and more about how many times characters can be shot, stabbed, beaten, beheaded or impaled by various items.

To paraphrase “Mean Girls,” the limit quite literally does not exist.

The fight scenes clearly appeal to a more mature audience and push the boundaries of acceptable violence in a film about good versus evil, but they also convolute the plot so that viewers are left waiting for the next bloodbath instead of truly rooting for a fitting conclusion.

Beyond the overwhelming violence, the film’s greatest downfall is its confusing placement within the overall series.

In the last 17 years, Fox has rebooted the series with almost every release. The series jumps forward and backward in time with little concern for overall continuity; characters appear in various timelines with little explanation. Super powers change and evolve between films. Also, it’s almost impossible to chart who stayed dead and who’s been brought back to life with the assistance of some handy time traveling, cloning, inexplicable cosmic forces or some combination of the three.

At the end of “Logan,” it’s unclear how 20th Century Fox will proceed with the franchise. On one hand, they’re expected to return to the ’90s with a follow-up to 2016’s “X-Men: Apocalypse,” but “Logan” presents another new storyline to follow.

Both of the projects signify a massive shift in the X-Men universe, as Jennifer Lawrence finished her portrayal of the shape-shifting Mystique in “Apocalypse” and Jackman and Stewart cut ties with the franchise after “Logan.” With their largest stars no longer attached to the franchise, “X-Men” can proceed in almost any direction.

Maybe 20th Century Fox doesn’t even know what will come next for their mutant heroes, and their answer is to entertain fans with a collection of one-offs until something sticks.

“Logan” delivers a compelling, slightly muddied conclusion to the Wolverine’s saga. Jackman’s performance in the film is potentially his strongest to date, and he plays the downtrodden, determined Wolverine with ease. Keen delivers an equally laudable performance as Laura, and the 11-year-old actress provides an obvious storyline to follow in future releases.

Jackman may have turned his in, but hopefully Keen is just beginning to sharpen her own set of claws.

Michael Nied is the entertainment reviewer, contact him at [email protected]