Before Logan even came out, everything written about it invariably sounded similar. “This is the best X-Men movie yet!” “The definitive Wolverine movie that we’ve all been waiting for!” “Why is Spanish so difficult to understand sometimes?” And while I’m not one that has ever in my entire life dabbled in hyperbole, I can tell you that the superlatives being bandied about are entirely appropriate. What’s great about Logan though is despite the legacy attached to the universe it takes place in and the history of its title character, the movie shines in ways that have nothing to do with any preconceived notions.
Logan is the story of a battered and retired Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman. Logan, now a professional limo driver working under one of his many aliases, James Howlett, seems to be just trying to get by. Shepherding businessmen and bachelorette parties back and forth to Mexico introduces us to a man that’s a far cry from the one we’ve know. This every-man approach to a character fantastical enough to be called The Wolverine does a lot to set the tone of this film right off the bat. It’s bleak and direct, establishing a world that may function well for others but is a daily hell for our hero.
Two of the only surviving mutants of some great and shadowy tragedy are familiar faces in Logan and Charles Xavier. Logan has echoes of road trip comedy movies at times, and focusing on these two characters for the majority of the film not only forgoes the cast size burnout that you see in a lot of other comic book films, but definitely gives both actors plenty of room for tight, character-driven performances. Both give turns worthy of the legacy their characters have established in universe and their fantastic chemistry makes for some of the best parts of the movie. Their relationship is like if a pair of brothers who are also an old married couple that got lost on the way to the grocery store, except one is a borderline psychotic killing machine and other is in fact an old man. This dynamic, and the whole direction of the movie changes drastically when they meet Laura.
The relationship between Logan and Laura is multilayered and moving and allows for Jackman to show his range in a way the X-Men movies have rarely provided for. Although it’s easy to see Logan as a one dimensional tough guy, when the gruff exterior is stripped away you see the depth and Laura brings out Jackman’s best moments in this movie. Child actors are rarely the best part of movies but Dafne Keen is fantastic in her role. Seemingly mute throughout most of the story, Keen handles her emotional communication with subtlety which becomes even more impressive when she’s dealing with a character in Logan who isn’t best known for patience. Laura, however, is at her best in this movie’s action sequences which are unapologetically brutal.
The opening sequence is a brilliant crash course on the state of Logan and also just so happens to be our first taste of what’s to come throughout. There’s no hiding it: this movie earns its R rating right off the bat and fans that have been waiting for an unleashed Wolverine will be incredibly happy. The action sequences get gory but never dip into body horror, giving you exactly what you’d expect out of a fight with a guy with razor sharp claws coming out of his hands. The brutality, beyond amping up everyone with a pulse, serves to mirror the man that Logan has become, a reluctant but still punishingly efficient weapon whose savagery is paralleled only by his mini-me. The sequences that have them fighting in tandem are really well choreographed and tend to be as beautiful as they are savage.
If you’re looking for a downside to this film, it would be its antagonists. Barely a reference to the last vestiges of a shadowy organization from however many movies ago, they’re basically there as plot movers. But what they lack in substance, they make up for by doing exactly what you’d expect of them. A lot of comic book movies fall victim to presenting an all-powerful, indestructible opposing force that feels hollow throughout the film, only to be dispatched in the final act solidifying their lack of depth. Having characters that don’t mean much chasing our heroes and being summarily destroyed with extreme prejudice is exactly what a movie like Logan needs. And as you’d expect, that prejudice is more often than not adamantium claws through the forehead.
Jackman has rarely been a detriment to any of the X-Men movies. When people (read: comic nerds) found out in 2000 that a 6’3” Australian singing dancing type was set to play the role of a 5’3 feral Canadian killing machine, more than a few message boards blew up, but he’s come to define Wolverine for a whole new generation of fans. Dude has been playing this character for 17 years and he’s put so much into it and given so much back to the fans that at this point I think it would be difficult for people to see anyone else pop those adamantium claws on the big screen. Jackman really gives a tremendous, and supposed final, performance as the ever-stoic but visibly-deteriorating Logan, showing a proud, indestructible man after the fall. In a movie that is touted for finally being freed of the burden of a PG-13 rating, allowing it to be as bloody, violent and curse filled as it wanted to be, the interpersonal relationships between the characters are what makes this a good movie. There is genuine acting in Logan, which I think becomes even more difficult when you’re portraying a character to belongs so much to pop culture and if this is indeed the last time we see this Wolverine, I can hardly think of a more appropriate send off.