As ‘send off’s of beloved cinematic heroes go…you could DEFINITELY do worse than THIS. It’s funny to think to the ‘way back’ of Year 2000, when a then unknown Aussie actor named Hugh Jackman was cast in 20th Century Fox’s first major foray into the almost non-existent comic book adaptation market, as the cult-favorite (and fellow Canadian) character ‘James Logan Howlett’ aka ‘The Wolverine’, in Bryan Singer’s ‘X-Men’. There was something of a ‘hesitation’ to embrace that casting choice and we all waited see how it would turn out. It’s even more amusing to remember that Jackman was NOT their first choice. If I recall correctly, Scottish actor Dougray Scott (‘Mission: Impossible 2’) was Fox’s original pick to play the grouchy, bladed mutant. I’m not sure how that would’ve turned out, but I’m glad that it didn’t…because Jackman came in and just rocked the house with his energetic and committed portrayal of the fan-favorite character, and did so in a way that’s resonated successfully through 10 different ‘X-Men’ films over a 17 year period. Makes me think of the whole ‘Tom Selleck-as-first-choice-for-Indiana Jones’ thing back in 1980 in the casting for ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. Thank gawd ‘Magnum P.I.’ was renewed and the TRUE ‘Indiana Jones’, Harrison Ford, landed the role instead. Same deal here with Jackman…despite some physical differences between him and his comic book counterpart (‘Wolverine’ is short and bulky whereas Jackman is tall and lean etc), he was born to play the role. He’s kept the character fresh, yet familiar the whole time, at times being the shining element of a lacklustre (or just plain shitty) entry into the ‘X-Men’ universe. But eventually…he would have to move on. And here we are.
Taking place sometime in the 2020’s, while mutant-kind are facing extinction and the world at large is in something of a downward spiral, we meet up with an aging ‘Logan’ (Hugh Jackman) working as a limo driver along the Mexican / US border. After being forced to gorily dispatch a group of car-jackers, we find out that ‘Logan’ has been hiding out in Mexico with an ailing ‘Professor X’ (Patrick Stewart) and an albino ‘tracker’ mutant named ‘Caliban’ (Stephen Merchant’). Along the way, a Latino woman comes seeking ‘Logan’s help, which he initially turns away, but he’s soon put in a position where he accepts $20 000 (with a sketchy promise of $30 000 more on delivery) to transport her and a young, seemingly mute girl named ‘Laura’ (Dafne Keen) north to the US / Canadian border, in search of a mutant sanctuary named ‘Eden’. This puts him in the cross-hairs of a shady, mechanically-enhanced operative named ‘Donald Pierce’ (Boyd Holbrook) and his team of Blackwater-style ‘Reavers’; like-wise enhanced goons with a tendency toward brutality who happen to be searching for ‘Laura’, known to them as ‘X-23’, at the behest of a cruel scientist named ‘Dr. Rice’ (Richard E. Grant). With his powers and his will to live fading (due to long-term adamantium poisoning), ‘Logan’ must face his toughest fight as he struggles to keep those around him safe, especially after he learns the truth about ‘Laura’/ ‘X-23’.
This is a damn good flick…with some great scenes, but it’s not without a couple issues, mostly in either the script or the final edit. But as ‘last appearances’ go…Mr. Hugh Jackman should be very proud of the entry he and director James Mangold (‘The Wolverine’) have crafted as his ‘bow out’. I wandered down to our local cinema in a foul mood due to events going on in Life and some shitty (and slushy) weather, but I walked out 2 hours and 17 minutes later into unexpected sun feeling quite satisfied with what I’d seen. What I’d seen was a moody, fast-paced character study with a heart…that was also drenched in blood and brutal violence in a way we’ve NEVER seen in an ‘X-Men’ film. If you need a comparison, use the far superior (to the neutered Theatrical Cut) ‘Unrated, Extended Cut’ of this film’s predecessor, 2013’s ‘The Wolverine’, also directed by Mangold. That being said, for all the snow-blower pulped ninjas and CG blood splatter’s in that film, it holds nothing on the SOLID R rating that ‘Logan’ boasts. They promised that we, the fans, would get the brutal and ‘adult’ film we’ve all know the character needed…and they didn’t lie. Holy shit! Some of the kills seen here were shocking!…and it was awesome!! Hearing ‘Charles Xavier’ swearing like a pissed off sailor was great too, as he did it in that way that only Patrick Stewart can.
Speaking of Patrick Stewart, I have to mention the cast. By now, we know to expect solid turns from both Jackman and Stewart in these roles (even though I found seeing ‘Charles’ in the pain and agony that he was in to be somewhat refreshing…as weird as that might be). I was really impressed with Dafne Keen as ‘Laura’. This young actress did a great job conveying ‘X-23’s naivete as she experienced ‘the world’ for the first time, but when the shit hit the fan, she could throw down like a savage and was definitely not afraid to get bloody. She fucked up a ton of Manly Men goons in some absolutely vicious attacks that had me grinning like a moron in the darkness of the theatre. If ‘X-23’ is to pick up where ‘Logan’ leaves off, and if they use this version as the template for the character moving forward, I’m A-OK with that. I also found Boyd Holbrook, who I knew from his role in Netflix’s excellent ‘Narcos’ series, to be an interesting antagonist with his take on ‘Donald Pierce’, a human character who could definitely hold his own in a fight. I don’t think there’s one loose connection here, when it comes to the cast as a whole and that definitely worked in the somber stories favor.
The action is terrifically handled throughout this movie, right from the gnarly first scene. We FINALLY get to see not one but two trademark ‘Wolverine’ Berserker Rages and they’re both glorious. There was no holding back when it came to the damage that ‘Logan’ could inflict and many a goon lose limbs, heads, faces and guts along the way, all shot and cut in a manner that made the geography of the action easy and compelling to follow. As they’re often fighting side-by-side, ‘Laura’s fight scenes are equally cool, at times more shocking because it’s an 11 year old girl leaping, spinning and slicing while shrieking like a banshee, usually sprayed with blood by the end of it. Once again, the solid R-rating here is fully embraced…and I loved it!
On a technical level, this movie looks fantastic. Much of it takes place in a desert locale, and the sun-baked lighting and wide-screen cinematography really lent to the ‘western’ feeling that they were going for. The editing, thankfully, wasn’t of the million-cuts-a-minute variety and took it’s time showing us what we needed to see. The Sound Design was pretty incredible, with ‘big’ sounds like engines, gunfire, punches and explosions carrying some serious ‘Ooommph!’, while the quieter moments had nicely defined ‘small’ sounds that had me noticing little incidental noises around me as I walked home (love it when a movie does that!). Marco Beltrami’s score has an underlying ‘Man with No Name’ feel that further harkened back to the ‘western’ influences that this movie proudly wears and was kept just far enough ‘back’ to not over-shadow the rest of the sound design. Good work all round!
Now despite all the ‘Good’, there were two points where the pacing felt ‘off’. In the 2nd Act, there’s a key action scene that results in some game-changing events that felt like it crept in a little too quickly and without enough lead-up. Suddenly, it was just happening and it caught me off guard. I actually wondered if I was seeing someone’s dream or vision, given how certain things just suddenly (and violently) occured. But then it became apparent that nope, this is actually happening and…holy shit…THAT character is suddenly dead?!…just like that?!!! There’s something similar that happens in the 3rd Act too…where the pacing felt like it needed about 10 or so more minutes of build-up before the climax to really feel like it was all paying off. But given how cool everything around these nitpicks are…a couple pacing problems are certainly NOT a deal-breaker.
All in all, ‘Logan’ is a very successful and worthy finale’ for this version of the ‘Logan’/’Wolverine’ character…because we all know they will eventually recast and reboot. Until they do, we now have 17 years worth of Hugh Jackman’s killer take on the iconic Canuck mutant to look back on, leading up to this brutal but emotionally satisfying Final Chapter, which had the balls to embrace it’s adult audience and give us, even just once, the bloody and vicious entry into the franchise that we fans always wanted. I would love to see an Extended or Directors Cut of this when it finally slashes it’s way into the Home Video market, but the version that we’ve got right now is definitely worth your time on the Big Screen and if you’re a fan of the ‘X-Men’ franchise or even just solid, Restricted action films, I’m confident that you will be well served with this flick. It has that…’movie’…feel, similar to how ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015) did, just to name an example. It felt like a ‘movie’ that didn’t have me unconsciously pulling the mechanics of it apart as it played, if that makes any sense. I was able to easily fall into the story and the presentation without mentally ‘pulling back the curtain’ as I watched…and I loved that. (stands up clapping). Bravo, Mr. Jackman and Co. This is a character and a legacy that you should be proud of and I think your timing on this departure is spot-on. The same also applies to Patrick Stewart, who is allegedly also retiring his version of ‘Professor X’ after this. Good job, gentlemen. I think you’ve both gone out with a bang,..and I thank you for it.
*I also hope the Cosmos see’s fit to permanently banish the skin cancer that’s been plagueing Hugh Jackman for a few years now into fucking Oblivion…never to return. We’ve lost too many talented people in the last while, and I’d like to see Jackman on the Big Screen for, at least, another couple decades. Is that too much to ask for?!