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‘Logan’ review

'Logan' saves the bloody best for last, and raises the bar for superhero films

Hugh Jackman’s final adventure as Wolverine is not just the best film in the franchise, but the fondest farewell Logan could hope for.

Comic-book movie franchises rarely get to go out on their own terms.

They usually peter out or suffer a spectacular collapse under the weight of an overloaded sequel, only to immediately spark debate over when the inevitable reboot will happen. But every so often a franchise goes out on a pitch-perfect, series-encapsulating note. It’s a beautiful thing – and few films have served up a better grand finale than Logan.

The final chapter in the Wolverine solo series that began as an X-Men spinoff and evolved into a role that has anchored Hugh Jackman’s career for almost 20 years now, Logan brings back Jackman for one last adventure as Marvel Comics’ popular mutant – and what an adventure it is.

After seven films that tamed Wolverine’s rage, the extreme carnage Jackman wreaks feels more than a little cathartic.

Set in the year 2029, the film finds Logan living an isolated life near the Mexican border where he cares for the former leader of the X-Men, Charles Xavier (played by returning X-Men star Patrick Stewart). Xavier’s telepathy has become dangerous due to a degenerative brain condition that causes him to unintentionally inflict the seizures he suffers on everyone around him, and Logan spends his days earning money to pay for his old friend’s medication. Their lives are upended when Logan crosses paths with Laura Kinney (Dafne Keen), a young mutant with abilities – and claws – similar to Logan, and they soon find themselves on a harrowing cross-country journey to get Laura to safety.

It doesn’t take long for director James Mangold to establish that this is not the Wolverine story audiences have grown accustomed to throughout both the X-Men and solo Wolverine franchises. All of those prior films were relatively bloodless, but Mangold makes the full, savage potential of Logan’s claws apparent early and often. The result is a near-constant stream of slashing and stabbing that leaves every scene a blood-spattered mess and piles up the body count (and number of severed limbs) at an alarming rate.

The level of violence that earned Logan its “R” rating is likely to surprise some fans of the franchise, but after seven films that tamed Wolverine’s rage, the extreme carnage Jackman wreaks feels more than a little cathartic.

The final chapter of Jackman’s tenure as Wolverine also adds more depth to the character – both emotionally and in how invested Jackman seems to be – and his performance is matched in kind by Stewart, who finds new ground to cover in his portrayal of Xavier. Both actors deliver the sort of layered, mature performances that you don’t usually find in comic-book movies, and it elevates the entire genre.

Logan is the blaze of glory that Wolverine deserves.

As Laura Kinney, the mutant better known to comic fans as “X-23,” Keen is a pleasant surprise with a performance that never feels overshadowed by Jackman or Stewart. Keen holds her own in both the film’s quiet scenes and the wild action sequences that have her character engaging in some of the most graphic violence committed by a pre-teen girl since Chloe Moretz’s Hit-Girl tore through hordes of villains in 2010’s Kick-Ass.

Narcos actor Boyd Holbrook also delivers a praiseworthy performance as Donald Pierce, the leader of a merciless security team tasked with capturing Laura. It’s no easy task to stand toe to toe with Jackman’s Wolverine and seem like a sincere threat, but Holbrook does exactly that.

Pierce has a greater awareness of the danger Logan presents than most villains, and this understanding grounds the film in something closer to reality, and makes him all the more menacing.

With Logan, Mangold has turned the final chapter of Jackman’s Wolverine saga into something akin – both obviously and in more subtle ways – to a classic western.

Logan

While he doesn’t hide his influences – there’s an entire scene in which Xavier and Laura watch 1953’s Shane, about a world-weary gunfighter forced out of retirement – there’s also a familiarity in tone to the films of John Ford and John Wayne, with their reluctant, grizzled heroes and resigned sense of obligation that propels them through their tales. And like many of the greatest westerns, Logan resonates with the notion that heroes whose legacies are so steeped in violence can never really ride off into the sunset.

Killing is never clean, and Logan is filthy with the repercussions of taking lives.

The X-Men franchise and the Wolverine spinoff series have had many highs and lows over the last 17 years, but even the most well-regarded of those films were entertaining, escapist fun. Logan feels like the first, truly complete movie in the series, providing action and depth in equal, masterful measures.

It’s unfortunate yet entirely appropriate that the most well-rounded X-Men/Wolverine film comes so late in the game. In Logan, Mangold has given Wolverine’s fans the movie they’ve always wanted but never expected to receive.

Logan is the blaze of glory that Wolverine deserves.