After Days of Future Past and the personification of doom that was Apocalypse, one might be excused for wondering whether the X-Men universe would ever find a reprieve from everlasting darkness. And Lo and behold, here comes Logan to remind us that if that day is coming, it is not here yet! That’s not to say this latest installment fails to offer anything new. Quite the contrary, the name of the game this time around is “closure”, which, along with the film’s western stylings, awakens a kind of panache that, like Deadpool, should quake the superhero genre.
The year is 2029 – Mutants, it seems, are swiftly becoming extinct. The entire world, at least from Logan’s perspective, is sparse and arid – an unforgiving desert. The sort of world that makes its inhabitants grow foul, desperate and, perhaps most especially, dangerous. Fortunately, given the film’s R-Rating, the worst of them are also surprisingly prone to horrendous injury. Though such confrontations no longer come without a cost - Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is noticeably weathered this time around, donning more salt than pepper around his face as his abilities slowly fade. Playing caretaker to a photosensitive mutant tracker name Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and a sometimes delirious Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who now borders on decrepit.
The intention here is clear: to give Jackman's tenure as the Wolverine, and, by extension, Logan himself, the sendoff it so readily deserves - and make no mistake, there is nigh a moment in which Logan’s R-rating feels unearned. Bless director James Mangold and crew who see the letter as more than just clearance to go all-out on the bloodletting or profanity; they rightly understand that for Logan’s journey to end on an appropriately high note, all leashes must be taken off. As franchise veterans, Jackman and Stewart benefit the most from this vision, altering their performances and in turn reshaping what we have come to know about these characters. It’s tough to see a weary and bruised Wolverine, scouring for cash by chauffeuring society’s wicked. Tougher still is the revelation that he does it all for a friend — a friend who has stayed with him (The Last Stand be damned) through thick and thing — a friend whose reason to be has slowly begun to wither.
That’s not to say that all is old and decayed, however. There’s plenty of new faces to get to know as well - from Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) as the efficient leader of the Reavers death squad, to Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant who seeks safe haven in North Dakota. Like Origins and The Wolverine, newcomers are plentiful, but everyone here is woven through the plot more meaningfully than in the character’s butchered origin story, and more evenly than those Wolverine met in Japan. Merchant, Holbrook and especially Keen (who, for her age, often matches Jackman himself for intensity) each deliver interesting performances that combine to form a fantastic ensemble. Quite a pity, though, that Holbrook’s Pierce isn’t as menacing (or prominent) as the trailers suggested.
Ensuring Logan delivers on the hype is the wonderful story written by Michael Green, Scott Frank and Mangold. Aside from a slightly prolonged section with some farmers, Wolverine’s final run never loses momentum, nor does it abandon its emotional and physical link with the character. In fact, by the time the narrative’s twists and turns reach their point of finality – a particularly gorgeous moment in a flick chocked full of them, by the way – and it becomes clear just how much of an accomplishment Logan actually is, an audible cheer and a sense of fulfillment take hold - even when what is happening on screen musters only somberness.
Hats off to you, Jackman – and to everyone involved in bringing Logan’s journey to an end. And what an end it is!