Review: Downbeat, Hard-R ‘Logan’ is Definitive Wolverine

Review: Downbeat, Hard-R ‘Logan’ is Definitive Wolverine

After the ribald box-office success of the hard-R Deadpool last year, Fox is apparently no longer shy about allowing graphic bloodshed, foul language, adult themes, and nudity into their premium franchise content.

Still, color me surprised when Hugh Jackman’s titular character slices off limbs and rams his claws through the skulls of some Bad Hombres in the first five minutes of Logan, drenching the screen in blood with carnage that rivals The Walking Dead.

I didn’t expect it to go there.

Unlike the comedic Deadpool, Logan has a thoughtful, downbeat, distressingly realistic tone to match its adult rating. Part road movie, part psychological western, part post-apocalyptic drama, this isn’t anything like the superhero movies that have preceded it, and yet it does better justice to the Wolverine character than any of them.

It’s 2029, and Jackman’s Wolverine, whose healing abilities have allowed him to live for centuries, is now Old Man Logan, with a scraggly grey beard and rusty adamantium claws. He doesn’t heal so well any more, and may well be dying of cancer.

He keeps Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) locked up and sedated in an overturned water tank south of the border following a cataclysmic event that wiped out most of their fellow mutants. The good Professor, too, has a death sentence. He appears to be battling dementia.

The rest of the X-Men are, well, they are no more. Save for Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant), a mutant whose ability to track other mutants does him little good in this world. He helps Logan take care of the professor, while niggling him about their inevitable future.

Logan’s been driving a limo in El Paso to pay for the Professor’s meds - which prevent Charles from having Earth-shaking seizures that paralyze anyone in his vicinity - while stashing a little on the side to buy a boat and sail out their final days on Earth in peace.

But the appearance of a pre-teen girl with special abilities (impressively played by the young Dafne Keen) puts a kink in his death plans and sends him on a journey to north while pursued by the mysterious Transigen organization, led by an evil doctor (Richard E. Grant) and a catty bounty hunter (Boyd Holbrook).

And the endless waves of other goons that get sliced and diced along the way.

The setting is familiar - heck, it’s only 12 years away - but for these last few mutants, the world has become something of a post-apocalyptic reality. Logan’s Mexican compound looks like something from Mad Max, and the lead characters are still recovering from the end of their world while waiting to leave it.

After Rogue One, I didn’t think these Hollywood blockbusters could get any more downbeat. I was wrong.

Following the diverting-but-inconsequential one-off The Wolverine, director James Mangold seems to have been given the reigns to do whatever he wants with the character, and boy, does he do it. The result is something that resembles the director’s Walk the Line or 3:10 to Yuma more than it does any of the previous X-Men movies.

Scenes from the Alan Ladd classic Shane are used to underline the film’s theme - you can’t escape from who you are - and Johnny Cash belts out When the Man Comes Around over the closing credits.

Over the course of nine feature films, Hugh Jackman has come to define one of Marvel’s most celebrated characters. Ditto Patrick Stewart, who has played Professor X in six movies.

And both Jackman and Stewart have said that Logan is their last X-Men movie. If that’s the case, it a most fitting sendoff.

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