"Logan” is a an ideal closing chapter for Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, the cinematic character of Wolverine itself, and I daresay even the X-Men themselves. Since its acquisition by Disney, Marvel has done almost f*%$ all to develop the superhero franchise since Fox holds the movie rights, so remaining story potential is limited at best. Of course, in five years or less, we’ll probably see some pumped-up Shakespearean actor sporting the adamantium claws and the excessive sideburns. But there’s still a case to be made for letting this very old soldier fade away.
We pick up in the year 2029, with our anti-hero working as a limo driver near the Texas-Mexico border and caring for the ailing Professor X (Sir Patrick Stewart), now suffering from senile dementia that has left his powers untouched but all but destroyed his ability to restrain them. He is the neurological equivalent of a hydrogen bomb. Not a single mutant has been born in twenty-five years and most of those remaining have been hunted down and killed. As for what happened to the rest of the X-Men, that is a story alluded to in bits and pieces and if you can figure it out, you will probably wish that you hadn’t.
Logan spends his days driving tourists, teenagers going to prom, and funeral mourners. He’s also also a somewhat-functioning alcoholic who channels his aggressions through episodes such as the slaughter of gang members unlucky enough to boost his tires. And then a Mexican nurse approaches him, begging him to drive her and her young “daughter”, Laura, to a location in North Dakota where they can meet friends and join them in crossing into Canada. Logan at first refuses, but what kind of movie would this be if the story ended there?
Before long, Logan discovers that Laura is not only a mutant, but also harbors a connection to him that will permanently alter his destiny. And enough bodies and blood get dropped and spilled along the way to more than justify the “R” rating.
“The Dark Knight” garnered praise because it story and character development were a note-perfect Swiss watch mechanism of precision and fast, even pacing. It’s a great dramatic action-thriller that happens to be a superhero movie. “Logan” deserves no less praise for showing us the wear-and-tear of being a hero after the glory days are over and time catches up. Nobody considers that years of fighting evil rack up a lot of PTSD, or bothers to wonder if a superhero has retirement savings, but these issues are prevalent here.
Jackman and Stewart have both vowed that they are now done with the X-Men franchise, and they give this last turn everything they’ve got. We’re used to seeing the bitter and cranky side of Logan, but fans may have trouble recognizing Stewart’s final portrayal of Professor X as crotchety, cantankerous, and frail. He’s a reminder that even the strongest of us are mortal.
Without throwing a spoiler, I will say that those hoping for a redeeming, feel-good cereal-box-prize twist in the final seconds will be disappointed. For better or worse, you have to make your peace with the ending. But if you can hold back tears long enough, it’s impossible not to see its beauty.