The first time I saw Hugh Jackman in full costume as Logan/Wolverine was his picture on the packaging of his action figure, back in 2000 just before the release of X-Men. It was different than the comic books for sure, no mask and no yellow spandex, but the look on his face was clearly that of a crazed animal that you didn't want to mess with in real life. This would be the start of many debates over the years regarding Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine, ranging anywhere from "he's too tall" to "he's not supposed to be the leader of the X-Men."
Seventeen years later we're at a point now where Jackman's take on the character is one of a kind and highly respected by many despite the comic book deviations. He's played Wolverine in a grand total of nine different movies now across the X-Men film franchise and has definitively put his stamp on the character in a way that is unprecedented and nearly impossible to think of following up later.
So it kind of figures that as talented and spectacular as Jackman is as an actor that he would save the best for last with what is reportedly his final film as Wolverine, "Logan." The reviews for this movie have been overwhelmingly positive from the beginning and this one here is going to be no exception......except that I'll keep it pretty spoiler free.
All you really need to know about the plot of Logan going in is that it takes place in the not too distant future of 2029, where Wolverine has definitely aged and is actually trying to make a living while he and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) tend to an old and psychologically volatile Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whom they are keeping safe in a compound along the border of the United States and Mexico. Everything changes when Logan encounters a woman with a child named Laura, desperately begging for his help to get her to safety, a request that Logan tries his best to ignore until he sees something more than "familiar" about Laura's abilities, which along with the advice of Xavier leads him to help the girl in her quest to escape the evil people trying to capture her.
Right off the bat, one of the best things that this movie could have done was simply be rated R, because that rating gave us the angry, unhinged and at times explosive Wolverine that many of us have always wanted to see on screen. The first time he lets off a litany of swear words in the movie it's just refreshing to see him as pure and as adult as he could possibly be, without a PG-13 rating keeping him quiet.
The noise that Logan makes is of course, not just with his words but also with his damned awesome Adamantium claws that are on full display in this movie in a way we have never seen before. Prior to this movie, I would say the most brutal Wolverine attacks we've seen actually came in the "Weapon X is loose" scene in X-Men: Apocalypse last year, and also the "Berserker" scene at the mansion in X2: X-Men United. "Logan" raises the bar on that one by giving us the most brutal and bloody Wolverine action we have ever seen. Nothing was held back and Logan is nothing short of lethal in this movie. Such a joy to see, finally.
Jackman knows this version of the character so well and it's clear that he couldn't have turned in a performance like this without 17 years of playing him, not only for him to get to know the character well but also for us as an audience to enjoy and understand what Wolverine has gone through over the years. When references to past X-Men movies and characters are made in this movie, we that have followed the franchise from the beginning understand those and fit them perfectly within the context of this movie. We have seen Logan grow and evolve as a character from X-Men on and this is without a doubt his most visceral and emotionally loaded performance ever. If this truly is Hugh Jackman's last time playing Wolverine, he made it count in every way possible with his performance.
As for the rest of the cast, Patrick Stewart is wonderful as he always is with his turn as Professor X, but this is one of his most hilarious and raw performances as well as he takes full advantage of what an R-rating can allow you to do and say on screen. If you're not used to it from him because you either remember him from the previous X-Men movies or as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, it's understandable because we've just never really seen or heard him curse like that and it was awesome.
Full praise for "Logan" though goes directly to young Dafne Keen, who plays Laura the girl that everyone is hunting for because of her "Wolverine-like" abilities. Believe me when I tell you that she might very well have the most impressive performance in this movie for several reasons, not the least of which because she is a brand new character and actress that many of us have never seen before, but also because she has to carry the weight of her story in the movie and what it means for the other characters, the weight of being a lovable child that any of us with a heart would want to save, and maybe most importantly the weight of being a child that when angered turns into a vicious weapon every bit as and maybe even more dangerous than Logan himself. It is an incredible balance that Keen at age 12 is able to handle perfectly throughout the entire movie and "Logan" is served extremely well by her performance.
Boyd Holbrook is appropriately vicious and evil as the movie's villain, playing your standard mercenary leader that takes his job just a little too personally with the aid of an enhanced right hand, and Stephen Merchant is solid as Caliban. The true gem of "Logan" however other than Keen and Jackman's performances is the story itself and how it is crafted. There is a level of depth and symbolism within this movie that manages to separate itself from what might be considered a traditional comic book movie as Logan himself really appears to deal with the demons of his life all at once in a somewhat relentless fashion. There are a good handful of scenes where he is almost constantly in conflict with himself and this battle manifests as anything from a nightmare to an emotional argument to a flat out physical confrontation with lives on the line, all of them focusing a mirror on Logan's own life and the tortured consequences of his own existence.
And that is what truly makes Logan the greatest comic book movie that FOX has ever made, the fact that they were finally able after all of these years to take their most popular comic book character on screen and tell a story that involved numerous characters but was uniquely about Wolverine himself, and do it in a way that's not preachy, watered-down, or bogged down with too much exposition. James Mangold and his crew do not explain everything that is happening in the movie to you because they don't think you will understand it. Instead, they treat you as an adult and give you just enough to connect the dots yourself and understand what is happening on screen at all times and the way it all comes together in the end is pure poetry.
The bottom line is that Logan truly is a masterpiece of comic book movie filmmaking and FOX is to be commended for it on all counts. I can understand why there are people like Mark Hughes of Forbes that truly believe it could be in line for major Oscar contention next year, and that would be huge for FOX considering all of the grief that they have taken for almost two full decades over their treatment of the X-Men franchise as a whole. I've always loved the franchise from the beginning and stuck with it even through the tough times of X-Men the Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but in the last six years the studio really does seem to have turned a corner with the X-Men movies and this is their finest work yet. Well done, FOX......and about time, too.
LOGAN - 5 out of 5 - In theaters since May 3, 2017