Logan is the final installment of the Hugh Jackman Wolverine film series. (Major spoiler alerts ahead). He goes out in style.
Or should I say a change of style. Logan is R-rated for a great deal of bloody violence and a plethora of F-bombs. It looks and feels darker than any Wolverine film before it, and even than any previous Marvel film.
The story is stripped down and simple in a Hell or High Water way, a film with which it has several shared characteristics: uncomplicated, with a small number of actors doing good work, and moody. The mood here is one of painful aging and impending demise, with the requisite dark cinematic palette to match.
Most of the attention has been rightly paid to Jackman, who at a distance looks like those bad pictures of a bushy-bearded Mel Gibson. This isn’t the handsome, energetic Wolverine; it’s the older, even more cynical and jaded version who walks with a limp and whose previous cautious attitude has been replaced with a darker and even more angry pessimism. He swears a lot and bites nearly everyone’s head off verbally. He’s also more quick to kill with more gruesome violence than has been seen before.
The plot is straightforward. Logan is caring for an aging Charles (Patrick Stewart, looking thin and playing older than he is) when his life is interrupted by a woman who wants this young, apparently mutant, girl to be taken to North Dakota so she can be safe and with those of her kind. Things happen, and of course the three end up on the run. The little one turns out to be mutant with major skills, especially in the killing department. She’s a young female version of Wolverine, and questions arise regarding her possible parentage.
While the two principal males are at the end of their lives, the elegiac nature of the film gives way to youth and the driving attempt to keep the young girl safe. Those two moods and trajectories bounce off one another nicely from then on.
Aside from the dark tenor of the film, the defining element of the film is a new child star, Dafne Keen. She is a tween British/Spanish actress who knows how to rage and destroy one minute, and then act like a typical preadolescent the next. It’s quite the performance. I remember when Spielberg’s War of the Worlds came out in 2005, and it was noted that Dakota Fanning’s performance of the continually terrified young girl must have taken a toll on the young actress. I had similar thoughts watching Keen jump, roll around, leap madly, and slice and dice with abandon. Even knowing that she had a stunt double, that’s a lot of intense anger and bloody destruction to put a young girl through. Her character is every bit as angry—perhaps more so with the focus and energy of youth—and is as much the killing machine as Logan. The actress holds her own in all her scenes with Jackman and Stewart, even the quiet ones. A young star is born.
Two other minor characters add color to the film. That’s an ironic statement when it comes to the underutilized British actor Stephen Merchant, the ghostly-pale Caliban, who is missed when not on screen once he’s introduced. The villain is Boyd Holbrook (Gone Girl and Netflix’s Narcos), who has a strong screen presence but whose character isn’t as defined or as clearly motivated as his role might suggest.
One surprise is all the Christian references throughout. There are a couple of Jesus-on-the-cross visual references made with Logan, and there is a surprisingly respectful presentation of a Christian family. No snide remarks, no deviance under the surface, and no weirdness. For a character marked by unbelief generally placed in the context of a godless world, this religious emphasis—never upended or rendered impotent—is a fascinating flavor to add to the end of a multi-film arc.
Technically, director James Mangold (Walk the Line, Wolverine, 3:10 to Yuma) has given us a good-looking film with great focus and energy, exemplary action scenes, and an exceptional amount of rack-focus shots that have left this author confused as to the reason for their existence. Serious warning: If you think this is just another Wolverine film and want to see how things wrap up, know that this is a rough, profane and violent film at times. Yet it also opens the door for the possibility of a new franchise. Perhaps Wolverette?