Way back in 2000 (holy crap, how is that seventeen years ago?!?), we got our first X-Men movie. And thanks to the shooting of Mission Impossible 2 running long, Dougray Scott was not able to play Wolverine, so an Australian named Hugh Jackman got the role of everyone’s favorite Canadian anti-hero. At the time, folks were a bit skeptical, because of the excellent animated series that was out in the 90s, and Wolverine was easily one of the most popular characters from the show (I prefer Gambit).
Jackman immediately stole the show, and become the centerpiece of just about every X-Men movie afterwards: X-Men 2 (2003), X-Men 3 The Last Stand (2006), X-Men Origins Wolverine (2009), X-Men First Class (2011), The Wolverine (2013), and X-Men Days Of Future Past (2014). It’s absolutely a testament to Jackman’s portrayal that he continued to be the centerpiece of the X-men movies.
In Logan, which Jackman states is his last outing as Wolverine; the year is 2029, and no new mutants have been born for a long time. Wolverine is slumming around Texas, driving a limo to make some money. In order to clarify the rated R-ness of the movie, the first scene is Logan slicing and dicing some dudes who were about to steal the hubcaps from the limo. This also helps us learn he’s no longer healing as quickly as he once did. He’s living just over the border in Mexico – keeping the very aged Professor X in a tipped over water tower in an attempt to minimize the deadly effect of Charles’s seizures. The mutant with the most powerful mind on the planet is now suffering from some sort of brain disease, and his seizures can nearly kill anyone nearby. Residing with them is Caliban, an albino mutant whose power is to find other mutants.
While driving around Logan encounters a woman named Gabriella who is asking for help getting her ‘daughter’ to Montana, because someone is after them. Logan tries to make it clear he is no longer the hero she recognizes from the X-Men comic books, but she offers money, and Charles’s medication is getting expensive – so he agrees to go. He then encounters Pierce, the lead guy of the people chasing after Gabriella and the girl. They seem to be military-type security tough guys, so Logan is once again inclined to not help.
Logan heads back to Gabriella, and realizes the military guys have killed her. She left him a video and some money with the address – he heads back to get Charles, and realizes the girl has hid in the trunk and she and Charles are already getting all chummy. Pierce shows up, and Logan knocks him out and gives Caliban instructions to dump him, just as Pierce’s cronies show up. Well, they swiftly capture Caliban, and head back to get the girl. Logan has just loaded Charles in the car, and is about to go back to the girl, when Pierce and crew roll back up. Here we get to see just how deadly the girl is, as she swiftly kills several of the guys, throwing one’s decapitated head back at Pierce. During this incredible action sequence, Logan and the girl, Laura, kill a ton of the guys, and eventually get in the car and get away. They learn from Gabriella’s video that this company has been essentially creating mutant children to raise as weapons. Once the kids get older, they become less controllable and were going to be ‘put down’. Gabriella and other nurses saved as many as they could, agreeing to meet at the Montana address later.
What follows is Logan, Charles, and Laura essentially on a depressing road trip as they try to get her where she needs to be. There are some further incredible action sequences as the company that created her keeps chasing her. They encounter the Munson family, which starts out great, then gets terrible. They encounter X-24, another Wolverine clone (Laura is X-23), and he’s basically Wolverine, but without any sense of reason, just all berserker rage all the time. Along the way – spoiler alert, they lose Charles and Logan and all the Munsons (not the Munsons!), but you really knew that was coming.
Directed by James Mangold, who also directed the Wolverine (as well as 3:10 to Yuma, Knight and Day, Walk the Line, Kate & Leopold, Girl, Interrupted, Cop Land), the movie is very gritty and very, very, serious. Yes, it feels more like a western than a ‘superhero’ movie, and yes – it is a hard R. I will say, I loved the action sequences, but I don’t love a grumpy old Logan. That’s not really my preferred Wolverine - I guess I prefer grumpy and middle-aged. The performances are exceptional.
- Hugh Jackman with a lot of aging makeup/hair gets to take Logan out the way he wanted to, and his performance in this movie is fantastic. He’s old, beaten, bruised, slowly getting killed by the very adamantium that makes him who he is. The performance is lovely as this rage monster of a man struggles to find peace in what little time he has left.
- Patrick Stewart is fantastic as a really old and barely in control Professor X. He curses a lot, mostly at Logan. His mind is going, and for someone who had the most powerful mind on the planet, that’s terrifying. He is particularly amazing in the scene where he confesses that he does remember the ‘Weschester Incident’, or at least part of it.
- Dafne Keen is the true stand-out of this movie, mainly because you expect Stewart and Jackman to be amazing, but this little girl being truly terrifying in the beginning was a surprise. She is basically mute for the front half of the movie, doing most of her performance with her eyes and face. She rails at Logan in broken English/Spanish for the rest of the movie, and her anger at him mixed with her need for him to be father figure was heartbreaking. I also loved all the other kids playing the laboratory-made mutants.
- Boyd Holbrook plays Pierce, and aside from one mechanical hand, he is unfortunately a pretty standard two-dimensional military bad-guy type for this movie. He’s great at being horrible, and really, his end is very satisfying.
- Stephen Merchant plays Caliban, in what I thought was quite a departure for him. Once captured and forced to turn against his friend, Caliban is haunted and morose.
- Elizabeth Rodriguez plays Gabriela, and yes, she was Liza on Fear the Walking Dead, playing a similar role here, trying to save her child as the world falls apart around her
- Richard E. Grant plays Dr. Rice, the evil scientist at the head of the ‘grow-your-own-mutant-killing-machine’ program. Again, a little two-dimensional, and a character I feel like he’s played before.
- Eriq La Salle plays Will Munson, Elise Neal plays Kathryn Munson, and Quincy Fouse plays their son, Nate. Now – this was the sequence I had the biggest problem with in the movie. It felt a little like the family was introduced just to be brutally killed – that may have been necessary to demonstrate the power of the X-24 clone, but then why the really interesting sub-plot about the Munsons being slowly forced off their land by a huge bio-engineered corn-growing company? Apparently the company was messing with their livestock, their water, and may have reprogrammed auto-driving trucks on the highway to run them off the road! Logan helps drive off some of the good-ole-boys that show up to intimidate Will, but then they of course come back just as the pursuers set loose X-24. And Will does save Logan from X-24 – but doesn’t survive. I can’t decide if their presence in the movie was necessary to add character development (for other characters, not them) or just contributed to the over-length.
Overall, the film is beautifully morose, and the performances are excellent. However, I didn’t like it. For me, it was far too serious, with almost no sense of fun – now, that’s exactly what they were aiming for, so great for them, they nailed it. It’s just my personal preference would have been a little bit lighter of a story, and more fun throughout the piece, which of course, is not really Wolverine’s style – which may be why I prefer Wolverine in ensemble pieces rather than standalone movies. Why did we never get an Alpha Flight movie? Also, apparently there was going to be a bit with Sabretooth, with Liev Schrieber playing him again – it was removed because they didn’t want to have too many mutants in the movie. Again, great for them, they really made a western, but I would have enjoyed more mutants – especially Schrieber’s Sabretooth, which I really enjoyed.
Mangold has said he’s going to release a black and white version – and that will be perfect for this movie. There are many who are stating that this movie has raised “superhero” movies to an art level as opposed to standard popcorn fare. That's great, but honestly I enjoy popcorn flicks, and I’d rather be entertained than bummed out, and a lot of this movie bummed me out.
I loved the action sequences, and loved the introduction of X-23. She can certainly take over for Logan as Wolverine in future X-Men movies, the problem is that this is set in the future… and Apocalypse was set in the 80s. I think if they wanted to make any more, they would be with that cast – rolling through the 80s and 90s, but that runs right up to the 2000-set first movie and that cast. Yes, Deadpool was right, these timelines are so confusing.
I did think it was awesome to see a rated R Wolverine in action - he's a superhero whose action needs to be rated R to really see what he can do. However, a bit more on that R rating - sure enough, as I sat down in the theater, I was next to a guy who brought his six-year old kid. I cannot stress enough that this movie is rated R for good reason: violence, language, and themes. It is not at all a kid-friendly comic-book movie. Guardians 2 will be out in May, take them to that. Halfway through, as Logan is attempting to leave the girl, the kid asks his father if he would ever do that to him, and then proceeded to keep asking if they could leave for the rest of the movie. Listen – I get that you think your kid can handle the violence and language, but if he wants to leave, something is upsetting him and you should take him home. Good luck with those therapy bills later and screw you for making me spend most of the movie worried about your kid's state of mind.
Speaking of Deadpool, by now you’ve heard there’s a Deadpool short in front of this. That was both good and bad. It was good because it was once more, really fun R-rated Deadpool action. It was bad because it was really fun, and that is pretty much the opposite tone of the movie that followed it.
5 out of 10 – and that relates to my enjoyment, not the quality. Quality-wise, it’s probably an 8 out of 10. It’s still way too long, even if you loved the tone. Here's hoping we still get more X-Men movies, because there's one villain I would still love to see hit the screen.