We’ve been hearing about an R-rated Wolverine movie for some time now. There are very few ways to make a man with claws for hands interesting when you’re stuck with a PG-13 rating, and most of the X-Men films that came before Logan have been pretty successful. Hugh Jackman’s iconic role has been a favorite of comic book fans the world over since the original X-Men movie came out in 2000. Seventeen years and eight movies later, Logan is making its way to the big screen as the first R-rated movie to star Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. As much as I love the original X-Men films, within this one’s first three minutes, I instantly realized what I’d been missing all those years.
Set in 2029, mutant-kind is all but extinct. After a series of mostly unexplained incidents wiped the entire mutant population off the planet, all that’s left is the old and battered remains of the hero formerly known as Wolverine, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and a pale mutant tracker named Caliban who will burn alive almost instantly if he stands directly in sunlight – all this despite the fact that they live in an abandoned property close to the Mexican border. Logan, going by James now to keep a low profile, is a private limo/Uber driver for bachelorette parties, proms, and the occasional millionaires who roll through town.
One night, he gets a ride request from a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who tells Logan that her little girl Laura (Dafne Keen) is actually a mutant just like him – just like him. She says that Laura must go north towards the Canadian border, where there’s supposedly a safe haven for the surviving mutant population – most of whom are genetically modified children that were born and raised as killers in a Mexico City-based genetics laboratory where Gabriela was a nurse. She managed to free most of the children, but they were split up en route to their new home and she has no idea if any of them even survived. Now, with the company’s Head of Security Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) on their tails, Logan, Charles, and Laura must make it up to the safe haven in the hopes of uniting with other mutants before Pierce and his soldiers catch up to them on the road.
Directed by James Mangold, his second X-Men film after 2013’s The Wolverine, Jackman’s last outing as Wolverine is the gloriously, unrelentingly, shockingly violent conclusion to a wildly successful superhero saga that’s lasted for nearly two decades. Logan, being poisoned by his own powers, is not the invincible fighter he once was, and Professor Xavier – suffering from something unspecified that resembles Alzheimer’s and ALS – is prone to seizures that threaten the safety of every single person around him. Laura, on the other hand, is a complete mute who can kill anything in her path with little more than a flick of the wrist but has trouble integrating herself with the rest of the world. The world’s most powerful heroes have never been this vulnerable, and Logan provides everything you might need to properly send off two of the most beloved movie characters of the 21st century.
From its opening scene, Logan is bloodier and more brutal than Deadpool could ever dream of; it might actually be one of the most violent movies I’ve ever seen. I was one of the people who assumed the film would still be pretty tame even if it did go for the R-rating, and I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you’ve ever wondered what Wolverine’s claws would look like piercing literally any part of the body, look no further. Dismemberments, decapitations, extreme impalements, and horrific stab wounds make up just some of the family-friendly imagery on display. And, man, is it some glorious stuff.
Jackman gives one of his best performances to date as a battered and broken old man who’s barely got one good fight left in him, while Patrick Stewart will break your heart as a once-great leader who, having devoted his whole life to helping everyone he ever cared about, now requires assistance to perform even the most basic tasks, and is constantly on the verge of accidentally killing anyone who might be misfortunate enough to stand near him. Boyd Holbrook continues to impress after a series of offbeat and often unsettling performances in low-budget flicks like Little Accidents and A Walk Among the Tombstones. The real breakout, though, is Dafne Keen, a young actress whose only other credit is a short-lived, Spanish-language television show called The Refugees.
Giving a bilingual performance full of physically and emotionally demanding moments in nearly every scene, Keen is the kind of young movie star that only comes around once every couple of years. Like Jacob Tremblay in Room, Keen plays her role with the confidence of a much more experienced actor, and I just can’t wait to see what she does next – especially considering there’s a chance that Laura might be getting her own spin-off if the Fox execs want to make a more family-friendly sequel starring the young mutants featured in this film. With the precision of a master assassin on the level of John Wick, Laura slices and dices her way through hundreds of armed men over the course of Logan‘s 136-minute runtime, and each one is like a snowflake – unique in their own ways and cold as ice. Seriously, though, this kid kicks ass.
There’s also a not-so-thinly-veiled parallel to real-life events. Although the film is set in the near future, and Mangold’s world-building skills are up there with Spike Jonze’s in the futuristic sci-fi romance Her (or, again, the John Wick franchise), the very current and controversial theme of immigration – especially in relation to displaced children – has a hand in a lot of what goes on in during the film. The fact that a group of young mutants, who are introduced later in the film, seem to be comprised almost entirely of young women and people of color speaks to the theme of inclusion that gradually makes its way to the forefront throughout the film. It’s also very interesting that the X-Men comic books are a reality in this timeline, and I like the idea that our heroes stand for something worth fighting for, documenting, and passing down through generations – even if they are supposedly the stuff of legend.
Some of it may drag a little bit – you could definitely make a case that Mangold should have cut about 10 minutes or so, especially in the second half – and the cinematography ranges from poor to just kind of boring – but Logan really is the action-packed, emotionally resonant conclusion to the Wolverine saga that everyone hoped it would be. It’s pretty clear that nobody on the set of this movie has ever heard the saying “too much of a good thing,” but I don’t know that I even minded that much when ol’ Wolvy was ruthlessly chopping off heads and poking people’s eyes out in the name of freedom. If you have any connection to the X-Men franchise in any capacity, Logan is an experience you’ll want to have in theaters. It’s everything a blockbuster movie should be and it’s not even the summer yet. The MCU should take note. This is how it’s done.