Main cast: Hugh Jackman (James “Logan” Howlett/Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier), Dafne Keen (Laura), Richard E Grant (Zander Rice), Boyd Holbrook (Donald Pierce), Stephen Merchant (Caliban), Elizabeth Rodriguez (Gabriella), Eriq La Salle (Will Munson), and Elise Neal (Kathryn Munson)
Director: James Mangold
If you have caught the trailer of Logan, which used Johnny Cash’s Hurt as a backing track, then I can tell you that you have seen most of the best moments in this show. While this one is related to the previous two pretty unfortunate solo Wolverine movies, as the trailer indicated, this one is practically a standalone movie that could have very well been set in its own universe. As an R-rated movie, there are plenty of cuss words being thrown around – Patrick Stewart uttering “fucking” twice in the blink of an eye in Charles Xavier’s first scene in this movie is a highlight of that – and some graphic scenes of adamantium claws disemboweling and removing heads as well as limbs from folks. But the core of this movie is the journey of a reluctant knight in very tarnished armor kind of hero.
It is 2029. Somehow, no mutant children were born over the last few decades, and eventually the present generations of mutants being to die out. To date, there are very few mutants left, and those that are left are a pale shadow of their former selves. Logan, who used to go as Wolverine, is now a drunkard who chauffeurs people around in a limo to make what little money he can get his hands on. When he’s not drinking or illegally purchasing medications for Charles, he is saving up to buy a yacht so that he and Charles can live in peace at sea.
Charles, in his 90s now, is suffering from dementia, which is not good as his fits could create powerful shockwaves that can physically damage people caught in it. The last tragedy that forced Logan to keep Charles in hiding saw Charles injuring and killing many people, including some X-Men, during one of his fits. Now, Logan keeps him confined and mostly sedated to keep his fits from coming back. Charles resents this, and often accuses Logan of simply keeping him in his state while waiting for him to die.
And then there is Caliban, who helps Logan in caring for Charles, only to find himself being the unappreciated third wheel that has to juggle the resentment of both men thrown at him because they are all very unhappy and messed up with their lot.
The story begins when Logan reluctantly agrees to escort a nurse Gabriella and her daughter Laura up north – only for the money; he is like “Whatever, talk to my hand!” when she first tries to ask him to help her on the basis that he was once Wolverine and hence he had to help Laura – only to eventually realize that Laura is one of the few surviving mutant children, secretly created and raised in a lab facility called Transigen. The head of the project, Dr Zander Rice, wants to raise an army of mutants that, unlike the previous types of mutants, will be fully under the normal humans’ control, and when he has created what he believes to be the perfect mutant soldier, he ordered these kids to be eliminated. A few nurses smuggled some of the kids out, only to become separated, and Gabriela now wants to take Laura to a place called Eden, where mutants can live in peace.
Logan notices right away that the coordinates of Eden, given by Laura, are the same as the ones in an issue of the X-Men comics, and he is understandably skeptical of the existence of this Eden. However, Zander Rice has ordered his underling, Donald Pierce, and Donald’s bounty hunters called the Reavers to retrieve Laura, and soon Gabriella predictably bites the dust (Logan is late in picking her and Laura up, and Donald gets to them first), leaving Logan, Charles, and Laura to go on the run. Oh, and what about Caliban, you ask? Logan abandons him like he would have abandoned Laura too if he had the opportunity, so it is a quite the karma when Zander and Donald force Caliban to use his mutant-sniffing powers to help them track the gang down.
Logan is a pretty terrible hero here, but that’s actually the whole point of this movie. It is all about him finding some semblance of redemption at the end, and for the long time he is just a whiny, cowardly crybaby who just wants to be left alone to drink himself to death. What I really like about this movie is that his character development feels real and believable – there is no abrupt turnaround from screw-up to superhero, just a messed-up asshole who eventually finds it within himself to do the right thing. The assholery of the character here is also more in line with the Wolverine of the old comics, rather than the more overpowered, overrated, scene-hogging twunt ironically made popular by Hugh Jackman himself. Indeed, Logan is far from overpowered here; he screws up and messes up a lot here. Therefore, this is not a typical superhero movie; you may want to adjust your expectations if you think you will be getting a movie of that sort.
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen all pull a great job here. There is great chemistry among all three, and when they have to emote during scenes that are more pathos in nature, they do so very well. Mr Stewart is stuck with some of the most asinine and ridiculous lines about family and what not here, but his performance turns those cringe-making lines to pure gold; his Charles and Logan have a moving relationship in which, underneath the occasional barbs they toss at one another, they genuinely care for the other person.
But Logan is so focused on being different, emo, and broody that it actually ends up telling a rather hamfisted story. Logic failure abound – the villainous big bad is basically an upgrade version of Logan, which means he can be killed by adamantium… and Logan and Laura are both mutants with adamantium claws. What, there are no better mutant powers to give a super soldier thing? How about Phoenix’s powers? Or Cyclops’s? Or Magneto’s?
Furthermore, the story, also by the director, is so heavy-handed with the foreshadowing that I can see huge twists coming from a mile away. For instance, Logan, Caliban, and Laura all make a point of mentioning and showing off the adamantium bullet Logan keeps for that moment when he would want to off himself – edgy! – and oh, what a surprise when the bullet is used to kill Uber-Evil Logan! Didn’t see that one coming the third time the movie brings out this key foreshadowing! Laura and Charles watching a cowboy show on TV with Charles explaining the whole plot to Laura – oh, the audience will be awed when this movie eventually reveals that, ta-da, the whole cowboy story they watched is an allegory for Logan’s own story arc!
Also, if I take away the novelty of an X-man going all #2edgy4every1 and killing, chopping, and what not with glee, this movie is a very predictable, cliché-heavy drama. In fact, if you know the words to Johnny Cash’s Hurt, you know the whole movie already. Logan and Laura bonding over the two of them having nightmares – yeah, never saw that one before. Logan trying to drive everyone away because everyone he cares about gets hurt – yes, that’s a new one. Never mind that some people he did drive away died when he could have protected them, all that matters is that we all feel sorry for Logan and his bottle-licking ways. Main characters biting the dust after having found closure and some semblance of peace – at exactly the moment and context that I correctly predicted early on. And so forth – watch any movie where a damaged male protagonist being hamfistedly driven into a poignant epiphany by circumstances and secondary characters around him, this epiphany catalyzed by having some child to protect, and you will realize that the movie follows the tropes very faithfully. And at regular intervals, just have Logan and Linda cut off a few limbs and heads, and then we’ll all move on.
In the end, Logan is a very watchable movie mostly because of the cast. They do an excellent job in carrying a pedestrian and often clumsy script to the finish line, even making it seem more poignant and hard-hitting than it would otherwise be. Oh, and Hugh Jackman is a really hot silver fox daddy type here, which doesn’t hurt.