Marvel Studios has gained one of its greatest achievements in James Mangold’s Logan. The final instalment of the X-Men Origins: Wolverine saga is a mutant itself; Western, action, sci-fi, and drama elements are all on display in such a way that has some critics calling for a Best Picture nomination. The film’s R-rating has brought a side to the Wolverine’s story that audiences haven’t seen before (and won’t soon forget). Blood, gore, and decapitations separate it from its sugar coated PG-13 predecessors, while bringing an honesty to the titular character that has been lacking in the past films. Beyond the physical gore, Logan argues for the necessity of human connection and questions if superheroes can truly save the day.
The film is set in the year 2029. Hugh Jackman reprises his role as Logan, more commonly known as Wolverine. He and an ailing seizure-prone Professor X, Patrick Stewart also reprising this role, are less like superhumans and more like refugees. Mutants, humans who possess a genetic trait called an X-gene that allows the them to naturally develop superhuman abilities, have long been exterminated by the government and scientific research organizations. As the last two mutants alive, they are hiding out at the Mexican border in order to survive.
This concealment is brought to an abrupt end when one night Logan is found by Donald Pierce, a sadistic bounty hunter whose job is the extermination of mutants. His hunt is not for Logan, however, but rather a young mutant, a child soldier named Laura who’s escaped from her creator. Though Logan vehemently refuses to become involved in finding or saving her, he quickly learns that Laura is exactly like him; she has the retractable metal claws, superhuman healing, and holds no qualms on decapitation. She’s also a misfit, both in that she was separated from her fellow child soldier escapees and that her violent superhuman abilities isolate her in other ways from other mutants. These reasons, and Professor X’s insistence, lead him to help Laura. A crazy chase, not unlike Mad Max: Fury Road, ensues as Logan races to bring her to Canada, a supposed safehaven for mutants, before Pierce and his fellow hunters catch her.
The special effects used to create this race for survival are jarring and give a unique quality to the film. The ample amount of blood is something new to the Wolverine series, and gives the film a brutal sense of mortality. The recurring fights between Logan and a crazed doppelganger is a sort of Western gunslinger showdown. Even the mutants’ outlandish superhuman abilities almost seem believable, whether it’s Professor X stopping time or Laura pulling bullets out of her body.
It’s the characters and their portrayal, more than the special effects, that take this film to a level of it’s own in the genre. Stewart gives a heart wrenching performance as Professor X struggles with deteriorating health and mental capacity. Stewart’s portrayal of the aging mutant hits home and lends a surprising relatability to the film. Jackman continues his performance as the angry, outsider mutant who wants nothing to do with the superhero responsibilities that come with being an X man. Yet audiences will root for him in each fight with the bad guys because of his discrete loyalty to Professor X, and eventually to Laura.
As strong as Jackman and Stewart’s performances are, Dafne Keen, who plays Laura, is the true gem of Logan. In the the first movie of her career, the eleven-year old actress conveys her complex character as if she were a seasoned pro. Laura is the embodiment of chaos; raised in a laboratory where she was trained to kill and lose any ability to form human connections, she has seen death and done her fair share of the killing herself. Yet throughout the film, her youthful innocence finds ways to force itself through the pain Laura has caused. Keen shows this conflicting mentality skillfully, and is definitely a viable option for the continuance of the X-Men Origins series.
For diehard Marvel fans, Logan sends Wolverine off on a high note. For the layperson, it’s easy to forget that the film is based off a comic book. No matter their prior knowledge of the superhero franchise, the viewer feels invested in Logan’s story. This more than confirms that Logan, although the story about mutants, establishes the human connection it sought to achieve, making it a must see.