**Apocalypse sized spoilers*
If Willow was the first DVD I can ever remember buying, then X-Men was the first PG-13 movie I ever truly coveted. I wanted nothing more than to go to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and have Professor Xavier be one of my professors. I wanted to train with the X-Men and I wanted Logan for a friend. If something bad were to ever happen, I wanted Wolverine there because when he was around, things usually turned out okay. Of course, they usually got worse before they got better, but they always got better.
After 17 years of playing the indomitable James Howlett, aka Logan, aka the Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has finally decided to ditch the famous chops and adamantium claws with an epic conclusion to the Wolverine Saga, Logan. For those in the know of the comic book world this is loosely based around the Old Man Logan concept. In this I will have to take the word of my friend who has actually read said comic books.
First off, the R rating…it’s genuine. The violence is real and Logan is truly allowed to unleash his claws. For the first (and last time) he is able to go at his enemies full throttle without worrying about how much gore/damage he does with his legendary claws. Of course, being Logan, there are just as many curse words flying as bodies but it wouldn’t really be Wolverine without either. And it’s not just Logan dealing the damage. The pint-sized X-23, Laura, causes her own share of death and destruction.
The story is probably the grittiest out of any Marvel superhero movie that has come out in the last 15 years. There is no shiny chrome, very few laughs, and a surprisingly minimal cast. Most times, Logan and Laura are the only ones on screen. Usually only 2 to 5 named characters are even on screen together. Despite it’s minimalist tendencies, it’s an amazing ride from start to finish.
Set in the near future where almost all of the mutants have been eliminated and no new ones are being born, an aging Logan is left to care for an equally aging Professor X with the help of an unusual mutant named Caliban. I have yet to figure out his significance. Yes, Caliban is a tracker, and yes, he does end up leading the bad guys to Logan and company, but it felt like it was building up to more with his story line and then for some reason it fell flat. Unlike every other character in the movie, I had no feelings whatsoever for him or his untimely death.
Charles Xavier is once again played to perfection by Sir Patrick Stewart and yet, neither he nor Logan are the robust figures we remember from 15 years ago. This was perhaps the hardest part for me. It was akin to watching the decline of your parents. Where you can’t help but see the person they used to be and can only watch in growing horror as they are reduced to their bare minimum. This was especially true with Professor X. Gone was the capable, mostly healthy, and very intelligent mutant we all know and love. Instead, we had an angry, almost-childlike man suffering from seizures and a medicine induced Alzheimer’s type of behavior. He relied on Logan solely for all of his care and it was evident it grated on him. Logan had a similar decline. The adamantium that had saved his life so many times was slowly poisoning him. His stamina, healing powers, and everything else that made him Logan were barely a fraction of what they had been in the past. He could still deal damage, but so many times I found myself urging him silently to get up and keep going. He always managed to get up, but each time it was slower, and he suffered more and more after each fight.
Equally heart-breaking was the interactions between Logan and Charles. This was the interaction I had always hoped for, but would have wanted to see years ago. They clearly had developed a very close relationship, a father to son relationship that caused so many feels it’s unreal. They argued, they worked together, they comforted each other, and they took care of each other, until the very end.
The catalyst turned out to be a young girl, Laura, who technically was Logan’s biological child. Raised in a Mexican Mutant Breeding facility, the girl was taught to wage war, but with the help of a well-meaning nurse, escaped. It became Logan’s task to escort her to what was supposedly the last mutant safe haven in North America, located somewhere across the border in Canada. She was played beautifully by Dafne Keen. Defiant, angry, and filled with curiosity at the world around her, Laura was definitely her father’s child, right down to a lethal set of dual claws extending from each clenched fist. Through the entire movie, she and Logan butt heads again and again, and yet fight seamlessly together as their steps are dogged by Dr. Rice, played by Richard E. Grant. It was his designs that eliminated mutants from the world, through a series of genetically altered foods, drinks, and other products so that he could control the development of new mutants, bred solely to be an army. Needless to say, he was not happy they all escaped from his clutches.
However, Laura was not the only one to escape from that facility, and as she and her fellow mutant children race toward the border and freedom, Logan literally makes his last stand.
What sets this movie apart from every other superhero movie is that it is not a superhero movie. This is a movie exploring relationships, right and wrong, and discovering what the human body is capable of to protect the ones we love. In some ways, it reminded me of a Western more than a superhero flick. The setting was always dusty, first in Mexico and then through Las Vegas and through the deserts north toward the Canadian border. Logan very much typified the lone gunmen, tired of the fight, but willing to do whatever was necessary, sacrificing everything he had to protect the children, especially his own child. I was not expecting to have so many emotions during this movie, further proof that it was written extremely well and acted to perfection.
There are few unanswered questions. Things that were alluded that didn’t make sense to one not familiar with comics. I’m unsure if those questions could be answered by someone more Comic Book savvy than myself. Charles and Logan both kept referencing something that happened in Westchester, that seemed like Charles had caused the end of the mutants, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what had happened. They also referenced Dr. Rice and possibly his father (?) I’m not really sure. Either way, there seemed to be background there that I did not have access to. Even with those questions, it is still a well-rounded movie with excellent acting.
Adults: If you have any love for the character Wolverine, or if Hugh Jackman is your favorite person alive, then you should see this movie. As long as blood doesn’t bother you. This is by far the bloodiest movie in the franchise, almost to the point of not seeming like an X-Men movie at all.
Children: No. Just, no. Yes, it has a kid in it. But she’s about as bloodthirsty as Logan in his prime. Just don’t. Nope. No.