If you aren’t a fan of the X-Men franchise, you may not know that Logan is the actual name of the X-man, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Logan is the final chapter in the saga of Wolverine, with a recent line of films that have both focused on Wolverine as part of the X-Men team and followed his own personal story. This sample movie review discusses how Logan is like no superhero movie you’ve ever seen before; it breaks most of the conventions of the genre. The result is an emotional cinematic experience that has much greater human depth than anything the viewer may have been given to expect.
Logan is not the Wolverine you were expecting
One of Wolverine’s key superpowers is his healing factor. Wolverine recovers almost instantaneously from injuries, making him difficult to kill. This makes it jarring and poignant, when the viewer realizes from the opening scene onward that Logan has aged, and his healing factor is no longer with it used to be. He walks with a limp; he coughs like a chain smoker; his wounds linger after he gets into fights.
Logan makes his living as a limousine driver, and he is hiding out close to the Mexican border with Professor X—also known as Charles Xavier, the founder of the X-Men (Patrick Stewart). The viewer learns that Professor X now has dementia. This is a huge liability, given that Xavier’s superpower is psychokinesis. His brain is so powerful that it can create explosions in the vicinity, and now he can’t control this power anymore. This is a touching irony, given that Xavier had originally founded a school for the express purpose of teaching the X-Men how to control their powers. Logan now keeps Xavier sedated, so that Xavier doesn’t have an epileptic fit and blow up his surroundings.
Logan is the most human of the X-Men films
Logan and Xavier encounter a little girl (X-23, Dafne Keen) who is clearly much more like Logan than anyone wants to acknowledge. She is also a mutant, during a time when it had been assumed that all the other X-Men were dead. At this point, the movie turns into a kind of road trip film: Logan and Xavier agree to accompany the little girl to Canada, where the she insists there is a colony of other mutants waiting for her.
This odd, intergenerational trio have several experiences in the meanwhile, ranging from watching an old Western film in a hotel room to hanging out with an ordinary family on a farm after helping fix the family car. These little things add unexpected poignancy to the film. Logan and Xavier are not the all-powerful demi-gods they once were, but rather depressed, aging, and human. X-23 seems to symbolize their chance at redemption.
At the level of theme, this is the most moving thing about Logan. It shows that Wolverine is hurting at all levels, and that his superpowers haven’t been able to save him from this fate. He is a drunk who is depressed and contemplating suicide. He is alone, having outlived so many others because of his healing factor, as well as a mysterious accident that had previously wiped out almost all the other X-Men.
One never expected to see Wolverine this way. To be clear, this is not an action film. The entire situation takes on a strongly existential dimension, turning what would be a standard superhero movie into a deep meditation on the human condition.
Some may remember that a trailer for Logan featured the song “Hurt” by Johnny Cash. This is extremely apt—and if you liked that song choice for the trailer, then you will likely enjoy this film. Wolverine used to be something of a rock star, but now he’s just a sick and aging man. A shadow of his former self, wondering what it all meant. If one is unfamiliar with Wolverine in particular, or the X-Men in general, then the effect of this contrast will likely be diminished. The dramatic punch comes from the fact that this is Wolverine we’re watching, in what seems to be the last phase of his long and lonely existence.
Logan: A conclusion
Even if you’re not a fan of the X-Men, Logan works extremely well as a standalone film. It could be treated as a kind of Western with supernatural elements. Any fan of the franchise, though, absolutely must see this film. Jackman, Stewart, and the young newcomer Keen all turn in fantasic performances. Without spoiling things too much, it can be said that this is the end of the saga of Logan—and what a way for it all to end. (It’s rated R for a reason; now we see what his claws can really do.) This is also the end of the original generation of X-Men, of whom Logan proves to be the final one.
There will almost surely be new movies in the franchise, focusing on the new generation introduced in films like X-Men: Apocalypse, to whom the torch is essentially passed at the end of the film. But the viewer of Logan comes away with the distinct feeling of having witnessed the end of a great chapter.
Interested in more movies reviews? Check out our movie review of The Kite Runner.
image credit: Logan, 20th Century Fox, 2017, all rights reserved.