This is what it feels like to say farewell to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine: It sucks. It is beyond painful to say goodbye to the actor/role pairing I grew up watching. Since 2000’s X-Men, when we first met Logan, Jackman, who had only been in two films up to that point, has been a key figure in Marvel films. Now, 17 years later, Logan shows us just how far both Wolverine has come from his glory days and Jackman has come from his youth. And let me tell you, the destination has been well worth the ride.
Logan, set in the year 2029, is an emotionally powerful film, driven by Wolverine’s clear problems in his old age. He is not healing as well as he used to, mutants are all but extinct, and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) is hiding in Mexico, suffering from a degenerative brain disease. To make matters worse for Logan, a woman seeks him out, asking him to help her and her young daughter escape the men chasing them. Although Logan initially refuses, he accepts when one of the men, representing an organization called Alkali Transigen, approaches and threatens him that he should not help the woman and girl. Logan travels back to Mexico to visit Xavier, but he is followed by men from Alkali. A fight breaks out, causing Logan, Xavier, and the girl, Laura, to flee and live life on the run. What ensues is a cross-country journey which forces Logan to embrace his humanity.
This film is, overall, difficult to watch. Not because it’s an R-rated film full of gore, gore that you’d expect to see in a film about a superhero with claws that come out of his hands. It’s difficult because we see Logan in an entirely new, heartbreaking light. He is broken, mentally and physically. The adamantium inside his body is starting to poison him; he takes more comfort in alcohol than he used to; he feels totally alone in the world; and he is primarily responsible for the well-being of his mentor and friend, Charles Xavier. Throughout the film, his physical weakness becomes more pronounced, as with each passing fight, Logan breaks down more and more, and heals less and less. At one point, he is full of bullet holes and claw marks, with his flesh dangling off of him. Yet, at no point, does the appearance itself cause nausea, nor does it make us cringe; because of who it is happening to, it makes us cry.
Rarely do I ever catch myself saying this about an action movie: the best part of the film is its acting. Patrick Stewart gives the performance of his life in Logan. Like Jackman, Stewart embodies the character of Charles Xavier. Whether this will be his last turn as the leader of the X-Men remains to be seen, but Stewart certainly delivers like it is. Here, Xavier is the only thing more broken than Wolverine. He is old, feeble-minded, and knows he is dying. The worst part of his sickness is that, because of his powers, when he suffers an attack, he freezes everything around him. At one point, after it happens in a public place, the trio quickly leaves the destroyed area, with Charles repeatedly whimpering how sorry he is. Nothing is more devastating than seeing the once mentally-gifted man reduced to an elderly man who cannot control his powers.
The tandem of Hugh Jackman and Dafne Keen is what makes this movie as beautiful as it is. Jackman made it clear that this would be the last time he would play his seminal role, and it is clear throughout the film that he would not waste a single line. He is perfectly restrained and low-key, greatly adding to his beaten down look. By contrast, from Laura’s first moment on screen until around 90 minutes into the film, Keen has no lines. She spends much of the film running around like a live-action, human version of the Tasmanian Devil, even taking on Logan at points. This dichotomy advances the movie exponentially, as Logan can’t help but look at Laura and remember his time as the unrelenting, anger-fueled Wolverine, and then be shocked back into his reality as a sickly older man.
Despite the greatness of the writing and directing, which deserve immense praise, I cannot help but mention that the ending felt rushed. The film itself was over two hours long, but once Logan’s destination was reached, it felt like the creators were telling us, “OK, you’re here, now get out of the car.” There was very little time for us to absorb what we had just watched unfold, which was arguably one of the greatest fight scenes in any Marvel film. If they had allowed us more time at the end to understand that these were Jackman’s final moments on screen as Wolverine, it would have had a greater impact.
In my many conversations about superhero films, The Dark Knight, The Avengers, Deadpool, and Iron Man have continually appeared at the top. Now, no part of me doubts that Logan is the greatest superhero film ever made. In the same film, even though Jackman says goodbye, Keen says hello, opening the door for future films revolving around this amazing young actress and her Laura. I urge everyone to see this film, whether this would be your first superhero film, or if you have been with Wolverine since 2000. X