MANILA, Philippines - Logan, the final chapter of Wolverine featuring Hugh Jackman, might just open up a new alternate dimension for Marvel — one where fans are allowed to grow up. Our hero with the Adamantium claws not only faces the real world of adult choices and consequences, but manages to raise the whole Marvel Universe along with him. (And yes, I know: the earlier Wolverine movies were great in their own way, taking their own chances. This one just hits harder.)
As trailers reveal, it’s the future — 2029 to be exact — and mutants are practically extinct. Logan (Jackman) is looking after ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) south of the US border while moonlighting as a limo driver — anesthetizing himself with booze and licking his no-longer-healing wounds.
Into the X-Men universe comes a new character, 12-year-old Laura (played by badass Spanish newcomer Dafne Keen) who’s otherwise known as X-23 — named after the laboratory experiment she and other children are part of in Mexico. Some bad hombres are after her, paramilitary types like Boyd Holbrook and cold-blooded scientist Richard E. Grant; it’s up to Logan to protect her, but he’s having enough trouble protecting himself from the ravages of age and time.
What strikes you about Logan is it’s no longer a comic book. Though it’s (very loosely) based on Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan comic series, it veers off into a post-apocalyptic road movie; the script by James Mangold, Scott Frank (Wolverine) and Michael Green (Alien: Covenant) refuses to stay bound by the conventions of Marvel movies. As director Mangold told the New York Times, “My goal was to take a step back from the CGI arms race that a lot of these superhero summer films have engaged in, and try to show something a bit more naturalistic, humanistic, and a bit more paced, if you will.”
At the same time, it opens up a grittier phase for Marvel action heroes, after the big success of Deadpool last year. “It earns its R-rating,” Mangold notes. Wolverine cusses plenty, and heads roll left and right. But at heart, it’s a three-hander featuring Jackman, Stewart and Keen, and it’s likely to rip your heart out — and not just in the typically violent Wolverine way.
Logan manages to be a badass action movie as well as a deep meditation on age and how we live with a history of violence. Mangold made clear his influences for the movie were classic and revisionist westerns like Shane and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. Never before has Logan’s connection to Clint’s ultimate Western loner, the Man With No Name, been stronger. And it’s the final quotes from Shane (“There’s no living with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks.”) that lay it all bare.
The action scenes are remarkably violent, but it’s the moments when our three stars lose themselves completely that the movie really blasts off — Logan digging deep to pull his body back together and slash again, Laura releasing a banshee wail as she falls upon a bunch of military baddies, and Prof. X unleashing a paralyzing apocalypse when he fails to take his meds.
Odd to say, but Jackman and Stewart deliver some of the best acting of their long, distinguished careers in this Marvel movie. Both connect as men/supermen haunted by their memories. In typical Marvel fashion, the movie’s about 15 minutes too long, but at least the extra running time is spent on character development, rather than more explosions.
Logan’s dark tone is also leavened by trademark humor and — for once — genuine, heart-wrenching emotion. It’s both the perfect finale, and you might not want it to end.