As the final Hugh Jackman film in the Wolverine franchise, Logan is filled with the usual clawed action, angst, and gritty heroism. Unlike the previous ones, however, this film pushes the emotions harder and on different levels. Once the action begins, it starts to resemble a Road Warrior tale. The big, bad hero herds innocents to a promised land while battling better-armed enemies. Although lacking in RW mohawks and fire spitting machines, it does feature cyber-enhanced men, some rednecks, not-smart mercenaries, and a lot of nearly overdone chase scenes.
The X-men based movie begins with a limping, pained Logan in a harsher world where mutants have seemingly disappeared. He’s getting by as a El Paso chauffeur while staying off of the grid and self-medicating with alcohol. We soon learn that he also supports and cares for two other mutants, Charles Xavier (by the wonderful Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant), each also tortured by their own demons. In addition, the great fighter carries an adamantium bullet and contemplates suicide because of his decreasing powers and declining health. His frustration and the mood of the film is depicted in multiple subtle ways such as fouler language than in any of the previous films, no clear romance, and more graphic violence. The audience is not supposed to ever feel comfortable with this story.
One of the subtle parts of this film involves Logan, historically an emotionally stunted loner, in a caregiver role over the dementia patient, Charles. In past movies, their relationship was brusque but friendly, but nothing indicated a father-son type of love. Yet anyone who has worked as a caregiver knows it to be a horrible, thankless, stressful job, which is caught quite well in this film. Set in the near future, Charles has become a danger to society because of his dementia, yet Logan fights to keep him alive, choosing to medicate him rather than mercifully killing him. That factor displays love on an exceptional level that goes beyond any sense of duty. Those deep feelings are specifically portrayed when Charles is removed from the picture.
The obvious emotional relationship, and the heart of the story, is Logan’s interaction with a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen). She demonstrates a definite Wolverine-esque ability and rage that she doesn’t control well. She thrusts herself into his care and he must come to terms with becoming emotionally involved with her. Wanting to get rid of her at one point, he states that his relationships all end badly and frequently rejects the girl, who also looks a little like his lost love, Jean Grey. This similarity could simply be coincidental to the film. The director and writers never make a clear point about it, but the familiarity would give Logan more reason to like the child.
The girl is the key to a vast corporate conspiracy and the secret to the disappearance of mutants. Once their fugitive journey begins, the action continues at a breakneck speed, giving little time for emotional introspection. This is to the detriment of the film for we find little reason to like the girl since she is more emotionally remote than Logan himself. Their relationship is opposite that of Logan and Charles. No real bond forms between them except out of desperation, and, although Jackman’s character feels empathy for the child, she never sees him as anything but a tool to get what she wants. Although the film drops hints that we should feel something more between the two characters, we simply don’t. Could it be the relationship was a cutting-room floor victim, giving way to the face-pasted action? Possibly. However, even when the child shows sadness at Logan’s death, her sentiment comes too little and too late for us to care.
If I had to rate this film, it would be only at three stars. As a huge fan of Hugh Jackman and a devoted follower of the X-men movies, I expected to be weeping in great sympathy while watching. The trailers had told us to expect to love and lose the Wolverine. None of the expected emotions materialized. I felt more moved at Charles’ death mainly because it came during a sense of clarity for the character and a feeling of betrayal. The frequent foul language put me off, as did the flying body parts. Jackman’s acting was excellent since c he is so comfortable with this character, but Dafne Keen failed to deliver the emotional punch. In switching too quickly between extreme action and tender moment, the film destroyed what should have been the great tear-jerking climax.
In the end, I liked the movie but Logan will not go down in history as any great comic book film. Yet his ending felt right for the iconic character. He had come full circle to where he began: not likeable, at war with himself, and ever striving to do the right thing.