Logan is the third standalone film for Hugh Jackman’s knife-fisted X-Men maverick Wolverine, completing the weary trilogy with something fans have long waited to see: Wolverine’s adamantium claws slashing through human skulls like they were piñatas.
Yes, we’re in hard-R territory here, with Mr. Logan (and others) doing fatal, bloody damage to numerous people, swearing like sailors all the while. Liberated from the confinement of the PG-13, director James Mangold (who also made 2013’s The Wolverine) gets to show the anti-social X-Man’s anger, pain, and violence in graphic detail. Sometimes this makes scenes more intense than their counterparts in other comic book movies; sometimes it only makes them more graphic. The film feels nothing like a fantasy-oriented superhero flick — why, there’s not even a post-credits scene teasing the next film! — and plays instead as a compelling, overlong, grown-up, 21st-century Western with a tinge of sci-fi. It’s good, but it can be grueling.
It’s set in 2029 (like that’s gonna happen). All mutants are dead or in hiding, and it seems that no new ones are being born. It is no longer hip and trendy to be a mutant. Logan — drunk, decaying, and sullen — is working as a chauffeur in El Paso, caring for the dying Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who’s stashed across the border in a structure that prevents his dangerous brain waves from getting out or being detected. Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a sun-phobic albino mutant, tends to Charles’ daily needs while Logan works to save up money to get them all somewhere safe.
Our reluctant hero soon finds himself saddled with another burden, a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) who has mutant powers not unlike his own and is also in need of getting somewhere safe. Laura puts the “mute” in mutant, but what she lacks in conversation she makes up for in slicing through the limbs and torsos of henchmen. There is an everlasting supply of henchmen to be skewered, sent by a robotic-armed dirtbag named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who represents certain mutant-oriented sinister forces. But as usual, Wolverine’s greatest enemy is himself.
Mangold, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Frank (The Wolverine) and Michael Green (Green Lantern), doesn’t hide his cowboys-and-Indians inspirations; at one point, the characters watch Shane on TV. With its violence-haunted protagonist and settings in Texas, Mexico, and Oklahoma, Logan follows the tropes and structure of many classic Westerns, including a sidetrack where Logan, Laura, and Charles help a farm family in need of justice. There are several brutally thrilling chases, fights, and showdowns in the film — Wolverine is deteriorating, but Jackman’s in fine form, and young Dafne Keen is a firecracker — and these are balanced by introspective scenes focused on Logan’s internal misery and his uneasiness with the very notion of “family.”
In all, it’s a fittingly funereal swan song for Jackman’s version of the character (if this is indeed his last ride), one that should please viewers who are emotionally invested in him. That doesn’t include me, alas. Just as The Wolverine did, Logan strives for and often achieves respectability, but it still gets bogged down by what is to me the character’s fatal flaw: his sulky, doleful personality. It’s even more pronounced when he doesn’t have the other X-Men to provide contrast. This is a well-made but exhausting elegy.
Eric D. Snider lives in Portland, Ore., and feels like maybe this is enough movies about Wolverine?