Love it or hate it, Deadpool set a new standard for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men adaptations, lovingly, slavishly reverent to the source material in ways that even the Marvel Studios films wouldn’t dare attempt. The Merc with a Mouth left mighty big crocs to fill, so much so that when the X-films went back to less than faithful business as usual with last summer’s X-Men: Apocalypse, it couldn’t help but leave movie mutant fans disappointed.
Logan is most likely the first X-film wholly conceived in a post-Deadpool world and it shows. While most would point to the super hard R-rated gallows humor as the reason why Deadpool succeeded, it also nailed a tone that actually felt like the X-Men’s particular little corner of the Marvel Universe for the first time onscreen. That tone is an important part of why the Marvel Studios films have been so successful as adaptations while also not even striving for the herculean task of actually translating comic storylines whole cloth to film.
Deadpool got it, more a live action cartoon than the previous X-films’ parade of black leather clad fashion models spouting one liners that would embarrass Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze, and Logan gets it too, though obviously with more of a somber and reflective tone given the grim subject matter at hand.
Logan finds Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine close to the end, eking out a paltry existence as a limo driver and hiding out in the desert with an enfeebled Professor Xavier (the always fantastic Patrick Stewart) and mutant tracker Caliban (a wonderfully cast against type Stephen Merchant) in a post-mutant society that plays out like a more down to earth, dusty western noir version of Days of Future Past or House of M. Logan’s trying to cobble together enough cash to take himself and the Professor, now a wanted man due to age bringing about a lack of control of his godlike abilities, completely off the grid, when the supremely shitty world that these characters now inhabit gets even more supremely shittier.
X-23 is the Marvel equivalent to DC’s Harley Quinn, a fan favorite character initially created for a cartoon series that was eventually grandfathered into the comics proper. While Harley is essentially a female version of the Joker by virtue of being his on again, off again girlfriend, X-23 is a female clone of Wolverine, the end result of 22 failed experiments aiming to replicate the destructive efficiency of the Weapon X program.
Talented newcomer Dafne Keen breathes ferocious life into the character and the film treats her well, slightly remixing her origin story but not sacrificing any of the pathos that made her so sympathetic and compelling both in animation and print.
And as befitting the film’s much touted R-rating, when X gets dropped on Logan’s doorstep the ensuing carnage makes even Wade Wilson’s highway rampage look tame by comparison, with some inventive staging and editing in spots that rivals the deservedly lauded Quiksilver sequence in DOFP.
The filmic version of cybernetically enhanced villain cadre The Reavers here make for formidable opposition, their leader Donald Pierce played with odd but endearing peckerwood asshole bravado by Boyd Holbrook. Acting is great across the board, with nary a terrible line or tone deaf reading to be found, especially given the grave proceedings at hand, but this is all Jackman’s show as an acting demonstration and he absolutely nails the inherent, wordless sorrow of closing out this iconic character’s doomed, failed existence. Stewart comes close though, very close, and most of the little comic relief in the film comes from the incongruity of seeing the once proud teacher at the mercy of his most troubled pupil. I’m not gonna start saying stupid bullshit out loud about Oscars or anything but yeah, they’re really good.
Sadly this still has traces of being one of those Fox X-Men movies, with a formulaic endgame, silly macguffin based on in-universe X-Men Comics and goofball aspirations towards franchise building (Future X-Kids, anyone?) undercutting the inherent drama, tragedy and finality of the baseline story ultimately told. As it stands though, Logan is still a stirring and resonant denouement, if this is indeed the end of Hugh Jackman as the character, for the woefully miscast tall, thin, attractive, Australian Wolverine that everyone initially scoffed at but who still managed to claw an indelible mark into pop culture over the last 17 years.