Looking back, the X-Men movie franchise hasn’t always been the most successful superhero franchise. Although some, like 2014’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” play much better than others, most, such as 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” are far more lackluster. Thankfully enough, “Logan” (2017) falls into the former category, with strong performances and good character development combined with a dark-but-engaging plotline all contributing to the movie’s success.
Set in the year 2029, “Logan” follows a visibly-aged Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), now known as Logan, living on the Mexican border in a world where no new mutants have been born for decades, taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is suffering from a degenerative brain disease and losing control of his powers. Logan is contacted by a woman who begs for his help in taking a mysterious girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) northward to Canada. At first reluctant to help, Logan soon finds himself in the middle of dangerous forces and begins rushing northward while being pursued by a malicious corporation.
One large reason “Logan” is so successful is that the actors all deliver memorable, and in some cases fantastic, performances. The standout here is without a doubt Jackman himself; past films have attempted to delve into Wolverine’s character and the emotions behind his rage, but most of them have failed to touch upon anything of substance. Finally, “Logan” allows a window into the soul of Wolverine that is both depressing and long overdue.
In the film, Jackman deftly portrays a burnt-out Wolverine who is at the end of his heyday, barely trying to survive as he struggles with the past and his uncertain future. Jackman is able to convey Wolverine’s failing and complicated relationship with Charles, his confused feelings about Laura and his struggle to come to terms with his life in a way that feels real without being over the top. His performance is engaging and complex, and we finally get to experience the human side of Wolverine. Notable too is the fact that for most of the movie, he doesn’t go by this name, indicative of his inner struggle. Other standouts include Stewart’s performance, wretched as it is to watch him play once-great Professor X descending into helplessness, and Keen, whose character’s periods of silence and inner rage speak far louder than any words could. But the focus of the film, and its genius, remains on Logan/Wolverine. Especially since “Logan” is Jackman’s final film as Wolverine, it is more than a fitting tribute to the character Jackman has grown into over the last 17 years.
Another high point of the film is its adaptation of the American Western genre. The redemption story “Logan” attempts to tell works perfectly set in a pseudo-Western setting, and it manages to draw on the best aspects of a Western. The action itself feels like a Western, albeit one set in the future, and the fighting sequences are gory but strangely satisfying to watch. Again, though, the focus of the movie is on character development, and by using Western genre conventions, the film is able to perfectly set up Logan as a flawed hero.
Speaking of the plot, although “Logan” is technically a superhero movie, you wouldn’t recognize it as one most of the time; “Logan” avoids most of the Superhero genre’s conventions to great effect, only occasionally falling into clichés, and this further helps the film sing Wolverine’s swan song.
If the movie has a weakness, it lies in some of the supporting characters, who feel underdeveloped and used for special effects. Nevertheless, the movie manages to avoid floundering and ultimately ends on a high note, with the final scene more than heartbreaking and providing Wolverine with a sense of closure. As Jackman says his final lines, the reality of the movie hits home, and by building up to this moment over the course of its runtime, “Logan” becomes an excellent story about the humanity behind superheroes and a fitting finale to the painful, heartbreaking and yet hopeful story of Wolverine.