It’s very rare that the final entry in a series is the best. For proof of that, consider Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, The Godfather 3 or Jaws The Revenge. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Logan, the third and final effort in the solo Wolverine trilogy, is one of those. Of the three of those released between 2009 and now, it is by far the best. Included with the X-Men movies as a whole, it ranks near the top of that as well.
Returning from 2013’s The Wolverine, director/co-writer James Mangold (Cop Land, Walk The Line, 3:10 To Yuma) fashions Logan as an effective topper to the series. It is easily the darkest X-Men movie thus far not to mention the most graphically violent. But it still allows room for fun and humor.
The movie deals with themes of aging and the classic “changing of the guard” story line. It takes place in 2029 when the number of mutants on earth has decreased to a level where there aren’t that many left. One of the few left is Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and he isn’t the same as he once was. Age has taken its toll on him and on Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whose mind is going and he also suffers from seizures of some sort. In addition, the admantium fused to Logan’s bones is poisoning him,
As the film begins, Logan and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are living on the Texas/Mexico border and caring for Professor Xavier. Logan hustles for money and prescription drugs. One evening, he is approached by a woman named Gabriela who asks if he can help her and her daughter Laura get to a place in North Dakota called “Eden” where they’ll be safe. Although reluctant, Logan agrees.
That’s all I’ll say about the story as I don’t want to give too much away. I’ll just say that this incarnation of Wolverine has elements that might remind viewers of Mad Max and William Munny from Unforgiven.
The story itself manages to touch on a lot of real world issues that are very prevalent right now (the border, immigration, eminent domain, child soldiers). Like a lot of people saw The Dark Knight as a commentary on the Bush era, a lot of people are already starting to refer to this as a metaphor for the Trump era. I also read one article that tried to claim that it was a warning of the direction America would have taken if Obama were still in office. The second part came off to me as grasping at straws, while the Trump part does make more sense until we remember this was in production before Trump got in office. So it’s more likely that it was meant as a general comment on the state of the world at this point in time, rather than a reflection on who’s president.
Putting aside the political mumbo jumbo, the story succeeds as a meditation on finding hope in a corrupt world. As the film begins, Logan is a bitter cynic. He doesn’t totally change over the course of the film. But his progression seems natural and unforced as did the things that led him to where he is at the beginning.
Xavier’s arc is just as poignant. He’s a man haunted by the past, trying to live out what little of life he has left.
Being an X-Men movie, of course there’s going to be action here and it is done quite well. Like I said before, this is the most graphically violent entry in the series and so Mangold uses the R-rating as a chance not to go soft. The gore isn’t gratuitous. But it’s there. The action sequences are staged well. It’s appropriate that Logan is released before the summer movie season, for the darker tone makes it more appropriate for a release when it isn’t going up against major blockbusters.
After the not bad but disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan represents a strong rebound and a good note to end the solo Wolverine trilogy on. This is definitely the best superhero movie we’ve had in a while. But like The Dark Knight, it transcends the genre and can be watched as more than just pure entertainment. We’re only 3 months into 2017. But there’s a strong chance this will go down as one of the best movies of the year.