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It's a proper sendoff in 'Logan'

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Wolverine film transcends its superhero genre

One of the things that we’ve seen in the world of film in general and superhero cinema in particular is the willingness to reinvent and reboot. The turnover in the comic book movie realm has been significant even as the genre has been transmuted into box office gold.

And yet, standing astride the entirety of this superpowered cinematic span is one actor who has stayed not just relevant but prominent through it all. Hugh Jackman made his first appearance as Wolverine in 2000’s “X-Men;” 2017’s “Logan” marks his tenth turn as the character.

Over that span, audiences have seen three Spider-Men, three Hulks, two Supermen, two Batmen and two completely different versions of the Fantastic Four. Along the way, different actors have played Magneto and Professor X and Cyclops and Beast and just about every X-Man - except Wolverine.

There’s a good chance that “Logan” is the end of the line for the character. And if that is indeed the case, well … at least Jackman’s going out on top.

The year is 2029. Mutantkind is on the verge of extinction, with no new mutants having been born in more than two decades. Logan – James Howlett – is gradually succumbing to internal poisoning brought on by the adamantium grafted to his bones; his exhausted healing ability is no longer able to keep up, leaving him aged and injured.

He works as a chauffeur as a way to earn enough to procure the drugs necessary to keep the degenerative neurological condition of his old friend Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, TV’s “Blunt Talk”) at bay. Kept in a tank in rural Mexico to avoid detection, Xavier’s mutant mental powers are as powerful as ever, but his disease makes them almost uncontrollable. Logan and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant, “Table 19”) are his sole caretakers.

But when Xavier connects with a young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen, TV’s “The Refugees”) who has escaped the clutches of a sinister corporation, their tenuous survival situation becomes untenable, leaving Logan and Charles with no choice but to help ferry Laura to a rendezvous that may lead to her ultimate safety – or that may not exist at all.

Standing in their way are the nefarious forces of Transigen, led by the cybernetically-enhanced head of security Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook, TV’s “Narcos”), who will stop at nothing to recapture Laura and would be perfectly happy eliminating a few old-guard mutants along the way.

Despite his commitment to self-preservation, Logan connects with the girl – a connection that, as it turns out, might be far deeper than any of them could have anticipated.

In the grand superheroic cinema scheme, “Logan” is top-tier. One could make an argument for it as the best superhero film we’ve ever seen; at the very least, it should have a prominent place in that conversation. Perhaps more than any other example of the genre, it strikes a true balance between the over-the-top action and gritty bleakness that sit at opposite ends of the super-spectrum. It is touching and brutal, marked by intense and bloody action sequences and occasional moments of dark humor.

(And when I say “intense and bloody,” I mean it - this movie is R-rated for a reason. There’s an overwhelming quality to the action sequences that are borderline shocking in their graphicness. It is powerful and dark and unrelenting, with some of the most visceral violence we’ve ever seen in a comic book film.)

Director James Mangold who also co-wrote the screenplay for a story that he conceived (drawing inspiration from the classic “Old Man Logan” comic arc among many others). That is a remarkable degree of involvement on the part of one man. Such involvement can often undermine the ultimate quality of the final product. Rest assured, that is not the case here. Mangold’s passion and affection for this character rings true in every frame of this film; he knew precisely the story he wanted to tell, a story that was a fitting farewell for this iconic actor/character marriage.

And oh what a marriage it was.

Hugh Jackman IS Wolverine. I’m sure I wasn’t alone when I expressed initial doubts at Jackman’s ability to adequately portray this character, but I was very, VERY wrong. He captured the essence of an iconic character in such a way as to satisfy one of the most notoriously picky fanbases in all of popular culture. And this performance is the best of the bunch.

Jackman gives a real pathos to the aging, infirm Logan. He captures the sadness of a man who has lost almost everyone he cares about and who still lives only because of the obligations that he feels towards the few people he has left. He is grizzled and damaged and in constant pain. It is an absolutely masterful performance.

Stewart is excellent as well. He also gives the impression of saying good-bye to a character he too has come to embody; the addled, broken Charles Xavier is so different from the man we’ve come to know, yet still capable of giving us glimpses of the steely self-possession that marked the character. Young Keen holds her own with these two excellent performances, despite spending much of the movie in silence; she’s a compelling screen presence.

Put it all together and you have one of the most intense and challenging comic book movie, one of the few that transcends its genre. “Logan” isn’t a great superhero movie – it’s a great movie, full stop. And if it is indeed an official farewell to Jackman’s Wolverine, it’s as good a send-off as we could have ever wanted.

[5 out of 5]

Last modified on Thursday, 09 March 2017 02:58

1 comment

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