Now that Logan is in theatres near you, it is time to say goodbye to the anti-hero Wolverine on the silver screen. This is Hugh Jackman’s ninth and final time in the role and one would expect that it will be a while before it is recast. Simple economics tells us it will be recast, of course. But after a tour de force performance in this film, directed and written by James Mangold, I do not envy the young actor who tries on the claws next.
Wolverine first appeared in Marvel comics in #181 of Hulk. Now there are nine films with Weapon X in them. Hard to believe.
As Logan begins, the year is 2029. Few mutants remain. Logan, and an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) are holed up south of the border in Mexico. Logan crosses over to work as a part time limousine driver to support them all. His plan, such as it is, revolves around saving up some money to buy a boat for Charles and him to retire and die in.
Booze helps any tough guy recuperate and brood. True cowboy fact. Logan heals slowly and painfully now. Booze is applied. Problems pushed away for another day. Seems with the healing factor slowing down the adamantium inside his body is now hurting him while at the same time holding his old bones together.
So while our anti-hero just wants to be left alone to growl, fall apart, and die sooner than later most likely, we all know that old man Logan will not be allowed that sort of peace; now don’t we?
We next meet a Mexican nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who used to work at a secret government testing site. Here is a hint. They were not trying to cure pediatric cancer there. Naturally, they were growing their own mutant/children/weapons under the guidance of Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant).
Gabriela, and other nurses, catch on to what is going on. They smuggle the children out to freedom and are separated from one another right away. Gabriela is alone with young Laura (Dafne Keen) and is desperate to get from Mexico to North Dakota where there is a crossing into Canada and, hopefully, safety. She pleads with Logan. He rebuffs her.
Eventually Logan is forced by circumstance to aid the young mutant whose powers so clearly mirror his own. Thus a road trip begins and much of the humor in the film plays out during that section of the film. Professor X, Weapon X and X-23 walk into a bar. Sounds like a geektastic set up to an awful pun laden joke, right?
Meanwhile, the head enforcer, Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), for Dr. Rice has a mess of guns, trucks and cyborg goons hot on the trail of our mutant protagonists. A showdown is inevitable. High Noon style.
If you have seen the trailers then you know that yes, indeed, a battle is coming. However, even prior to the climax of the film there is plenty of action. Gore. Stabbing. Slashing. Limbs removed. Heads removed. Blood spattered like scarlet raindrops on a sandy landscape.
This is the R-rated, off the leash, berserker Wolverine that fans have long waited for and it is glorious fun from a fan POV. Ironically we are treated to this spectacle in a film that is all about the spiritual destruction and emotional cost of just that sort of violence. Wolverine is not just old in Logan. Sure he is scarred and limping, that much is obvious. He is, in truth, broken from the strain of living the life he has lived.
At one point, after waking from a nightmare, Logan explains in gruff fashion to Laura that, “you have to learn to live with killing” (and the price it inflicts on the killer).
She innocently responds that those she has killed were all bad men. He responds to her naïve viewpoint, thinking that in a good/evil or black/white world it is OK to kill the bad guys and it is no big deal if you do, by stating, “All the same.” Meaning that any and all killing marks you inside. It takes away a little piece of your humanity whether you are aware of it or not. Logan is only too aware of that fact.
That is to be expected of the fellow who is famous for saying, “I’m the best there is at what I do. But what I do isn’t very nice” Logan in this film is clearly analogous to William Munny in Eastwood’s Unforgiven. Infamous for his violence. Feared for his skill even when he has deteriorated to the point that he is a shadow of what he once was.
Once we reach the conclusion of the film and Logan reluctantly does battle to protect others one last time, I cannot help but think how bittersweet the film is for me.
Wolverine has finally been done right. Just as I always hoped he would be – but for the last time Jackman will play him. Hard not to think what could have been if the correct approach were pursued at an earlier point in the cinematic process.
Still, regrets are the toll we pay for living. If Logan, the character, can teach anything to us it is that living will scar you no matter what. How you let those scars impact you and your future decisions is what will mark whether you have lived well – or merely lived.
Best Wolverine movie yet. Period.