Hugh Jackman straps on the claws one last time for “Logan”, the all-singing, all-dancing joyride of your winter. Your heart will soar as Ryan Gosling attempts to woo the cranky Canadian with his… Oh, wait, I’m being told I was handed the wrong envelope.
A quick look at IMDb shows that this is Jackman’s 9th time out as Wolverine (counting cameos) and it’s easily the best. Not that Jackman hasn’t done a fantastic job at inhabiting the role and bringing what is essentially a ridiculous character to life, but the plots and scripts have consistently let him down. And this one still has plot holes that you could drive a truck through, but it gets enough right that no one will care.
Part of that is that the success of “Deadpool” made it OK for a comic book movie to be rated R and Wolverine is very much an R-rated character. But the other lesson from “Deadpool” was that superhero movies can tell smaller scale stories. You don’t need to be saving the world or have 27 villains gadding about in colorful spandex. This time the plot is simple and streamlined with very little baroque flourish.
Set in the the not too distant future, next Sunday AD…
We join Logan trying to eek out a living as freelance limo driver. The forces of Amalgamated Evil Co have managed to stomp out mutantkind. I don’t know why Hollywood refuses to ever have evil governments behind these things since the number of companies that have their own private armies and can operate anywhere on Earth and slaughter whomever they like is fairly limited. It’s been years since Microsoft last sent a kill team to mow down a gaggle of children.
Anyhew, Logan is feeling his age. Something has gone wrong inside him so his healing isn’t what it used to be. He is saving up for a boat so he and Charles Xavier sail off to live out their remaining days in the South Pacific.
Patrick Stewart is back as Xavier and is his usual excellent self even if he does spend a lot of time in the “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!” zone. Coming to the end of his life, Xavier’s great mind has now betrayed him, leaving him a shell of his former self and a danger to everyone around him.
A Mexican nurse arrives to throw a spanner into this miserable but boring existence in the form of a daughter that Logan never knew he had because she was grown in a secret lab by Amalgamated Evil Co. This is totally something companies do all the time. Arby’s has a 14 foot tall clone of Harry Truman in a vault down in El Salvador ready to unleash at a moment’s notice. The daughter, Laura, is really two characters. For half the movie, she’s a cranky mute. Then at some point the writers realized that they really needed to give Logan someone to talk to and explain various plot points so she suddenly becomes both loquacious and bi-lingual. Even Wolverine is confused by the instantaneous change. The silent Laura is a more mysterious and interesting character than the later chatty version who feels more like she should be on a cross-country romp with Clint Eastwood and an orangutan.
The action is harsh and brutal, very fitting for the character and for this story. These fights aren’t dazzling eye candy, they’re life or death and they take a toll on the title character as the movie wears on. Ultimately, it’s not a story about people in gaudy costumes punching each other, it’s the story of an old fighter seeking a final redemption. And in that, it succeeds completely.
P.S. If anyone knows who made the top image let me know and I will credit appropriately.