Proper conclusions seem sadly underrated in Hollywood. When it comes to franchises, there’s a bigger concern on setting up future installments or rebooting an intellectual property than crafting a story that can stand on its own. While Fox’s X-Men franchise isn’t at an end yet, Logan does mark a pretty substantial end: Hugh Jackman’s final turn as the mutant also known as Wolverine, a role he’s played over pretty much every film in this franchise since 2000’s X-Men. Knowing it’s Jackman’s final turn for a role that he’s defined for close to two decades, Logan gives Jackman and Logan a well-deserved sendoff that may very well be the best film in the franchise to date.
In 2029, mutants have largely died out – none have been born in the last 15 years, and many of the familiar faces from previous films are gone. Logan, whose adamantium-coated skeleton is beginning to poison him and finally make him age, tries to keep a low profile as a limo driver in Texas, while crossing the border into Mexico when he’s off the clock to head to an abandoned facility where he, along with the mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant) care for 90-something Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Logan’s plan is to get enough money to buy a boat so that he and Xavier can live the remainder of their lives on the ocean. His plans are disrupted, though, when he encounters Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl with powers that are oddly similar to his. As a team of soldiers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) track the girl, and in turn Logan, Logan finds one more purpose in life by protecting Laura.
After Deadpool‘s success, which is largely attributed to being allowed to go for an R rating, Logan was given permission to also go for the rating. While I doubt we’ll see similar allowances across the board for Fox’s Marvel properties, it’s absolutely fitting for Logan. Yes, the characters are allowed to curse more (heads up: the first word of the film is “fuck”), and the violence of Logan has never felt more real than it does here. But it all serves a purpose to this particular story. This isn’t Deadpool-style chaos. The violence and carnage that surround Logan are clearly taking a toll on him and those around him, and the weight of that isn’t something that could be conveyed nearly as well with a PG-13.
Tonally, Logan comes across as a modern day Western (made all the more interesting after Mangold’s previous film, The Wolverine, set itself apart with its Eastern influences). There’s a decay to the world that’s highlighted by the knowledge that Logan and Professor X are pretty much all that remains of the now-mythologized X-Men. The two are, at this point, just trying to survive enough to reach a peaceful ending.
The confluence of setting, rating, and knowledge that this is the end of the road for Jackman all lead to versions of both Logan and Professor X that audiences may not even realize they wanted. Jackman’s allowed to dig into the role in a way that he’s never been able to do before, in all his darkness and brutality. Meanwhile, this incarnation of Professor X is freed from the need to be the wise, older mentor. Instead, he’s a bitter, angry man who’s literally too old for this shit (and will gladly say so, language included). But there’s still a warmth in the relationship between Logan and Professor X that’s emotionally powerful.
And then there’s Dafne Keen, who makes her film debut as Laura. The film requires someone who can be as much of a badass as Logan at his prime, which for most filmmakers would lead to making the character a teenager, at the very least. Making Laura a child, though, is essential to putting Logan in a father figure position, because that child isn’t going to be self-sufficient in a way even a young adult can manage. On top of that, there’s the decision to make Laura largely mute, which makes her physical presence even more of a necessity to the film. That Keen manages to perfectly embody the character is breathtaking.
Keeping the film largely to the dynamics between Logan, Professor X and Laura also highlights one of the stronger elements of the X-Men franchise as a whole: the need to protect other people who are different. The enormous end battles of the franchise aren’t what make this series stand out. It’s the dynamics of the mutants helping each other from humans who fear or hate them. Logan takes this idea that’s been present since the beginning of the series and makes it the focus of the film.
Logan, for the record, isn’t a film that provides the answers to how to make every future X-Men film. It’s a character piece that serves as a proper sendoff to the character who’s defined the series more than anyone else, and that’s where its focus lies. While that can’t be done for every film, it’s absolutely a reward for Jackman, who clearly has a deep love for the character who’s made his career what it is, and he and Mangold deliver on what they were given the opportunity to do in a tremendous way. In the end, this singular tribute to one of the most iconic comic book characters to grace the big screen isn’t just a great comic book movie – it’s a great film, period.