by Wes Womble
After seventeen years holding the role, Hugh Jackman’s final performance as The Wolverine came with the release of Logan earlier this month. Critically loved for its brutally realistic take on the character, Logan alongside 2016’s Deadpool show that Comic Book movies can profit from an R rating. The film is not only a heartfelt sendoff to the last of the original X-Men, but also provides a hopeful beginning for a new generation.
From Point A to Point B
Many of the superhero films from the past decade have had insanely high stakes – the world or galaxy had always been under threat of imminent destruction. But Logan keeps it simple, with a plot that can be boiled down to nothing more than a smuggling run across the country. There isn’t any mustache twirling super villain, and there is no doomsday device; it’s a just a story of the hunter becoming the hunted. The film begins with a two-hundred-year-old Wolverine, reduced to a limo driver on the border of Mexico and the United States. Saving money to buy a boat, his initial plan is to live out the rest of his days on the ocean with Charles Xavier, played by Patrick Stuart. Approached by a Hispanic woman named Gabriella and her daughter, he is offered enough money to fulfill this plan if he would simply take them to North Dakota.
Of course, it is later revealed to Logan that the Gabriella’s daughter is more than just some young girl; she’s X-23, a clone of Wolverine himself. X-23 / Laura Kinney, played by Dafne Keen, is being hunted by a corporation called Transigen, who created a new generation of mutants based on D.N.A samples from their older counterparts. Leading the expedition to capture all the escaped children is Donald Pierce, Transigen’s chief of security. After narrowly escaping with their lives, Logan, Charles, and Laura begin their journey to the North with Tranisgen hot on their heels. In this sense, Logan is nothing more than a ferryman on the river Styx, taking the audience for a ride through the hell that has been and still is his life.
Intermittent with the dialogue heavy scenes are of course ones filled with action – what’s a comic book movie without a few good fights anyway? But these sequences, much like their dialogue driven counterparts, are very graphic to the point some might call it gratuitous and unnecessary. However, they are arguably part of what makes this film so – for lack of a better term – real. Even the scenes with violence against children, although they are shocking, they help set the precedent that every single character is vulnerable and keeps you guessing as to where the story will go next.
Well written and well-crafted characters
All their stories resonate both within and throughout their characters and ultimately help create a driving force for the film.
The film is more focused on how the characters interact with one another rather than how they react to the situation at hand, which is why the low stakes plot works so well. Yes, the chase drives them ever forward, but not without stopping every so often to tend to various yet much smaller concerns. These small incidents however, provide wonderful points for character arcs as well as exploration and do not distract from the journey they are undertaking. Every single detail in these scenes helps expand on their individual stories and ultimately allows opportunities for not only characters to relate to one another, but for the audience to care for them as well.
Take Logan himself for example: in this film, we see a man gifted with an extraordinary long life but who ultimately is broken down as a direct result of it. Everyone he has cared for is dead, yet he lives. He questions the amount of lives he has taken, telling Laura that it doesn’t matter if the people she kills are good or bad, but that killing regardless will take its toll on a person. In his advanced age, his ability to heal is also being diminished, which in a way provides a poetic circle to his life. The adamantium which has been limiting his healing factor mirrors his mental state, and how both have now come back to haunt him.
Logan wasn’t the sole focus of character development however; the cast around him all had wonderful arcs, though most of them were just as tragic. Charles has lost control of his mind through a neurodegenerative disease and feels guilty about those caring for him. Caliban, Charles caregiver while Logan was away, was simply seeking redemption and recognition in the eyes of his former friends. He continues to look for approval even after he is captured by Transigen and forced to track Laura across the country . Even Laura, who is mute for half of the film still shows us a story in which she is a young child, new to the concept of a normal life, but all too familiar with a tragic one. All their stories resonate both within and throughout their characters and ultimately help create a driving force for the film.
Teary eyed and heart breaking performances
Part of the reason the story and the characters feel so viscerally realistic is because of the incredible job the cast did with their respective roles. Nearly every line of dialogue, every close up, every little mannerism the characters had was performed so well it eliminated that wall between the real world and the world of the film. The average viewer can find themselves completely enthralled and immersed in this film, something others in the genre could only hope to accomplish.
Dafne Keen, the actress who played X-23 / Laura, is an exceptional stand out from this film. While remaining mute for half the film, save for a few war cries and grunts here and there, she manages to beautifully emote with just her face and body language. And for only being twelve years old, this is a remarkably impressive feat. But it doesn’t stop there. She eventually speaks in the film, delivering lines in fluent Spanish with believable anger and choking out a speech heart-breaking enough to leave even the most stoic viewers misty-eyed.
Hugh Jackman can’t be forgotten either, as the entire film rests on his shoulders and shows he is more than capable of bearing the weight. Showcasing the extensive range he has, Jackman delivers a performance that is sure to be one of the best in not only the franchise, but the entire genre of comic book heroes. He has held the role for so long, and delivers a final performance so immersive he doesn’t feel like a comic book hero, but an average man. He faces the very real problem of learning to live for more than himself, abandoning his selfish demeanour in favor of altruistic values. He doesn’t squander the R rating either, making full use of an obscene vocabulary, adding to the feeling that he’s not a superhero, but just a man making his way through a broken and tragic life, finding reason to live through those around him.
The Wolverine has been a forefront character in comic book films for the past seventeen years, and Logan ends this era of X-Men beautifully. While a bit more somber than most blockbusters, the film begs to be watched again and again, setting an example for all within the genre that Comic Book films don’t always need to be humorous at every moment, but rather they should focus on developing memorable characters that audiences will love for years to come.
Logan brings about the end of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in a brilliant way. Poetic, well-crafted, and heart breaking, the film is not only one of greatest emotional tragedies written in the comic book genre but also has the gusto to contend with some of the great dramas from previous decades.