Mr. Claws Gets Old and Tired
It's fair to say that the X-MenLaunched in 1963 and written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men featured heroes distinctly different from those featured in the pages of DC Comics. Mutants who didn't ask for their powers (and very often didn't want them), these heroes, who constantly fought against humans who didn't want "muties" around, served as metaphors for oppression and racism. Their powerful stories would form this group into one of the most recognizable superhero teams in comics (and a successful series of movies as well). series at Fox is basically the "Wolverine and Friends" movie series. Logan, as played by Hugh Jackman, was the lead character of the first X-Men film, was the first character in the series to get a stand-alone feature series, and has been a primary character in just about every film in the entire series. In fact, the only film in the series to be an abject failure, Dark Phoenix, is also the only film in the series to not feature Wolverine in any capacity. In other words, the series has lived, or died, based on Logan.
Of course, there's good reason for the fact that Wolverine isn't in Dark Phoenix: Hugh Jackman retired the role one film earlier in 2017's Logan. The swan song for the character, Logan acted as a send off for the character, the final act for a decade-plus-spanning performance considered one of the best in superhero cinema history. Logan takes place in the distant future of the series, at point where, technically he could have shown up again in other movies set before that date. However, Jackman considered the story to be so good, such a fitting end for the character, that he didn't want to ruin it by bringing the character into any further adventures. he had a fitting ending, so why ruin the perfect thing?
It's a respectable position for the actor to take, and completely understandable upon viewing the movie. Logan is a lot of things -- violent, raw, deeply personal -- but above all else, it's a stunning achievement, a film set in a superhero universe that features very little true super-heroics. And it does, in fact, act as a fitting final movie not only for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine but also Patrick Stewart's Professor X as well.
Logan opens years into the future, long after events for mutants have taken a rather nasty turn. Mutants stopped being born, the X-Men disbanded, and hope for the few remaining mutants is basically gone. Logan, working as a limo driver, is basically on death's door, dying from the very thing that has kept him alive for so long: the adamantium coating his bones. As one of the last remaining members of the old X-Men team, it's fallen on Logan to care for Charles Xavier, who due to his age (being in his 90s) is suffering from dementia which manifests itself in horrible mental attacks upon the nearby populace. For that reason Logan moved the Professor out into the middle of nowhere down in Mexico. His one hope is to get enough money together to buy a boat so that he, and the professor, can sail the seas until they both eventually die.
Into this life comes Laura (Danfe Keen), a mutant girl who, as we soon see, has powers exactly like Logan's (and the adamantium on her bones to match). Created in a lab, Laura (aka X-23) is essentially Logan's daughter (based on samples of his genetic code taken from Alkali Lake). Hunted by the men that created her, Laura just wants to get up to North Dakota so she can meet up with her friends (other kids created in the X-23 program) and they can all escape across the border. With Charles's cajoling (and the promise of $20,000), Logan taken both Charles and Laura on the road, trying to evade their pursuers and make it to their destination before some (or all) of them end up dead.
Logan is not an easy movie. Those used to the fun and quippy nature of other X-Men films probably weren't ready for the darker tone and bleak perspective the film takes. It's a rough movie, one where few people come out looking like heroes and just about everyone has blood on their hands. It's the closest the series has ever come to being an overt Western, about good and evil and the gunslingers toeing the line, and often in those movies the heroes are neither good nor evil but somewhere in between. Logan isn't really a good guy, just someone looking to get by who keeps getting dragged into bad situations. But, like the gunslingers of the old Westerns, Logan is the only one capable of doing the job so, despite whatever he might want, he puts himself in harm's way time and again. He might not consider himself a hero, but he ends up doing the stupid, heroic thing every time.
Ironically, despite its bleak tone, Logan probably owes its greatest debt to the weirdest, funniest film in the X-Men series: Deadpool. That film came out a year before Logan and it proved that there was a market for foul-mouthed, violent, R-rated superhero films. It basically paved the way for Logan to tell its violent, gory story without compromise, and that benefits the movie to no end. Of course, Deadpool also doesn't consider himself a hero which may have allowed Mangold to get away with painting Logan with an anti-hero brush this time around. His vision wasn't compromised and that allows Logan to be the sad, fitting movie it needed to be to send of Wolverine in proper fashion.
And to do that it had to be violent and gory. Watching through the previous films in the series, it's hard to miss the fact that Wolverine racks up quite the body count over the years (just watch how many people he fells when Stryker comes calling to the X-Mansion in X2: X-Men United). Although he always does to bad people (and usually in a bloodless fashion as most of the movies were, at most, PG-13), Wolvie kills a lot of dudes. He has blood on his hands, Logan just makes it explicit. It's a blood-drenched film, with a lot a gore and violence. But then, when you effectively have to Wolverines running around the film -- Logan and Laura -- this is the kind of carnage you have to expect.
It's not the violence and the gore that kept people talking, though; it was the performances. This movie features, without a doubt, Jackman's best performance as Wolverine. Tortured by guilt and dying slowly from adamantium poisoning, Logan is all flaws and anger, and yet he cares deeply about Charles. It's a stunning performance, the strongest acting Jackman has ever done in the role. Jackman is equaled by Stewart in the film, as our dear Professor X turns in an absolutely heartbreaking turn in the role. His Charles is troubled in his own way, and basically as close to death's door as Wolvie. And yet there's still warmth in his heart, hope for the future of mutant kind, and that hope rests with Laura.
Really, Keen is owed so much credit because she had to be two things at once: both a teenage girl and a little version of Wolverine. She had to show anger, betrayal, hurt, rage, and hope and make all that into a character we could actually care about. That would be a tough challenge for any actor at any age, but the young Keen does it so well. As a closet X-23 fan, I will admit that seeing her portrayed so well by the actress gave me hope that an eventual X-23 movie could be done by the same team. This is a star-making performance and I do hope Keen is able to continue acting after this.
At the end of the day, though, this is all about Logan and his last stand. And, without spoiling anything, let's just say that the character gets the bittersweet, fitting send-off he deserved. The movie is sad and dark and violent and it sends off Logan exactly as he should be. And, because of that, this film is easily the best movie in the entire X-Men series.
Logan's limo drive id is listed under the name of "James Howlett". That is, of course, his birth name, so that's a nice touch right there.
Caliban appears here after first being introduced in X-Men: Apocalypse. I hadn't realized they were the same character the first couple of times I watched this movie largely because they're played entirely differently in the two films. Also, Caliban never leaves his den in Apocalypse and never exhibits any powers, either. They really could be two different characters, all things considered, and no one would be any wiser.
The movie references events of the first movie -- Logan's time as a cage fighter, the fight at the Statue of Liberty between the X-Men and the Brotherhood -- even though those events were wiped from continuity in the big timeline reboot of Days of Future Past. Logan would remember those events as he would still have his memory from the old timeline (because he was the inciting person that caused the new timeline) but Charles really shouldn't. But then if he reads Logan's mind regularly, maybe that's why he knows, too.
One big issue I have with this film is that X-23 already has adamantium plating on her bones despite still being a young girl. How is she supposed to grow and mature with the metal already on her bones? It's not as if the metal can replicate as she grows. In the comics she didn't get the metal procedure until she was fully grown, but the movie skips that detail.
The lab that created X-23, Transigen, uses Alkali Laboratory solutions. Alkali, of course, means Alkali Lake, the military base where Stryker experimented on Wolverine. So this program is a direct connection to Stryker's program, a nice way to show how evil they are before we even see the details.
While watching the film Shane (which is referenced a lot by this movie), Charles mentions that the film is "almost 100 years old". Shane came out in 1953, putting this film in the late 2040s/early 2050s. Of course, Charles was shown to be in his twenties in X-Men: First Class, and he states he's a nonagenarian in this film, so the math would indicate something closer to the 2030s. So let's say early to mid 2040s, then.
The movie implies that there aren't any new mutants being born, although it may just be that any new mutants being born are killed. It also implies that Charles caused an incident (one of his mental seizures) that killed a bunch of people and, presumably, shut down the School for the Gifted. If we count The Gifted in the timeline, this might help to explain to elaborate on the situation between mutants and humans and illustrate why things are so bad in this dark future.
Wolverine gets the nice farm family killed just by being around them (and so the evil Alkali people invade and kill everyone that isn't an adamantium-enhanced mutant). This is an interesting parallel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine where, essentially, the same thing happens there, too. Basically, if you run a farm and Logan comes a'callin: hide. Don't help, just hide.
And, of course, there's the prophecy. Yukio tells Logan in The Wolverine that he would die on his back with his heart in his hands. That movie shows him temporarily dying removing a bug that was wrapped around his own heart, seemingly fulfilling that prophecy. But then he dies for real in this flick, impaled on a log, on his back, holding the hand of his daughter. So maybe Yukio was talking about this death all along.
If you had any hope of an X-23 movie, I want to dash those right now; just rip that Band-Aid right off. Mangold was working on a script and the film had basically been green-lit by Fox. But then Disney bought Fox and, due to the failure of Dark Phoenix, the planed X-23 film was canceled. Although, let's be honest, it was going to be a hard sell for Disney to sign-off on the movie; they're still trying to figure out what to do with Deadpool, and he's an established film character that makes mad bank. A hyper-violent, R-rated sequel without it's most famous lead was probably never going to be released by the R-rating averse Mouse House.