The X-Men movies are often pyrotechnics, full of flashy CGI and casts of thousands. But then Deadpool changed everything, with his lone snarkface antihero not interested in Saving The World. Logan feels like a movie with the best lessons learned Deadpool: keep it small, keep it real, and keep it focused on lots of stitches. The result isn’t just the only Wolverine movie worth watching (which – we know that’s a low bar); Logan is also a brilliant standalone entry into the ever-changing X-Men movie world.
Slight spoilers ahead.
Set in 2029, Logan is set in a devastated future America where a heavily guarded wall separates the US from Mexico. No new mutants have been born in at least a decade, thanks to mad scientist Dr. Rice (a delicious hammy Richard E. Grant), who has fortified the world’s energy drinks with anti-mutant GMO corn syrup. Logan works as a limousine driver in a series of unnamed towns north of the wall, sleeping in his car and slowly losing his healing abilities. He’s busted, his knuckles are constantly leaking pus and his confident newly stumbled limp. All his money goes to keeping Professor X (Patrick Stewart) safe in the shell of an old factory in Mexico, far from someone who could be affected by the horrific effects of Charles’ neurological problems, which resemble ALS or Alzheimer’s in a early stage.
The mood is grim and Hugh Jackman sells Logan’s fear both physically and mentally. Although he has never been a carpenter, he clearly misses life in a world where mutants were a growing force. Now he’s like an old villain, surpassed by a new generation of cyborg super-soldiers with robotic arms and drug-enhanced strength. The movie’s great evil is such an enhanced soldier, Pierce (played with faint menace by Boyd Holbrook), the creation of Dr. rice. There’s something strangely tragic about the diversity of strange mutant powers being replaced by cookie-cutting cyborg killers.
With Magneto out of the picture, the central conflict for the mutants is no longer whether the X-Men should rule over humans or integrate into their society. Instead, it’s a struggle between freedom and life as one of Dr. rice. There is no hope of destroying cities or becoming heroes. The only remaining mutants have a slim chance of making it across the border to Canada, where a safe haven awaits them.
Loosely based on some of Mark Millar’s themes Old Man Logan comics, Logan casts his hero as a tarnished cowboy, scarred and dying, seeking sweet redemption from a world that has rejected him completely. But then something unexpected happens. Charles makes contact with a new mutant, a girl named Laura (the growling, defiant Dafne Keen), who urgently needs to be rescued from Dr. rice. With the help of a brave nurse, Laura and a few other kids escaped a Mexican facility where Dr. Rice bred mutants using DNA stolen from several X-Men.
Although Logan and Laura develop a bond, Logan avoids most of the usual tacky clichés that can accompany this development. There are touching moments between Laura and Logan, but they mostly involve squeezing bad guys, smashing cars, and passing out in piles of gory bandages. Laura holds up with Logan, even as they take on armored self-driving trucks and Pierce’s cyborg soldiers.
As I said before, what makes this movie great is that the stakes aren’t huge. No turbo mutant from ancient Egypt tries to use his mind to build the great pyramids. Instead of, Logan addresses questions on a human scale about whether Wolverine will ever find meaning in his hollow, blood-soaked life. There are almost no mutant power scenes, other than Logan and Laura fighting. This movie is not about showing all the majestic, fantastic possibilities for a future human species. Instead, our biggest question is whether the mutants will give to Dr. Rice can escape and cross the border into Canada. This isn’t your parents’ X-Men, full of wings and magical powers. It takes place in a twisted new world of militarized borders and scientists who experiment on children without remorse. In this world that feels awkward like the real thing, the best a mutant can hope for is the freedom to live outside a lab cage.
General, LoganThe dark tone and desperate violence work well. This is a character study, and the only rough spots are when we deviate from Logan and Laura’s journey. The bits with X-24 – the mindless, furious version of Wolverine – aren’t necessary. He feels like a strange villain added for no good reason. And we could have used a little more world building, just to give us a sense of how the mutants have fallen so far in just over a decade. But those are minor complaints. Logan will get your adrenaline going and sometimes make you cry a little too. You can skip the two previous ones Wolverine movies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the glutton, which are pretty much outright rubbish (sorry, superfans). Finally, in Loganwe have a great story that shows us Logan’s true self along with his broken, battered heart.
List image by 20th Century Fox