Hugh Jackman’s latest (and presumably last) outing as Wolverine isn’t a great superhero movie, but it may be the best movie featuring a superhero.
The movie picks up in the year 2029. The X-Men have been decimated and no new mutants have been born into the world in the last 25 years. We find out later in the movie that the likely cause of the X-Men’s demise was Professor X (Patrick Stewart) himself. Charles Xavier is suffering from a degenerative brain disease that is causing him to have seizures. The seizures in turn, cause Charles’ powers to go out of control and start to slowly kill anyone around him (like anyone within several blocks of him). Logan (Hugh Jackman) is also aging poorly. His healing factor and claws no longer function the way they used to. He has been caring for a now senile Charles Xavier just on the other side of the Mexican border with the help of Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Logan spends his days driving a limo in order to earn enough money to keep Charles drugged and, eventually, buy a boat to take them both out on the open sea.
Logan’s life is interrupted when he’s found by a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), who is searching for the help of the Wolverine. He turns her away, but she eventually gets his attention. The long and short of it is that Gabriela worked for a descendant of the Weapon X project. This organization had been breeding mutant children using the DNA of existing mutants in order to create soldiers. When the children didn’t want to fight, they moved on to what was called the “X-24” project and tried to have the children put down. The nurses helped some of the children escape. Gabriela got separated with one of the children Laura (Dafne Keen), who is also Wolverine’s daughter. Logan is reluctant to believe any of this, even when Charles tells him that they need to help the girl.
Laura and Gabriela are being tracked by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) an employee of Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), who ran the program that created Laura and the other “X-23’s” as they call them. Fun fact, Zander Rice is also the son of one of the scientists responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton. Wolverine, in turn killed Rice’s father. It’s also revealed towards the end of the movie that Rice had been manipulating the food supply in order to disperse gene therapy that would stop the natural occurrence of mutants. He states that his goal wasn’t to eliminate mutants, but to control their production.
When Pierce finds and kills Gabriela, Laura stows away in Logan’s car and ends up back at his compound in Mexico. When Pierce and his goons show up, Logan tries to run away with Charles and leave the girl behind. But, when Laura’s abilities are shown, the two of them slash their way through Pierce’s men and make a daring escape through the desert. At this point, Logan reluctantly gives in to Charles’ request that they take Laura to North Dakota to meet up with her friends.
This starts a weird family road trip with Logan trying to care for an aging father figure and a daughter that’s got the tendencies of a child and a wild animal. At every step along they way they are being tracked by Pierce and Rice, who ultimately catch up to them at a family’s farm. There, they unleash X-24, who is a full grown clone of Wolverine. X-24 ends up killing Charles before Logan comes back to the house they are staying at. He also kills the entire family that was nice enough to offer Logan and friends a place to stay for the night. Logan is barely able to escape with Laura and Charles’ body. Later, when he’s trying to bury Charles, he passes out in the road from his injuries.
Laura takes Logan to a doctor, who manages to get him back on his feet. It’s at this point that Logan confirms what people familiar with the comics would suspect, his problems aren’t just being caused by old age. The adamantium inside his body is poisoning him and his healing factor can’t keep up with it anymore. Logan also doesn’t believe that there’s anyone waiting in North Dakota, but when Laura insists he agrees to finish driving them there.
When they arrive, a still badly injured Logan is surprised to see that there other X-23 kids were actually waiting there. They are in contact with someone over the Canadian border that is offering them refuge. Logan wants to leave Laura with her friends mostly because he’s afraid to care about anyone after all the pain he’s seen, and Laura is hurt by the idea that her daddy doesn’t want to go with her. Even so, she’s strong willed enough to take off without him the next morning. When Logan realizes that the kids are being ambushed, he runs off into the woods to save them. There he has a final showdown with X-24, Pierce and Dr. Rice. Ultimately, Logan gives his life to save the children. Laura and the other children bury him in the forest before leaving for Canada. As a last act for her father, Laura takes the cross that they made for his grave and turns it on it’s side, marking the grave with an “X”.
What did I think?
Man, this movie really did hit me right in the feels. I’ve seen it twice and that scene at the end still gets to me as much as any scene in a movie has. Upon first viewing, I thought that part of the reason the movie had such an effect on me was because it was such a shocking departure from the tone and execution of any other Marvel (Fox/Sony or MCU) movie. However, the second viewing really solidified that the things that are effective about this movie are what makes the movie different, not just the fact that it is different.
This movie actively dodges a lot of the tropes and themes of the Superhero genre. Yes, that’s a genre of movie now. Consider it a subset of the Action genre. That being said, I will admit that there are some trope-y pieces, when it comes to the villains. Pierce and Dr. Rice do feel very familiar as villains, it’s the standard hands-off big bad with a strong-arming thug working for him. Then there’s the evil doppelganger, X-24. That is a gimmick that’s so trope-y that it honestly almost broke the movie for me. Yes, he can be a metaphor for Wolverine overcoming aspects of himself and yada, yada, yada…but there’s no way that we can pretend that having a character fight a, literally, darker version of himself is original.
Conversely, it’s the heroes that are nothing like the heroes that we normally see in this genre. The movie represented them as characters that were broken, desperate and crumbling. People who were truly forced to enter a fight that they wanted to desperately avoid. There weren’t a ton of “hero shots” where you see Wolverine standing in all his majesty. No witty quips or banter during combat. The altruistic speeches about justice and doing the right thing, usually reserved for characters like Cyclops, were nowhere to be found. Even the children, at times, just looked like monsters that a rational person would rightly be afraid of.
The real source of all of this is Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman. They really feel like an elderly father and his aging son. Both of them are past their prime and still have very different ways of viewing the world. They are also both dealing, in their own ways, with the fact that they are no longer the people they used to be. From their perspective, that’s really what this movie is about: coming to grips with themselves and the world around them. Even when it comes to what to do with Laura, it’s not so much about what’s the “right thing to do” for Logan. It’s more about whether or not to accept this girl into his life. True to form, Wolverine never really does. There is a clear admission that he’s learned to care about Laura, but he only does it in his way: by fighting and dying for her.
Laura was also a big surprise in this movie. When you look at it as a whole, the movie is really about her. If you know the comic stories, this movie is more the X-23 origin story than it is the “Old Man Logan” story. She plays mute for the first half of the movie, so most of her acting has to be done with her body and eyes. However, she’s got plenty of action scenes where she has to really become a mini-wolverine and it’s pretty perfect. My one criticism is that the wire work with the smaller body looks a little strange. But, from the standpoint of showing the rage and the ferocity of the character, it’s great. Then, there’s an added bonus because she finally speaks and she’s speaking in Spanish and she’s just laying into her old man. In hindsight, this is exactly what we should’ve expected based on her background but, be honest, nobody expects that in an American movie. This scene, with her throwing a full blown temper tantrum and a dying Logan trying to calm her down, is one of my favorites in the whole movie.
Just because all of the emotional stuff is going on, it doesn’t mean they ignored everything about the action in Wolverine. Instead they used the R-Rating to ramp things up. This version of Wolverine curses up a storm and dismembers the people that get in his way. The profanity really didn’t add that much to the movie for me but, the violence is another story. For nearly 20 years, I have watched this version of Wolverine threaten to stab bad guys in the face with that trick where he pops two claws and leaves the 3rd in. It always drove me crazy because I knew there was no chance the movies would actually let him kill someone like that. This movie provides a catharsis for every year that that 3rd claw never came out by allowing Wolverine to head shot everyone in sight. It made me feel way better than I had any right to.
This is, by far, the best X-Men movie that has been made. It’s kind of unfortunate that it’s tied in to such a confusing timeline. The events of Days of Future Past convoluted this version of the timeline for the sake of rebooting the X-Men franchise. It was great for those movies, but it does really make it hard to pin down exactly where Logan fits with the other movies. It’s almost better to think of this as a standalone movie. In part because it makes some thing less confusing. It also makes sense to do because this is such a different movie than those other movies, that it can easily stand alone.
- Has incredible emotion for a comic book movie
- A great closing piece for the character/actor that has been the cornerstone of Fox's mutant franchises
- Laura / X-23 is a perfect foil to Wolverine in this movie and is shepherded perfectly by Stewart and Jackman as the unger member of their on-screen family
- This is a film that works on many levels
- This is a superhero movie that eschews the conventions of the genre to become a better film
- The explanation of how the world got into its current state is pretty sparse.
- This movie may make you cry.
- This movie is somewhat dependent on you having some kind of connection to the Professor X and Wolverine characters.
- While there are still comic book elements, this is more of a film than a comic book movie