*SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN IT YET...IT'S YOUR FUNERAL, BUB!*
I always thought you could take any number of Canadian graduates of the Hart Dungeon wrestling school in Calgary, or metal legend Glenn Danzig or even Mel Gibson and put them in a Wolverine suit and it would have pleased my inner geek. But 16 years and 9 movie appearances I have nothing more than respect for Hugh Jackman and how he’s made Wolverine a household name and how the role has done for him vice versa. And Wolverine and the X-Men films put Marvel and superhero films as a genre on the map. Danzig, a pro wrestler and especially Mel Gibson all sound like horrible casting choices now, and none of them could have done what Jackman has done.
So here we come to Jackman’s apparent final time in the claws and mutton chop sideburns with Logan. And you can see that this R rated film, filled with bloody violence, swearing, nudity and very human drama is the Wolverine film that director James Mangold and Jackman wanted to do with The Wolverine a few years back. I would guess that Deadpool’s success had a big hand in getting Fox to realize that an R rated X-Men movie could work. Or Jackman has made so much money for them that they let him do whatever he wanted. No matter how this happened, I think all the adult fans of the X-Men franchise are going to be very happy with this movie.
The movie is based on Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan storyline, in which an aged Wolverine has become a loner in a future where all his friends are long gone, with a Western/Sci-fi backdrop. However, that is where the similarities with this film and the comic story end. With Fox not able to use Wolvie’s connection with the Avengers, specifically characters like Hawkeye, Hulk, The Red Skull and Spider-Man...they had no choice but to change the story drastically. At first even I didn’t think they could do that story justice without those characters, but I was wrong...what they did here is pretty magical. At the same time, they get to introduce Wolverine’s clone daughter, X-23, his classic foes The Reavers and Donald Pierce and do other little things that make this movie work.
The X-Men are apparently dead after a catastrophic event in Westchester (I really can’t spoil what they imply happened, but it’s slightly different than the comics) and only Logan and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart resuming the role) are left of the team. They live out in the Nevada desert with Caliban (Stephen Merchant taking over the role), and Logan has become a lowly limousine driver while he takes care of the aging Xavier whose powers are drastically out of control. Xavier is a rambling, senile old man with a potty mouth (YES, Charles curses like a sailor...I never imagined hearing such language from either Stewart or The Prof!), but because he doesn’t have any more control over his telepathy he has these senses shattering seizures that immobilize anyone within a certain radius. Sir Patrick Stewart is so incredibly excellent in this film, and it is in my mind his best film as Xavier. Anyone that has tended to an elderly loved one will feel a lot from this portrayal.
Caliban also is great. This is a much different version of him than in X-Men: Apocalypse. Clearly he has grown older and has become a friend to the X-Men. We also get to see him in his hat and scarf from his first appearance in Uncanny X-Men #148. This was pretty cool for the old school fans.
Along the way, this misfit gang come across a nurse pleading to the “legendary” Wolverine for help. She has a little girl with her. The woman is eventually hunted down and murdered by the cybernetic Pierce and his gang of mercenaries called The Reavers. We eventually discover they work for a genetics firm called Transigen and the little girl is of course, Laura/X-23 and was created from Logan’s DNA (likely the sample stolen at the end credits scene in Apocalypse) to be the ultimate killing machine. Xavier is able to tell right away, but of course, Logan is in denial...even after we see Laura has adamantium claws in of her own in her hands and feet and she’s a little rabid berserker.
The Reavers eventually kidnap Caliban and use him to hunt Logan, Xavier and Laura, who are now on the lam. What we get from there is actually a pretty heartwarming road trip movie where Logan slowly learns to realize who Laura is and begins caring for the girl. This little actress who plays Laura, Dafne Keen absolutely steals the movie, as she is able to somehow balance her being a vicious human switchblade and an adorable little girl. The audience really has no choice but to completely fall in love with her and this character. And she hardly talks in the entire movie! Do we realize how hard it is to melt the audience’s collective hearts without saying a word? I think this little actress is going to go on to do amazing things in her career, and this breakout role could be compared to Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver and Natalie Portman in The Professional. She’s THAT good. Not seeing X-23 again in live action would be a terrible shame...I just have no idea how they would do that in the continuity. Sad face.
It was also very cool to finally see The Reavers and Pierce on film. They definitely add a “Mad Max” element to the film. They were a pretty big part of Logan’s comic history and are known for nearly killing him during the famous “Australia Era” of X-Men comics in the late 80’s. The only thing I would have added to them was a bit of background. In the comics they were former Hellfire Club henchmen that were dismembered by Wolvie (during the infamous Claremont/Byrne run) and had their limbs replaced with bionics to gain bloody revenge on him. This would have been pretty cool to add to their story. Boyd Holbrook is a good villain as Pierce and giving him a bit of a “redneck attitude” was an interesting touch. When he says “mutie” it sounds that much more offensive.
The Reavers aren’t the only villains though, we have Richard E. Grant as Zander Rice, the head of Transigen and son of the man that originally gave Wolverine his adamantium at the Weapon X project. There’s another physical threat to give Wolverine a formidable challenge as well. It’s not Sabretooth, Romulus, Omega Red, Cyber or Daken but (even though any of those I probably would have preferred), it is someone just as formidable. I cannot spoil more than that.
There's one thing I noticed is hinted in the movie that I found sort of interesting. In this future, the X-Men were seen as known heroes. Wolverine is a recognized former superhero, there were comics and action figures based on the X-Men, and even a newscast mentions them by name regarding the "Westchester Incident". I'm thinking those classic X-Men superhero costumes at the end of Apocalypse were more than simply aesthetics and in the coming X-Men film, apparently intitled X-Men: Supernova, we may see the team become public superheroes, rather than feared and hated by the general populace. There's no telling if this will happen or not, but it would be cool to see it happen, so this film makes a bit more sense.
Oh yeah, and for the hardcore fans: we get one to see another classic character from the comics thrown in there. I won’t spoil it but it’s someone who was a member of the New Mutants, X-Force and X-Factor. I only can think of two characters that were on all three of those teams, so if you know your stuff...you can figure it out!
Sadly, one of my favorite X-Men villains, Mr. Sinister was omitted from the movie (even though he was clearly hinted in Apocalypse). Apparently he was too much of a “comic super villain” to fit into the movie’s narrative. I’m not sure if I agree with that, as even though the movie is very dramatic and more down-to-earth as previous X-films, I think we very much could have had a creepy and cool mastermind in the movie in the form of Nathanial Essex. I think this was a mistake, and unless they are to use Sinister in another X-Men movie, it's a damn shame for him to be one of the two major villains we haven't yet seen in the X-Men universe (another would be Cassandra Nova in my opinion).
Hugh Jackman has grown into the role of Logan and I’ve said many times starting from his hilarious “two word cameo” in X-Men: First Class, he has nailed down this role. He finally felt like the badass he was always meant to be. But in this specific movie we get another layer to the character. His healing factor has depleted in age, and as a result the adamantium lacing his bones is poisoning him (very much like when he lost his powers in the comics)...this makes him weaker, and in a scene when Laura and her fellow mutant clones from Transigen are being hunted down by the Reavers, poor Logan is running through the woods coming to the rescue and he is slower and running out of breath...the opposite to how we are used to seeing him. It is very hard and emotional for us to see our hero fall so far from grace, but he also does not give up...forever the hero. And seeing how he tends to Xavier, the father he never had, is absolutely heartbreaking. I'm not shy to admit my eyes teared up more than once watching this movie.
There perhaps have never been a more dramatic superhero movie made. And on top of the heavy subject matter, we get the best and most intense action sequences of any X-Men related movie. It’s certainly not a perfect film...I of course would have loved to see more elements from OML and the very important plot point of Logan restraining from popping his claws wasn’t in there (for reasons), but it hit the spot and is indeed a perfect send-off for Jackman’s run as this character. Someone certainly come along and revolutionize the role of Wolverine ten or twenty years down the road, but much like Lynda Carter with Wonder Woman or Chris Reeves with Superman, nobody will be capable of filling in Jackman’s shoes in the eyes of moviegoers for generations. That’s something he should take pride in.
The Old Man Logan comic story was written to be a “What If” possible future story that only tells the story of what COULD happen to Wolverine and the Marvel Universe, sort of like Wolverine’s Dark Knight Returns and by all means we could see this story as the same sort of “alternate reality scenario”, but that doesn’t take away the powerful impact of this really good film. This movie was meant as a gift to the fans, but it became a reward for all people that simply like good movies. I can’t sum it up in a better way than that. So go treat yourself to Logan, whether you’re an X-Men/superhero movie fan or not.
That’s all for now! Bleed out!