It has never been easy being The Wolverine. When we first met Hugh Jackman’s take on the character in X-Men, 17 years and 10 movies ago, Logan was a cage fighter who explained to a runaway little girl that it hurt to use his claws “every time.” He’s lost several loves of his life, some under pretty brutal circumstances. And let’s not forget all the pain and suffering caused by his involvement in the Weapon X program… Even though he forgot it, because it gave him amnesia. Old man Logan’s been through a lot, and now it’s time for him, and this version of the franchise, to finally come to an end.
The X-Men movies have always been about Logan, let’s face it. He was the breakout star, the first to get a solo movie, and the one constant linking all the movies. Honestly, that’s kind of been a problem. For one, it caused the creation of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was a yucky mess. But it also caused the series’ soft reboot, First Class, to be immediately followed by a hard sequel in the form of The Wolverine, which is all about the aftermath of X-Men: The Last Stand. That was a weird move, but not nearly as weird as Logan, which is coming out just after the franchise seemingly dedicated itself to its unaging, hot young cast with Apocalypse last year.
You guessed it, I have to touch on continuity, I’m sorry. It’s just bizarre to see Fox again make the weird half step of showing off a new cast, then doing a sequel with the old cast, set years later. We know that X-Men Origins: Wolverine (pre-1973), First Class, Days of Future Past, and Apocalypse are all canon, with time travel having nullified the events of the other movies. But Days of Future Past also ends by showing us a more tolerant future, where all the X-Men are alive and happy. We don’t know exactly what year that scene takes place in, but it surely makes Logan all the more tragic that after all he went through to get that future, things still turned out pretty terrible.
Because Logan starts in 2029, 25 years since the last mutant was born. This is not a dystopia like the one in Days of Future Past, in fact one of the best aspects of the movie are all of its realistic near-future touches, like self-driving semis and gigantic industrial farming machines. But it is a devastating fate for Logan and Professor X (Patrick Stewart, another series mainstay retiring* his character), who have personal problems stacked on top of their lives’ work being wasted now that mutants are virtually extinct. Logan, who publicly goes by his real name James now, has finally gotten old. His adamantium skeleton is poisoning him, reducing his healing factor and dulling his enhanced senses. Professor X has it even worse, as the most power mind in the world is succumbing to old age, losing his grip on reality and control of his power.
So the last two X-Men are just barely surviving together in Mexico when they meet Laura (Dafne Keen), a young mutant with powers similar to Logan’s and a temperament to match. She is on the run from a shadowy organization called Transigen, which is taking a less-than-friendly approach to get her back. With little choice in the matter, Logan and the professor go on the run with Laura, desperate to get her to a safe haven and, for one last time, help a young mutant in a dangerous world. But Transigen’s task force, led by a cocky cyborg played by Donald Pierce, will stop at nothing to make sure they fail.
Logan is a story of weariness. The movie begins with a hungover, exhausted Logan begging hoodlums not to mess with his car, so he doesn’t have to kill them. He’s killed so many people that he just doesn’t have that fight in him anymore. And why would he, given that everyone he loves is gone and mutants are going extinct? That senselessness is further exaggerated by this movie’s R-rated violence, which displays many scenes of limbs being cut off and blades going through things that they shouldn’t be. It’s weird to think that this is basically what Logan has been doing all along, we just didn’t get to see it through a PG-13 lense.
But the weariness also comes through the performances, especially Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Both have been playing these characters forever, and do their best work putting an end to their stories. Also Dafne Keen, the child actress playing Laura, has pretty great chemistry with the rest of the cast and is actually able to sell the idea that this little girl is one of the most dangerous people in the world. That said, I really don’t think we need any sort of sequel, this cast has done everything they needed to do.
I say that because the last frame of this movie is perfect. Logan was longer than it needed to be, it was more of a superhero movie than I think it needed to be, but none of that mattered in the end. By the time the credits started to roll (and thankfully there are no additional mid- or post-credit scenes) I was deeply satisfied with this heartbreaking finale. In the days that followed, I made jokes about its sad tone and lengthy runtime, but I never stopped thinking it was an amazing movie, perhaps the best X-Men film. Just really, don’t ruin it with dumb sequels.