Hugh Jackman ends his Wolverine journey in dark, exciting farewell
This is Wolverine at his most vulnerable, and Jackman doesn't hold back in unleashing the character's mortality.
That status was confirmed with 2009's standalone X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie that tells the story of how a young James Howlett grows to become the ruthless Logan.
The disappointing critical acclaim of that origin story was wiped by 2013's The Wolverine sequel which deals with Logan's struggle with his immortality.
I had a few misgivings about Jackman's revelation that Logan will be his last portrayal of the Wolverine on the big screen, but I can console myself with the fact that the movie is a fitting exit for the phenomenal actor who has clawed and battled as the rage-filled beast for 17 years.
The movie is set in 2029, a world that has not been particularly kind to the mutant race with most of them dead or in hiding.
Jackman's Logan now works as a limo driver for hire, carting around all sorts of people to make enough money to hustle for prescription drugs to suppress ProfessorCharles Xavier's out-of-control powers, while he is hidden away across the border in Mexico with the help of Caliban, an albino mutant.
The appearance of a deeply scarred and weary Logan mirrors what is perhaps Jackman's thoughts about the character; that it was time to give up the good fight.
Much to Logan's distaste though, there was one last good fight left for him to lead.
An alcoholic Logan is brashly approached at work by Gabriela, a mother who wants him to transport her and her young daughter across the border to Canada, as they flee from her violent partner.
The woman's introduction throws Logan's life back into a battle he is unwilling to get involved in as it turns out she is not who she claims to be.
It's at this point of the story that the audience is introduced to one of the movie's brightest sparks, Laura, a young volatile lab-made mutant who has the same regenerative powers as well as the iconic adamantium claws as Logan, plus a revelation that excites viewers and stuns even Logan himself.
What's great about Dafne Keen's energetic character is that she embodies all things Wolverine: crude rage-filled energy and insatiable bloodlust, with a sassy little mouth as icing.
The movie affords her a great deal of time to shine alongside the man whose DNA empowered her, as she plays mute for half of her screen time which plays beautifully until she finally breaks her silence in an amusing exchange with Logan.
Much of the movie plays out as a chase scene where the villains try to retrieve their human package from Logan's reluctant grips as he makes a dash for the Canadian border. It's like a road-trip movie in the mould of Mad Max: Fury Road, only with less monster trucks and war paint.
The R-rated movie tickles and excites the viewer with a remarkable body count that sees a couple of heads roll, literally. Logan could finally be the Wolverine without censure, and I absolutely loved it!
The sadistic ritual of bloodletting in the movie is effective in a way that isn't done just for the entertainment but to dramatise the grim world the mutants have always had to navigate, and this movie introduces us to a new group of mutant misfits, kids made in the lab just like Laura.
While the movie champions hope for the future with the new mutants, it also leaves you with the uneasy feeling that the world will never be safe for them.
The best thing director James Mangold did for this movie was to make it more human than most superhero movies are willing to try, and I can get with that program where superheroes don't leap from one killing field to another without a good dose of reflection on the impact of their actions on others and more importantly, on themselves.
The movie provides a greater depth of character engagement than I've seen in most superhero movies.
The viewers are dumped into a world where Logan's incredible power to self-heal isn't as effective anymore as the scar-riddled loner stumbles and scowls through a world that has been brutally unkind to his kind and he is, as ever, unwilling to put himself into the middle of a fight that is not strictly about his own survival.
Even though some fans might feel frustrated by how the director neglected to answer the important question of how we got here, it sort of works for the movie anyway.
Logan has always struggled with his immortality, a theme that heavily pushed the story of the second Wolverine movie.
Ever since he was fitted with adamantium claws by the wily William Stryker in Origins, he has always considered his abilities more as a curse than a blessing, and he seems to finally get his wish to be more vulnerable and more prone to dying in this movie as the adamantium seems to poison his body and slow down his powers.
When Laura tells him with a tone of rebuke "You want to die" close to the climax,it's chilling because for once, the viewer feels like he might finally get his wish.
The father-daughter dynamic between Logan and Laura gives the movie an avenue to breathe and explore the mortality of the once indestructible Wolverine that's now too broken and too tired.
Despite the bleakness the movie offers, this dynamic serves up a few laughs to help put the viewer at ease despite the sense of impending gloom. It isn't Marvel-level comedy, but I loved the few laughs that the movie gave me.
The movie treats the viewer to an exhausted Logan finally at the worst of his superhuman form as he walks with a limp, and takes quite a lot more beating than usual especially in his two clashes with X-24, another lab-made drug-fuelled mutant who is the movie's familiar but largely forgettable villain.
Despite all of these things that work for Logan, it has a couple of uncomfortable conveniences that improbably leap the plot forward from one point to the other, and features a sub-par band of villains that almost verge on disappointment.
The team is led by Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), a morally-impaired geneticist - in the mould of Bolivar Trask from X-Men: Days of Future Past - whose father was killed by Logan during his cameo in X-Men: Apocalypse during his escape from the Weapon X project that eventually led to Laura's creation.
He hunts down Laura and Logan with the help of Donald Pierce who leads the Reavers, his team of sinister cyborg enforcers who will stop at nothing to round up the young mutants to kill after the success of X-24, a villain who seems to be manufactured simply to make Logan face his most deadly adversary yet, himself.
There are strong performances from the band, especially Boyd Holbrook's intense Pierce, so even though the villains don't do more for the story than effectively give Logan a target to dig his less shiny blades into, this misstep doesn't particularly cause too much damage to the movie.
The closing chapter of Jackman's portrayal of Wolverine explores the familiar themes of family, survival and finding peace, but the movie deals with this in a refreshing manner that invokes a great deal of raw energy and emotion that elevates the viewer into that desolate world that the character has unsuccessfully tried for years to hide from.
Jackman digs to the deepest part of the beast to tap into the innocence that was lost when he transformed from James Howlett in an assured performance that resonates with the viewer.
He makes the character more interesting and treated the fans to what I believe is finally a deserving Wolverine movie.
As the 2-hour movie winds down the clock and Logan stabs and claws towards a predictable ending, it feels like a funeral procession that leaves a feeling of emptiness in your gut; the same emptiness that the franchise is about to experience with Jackman's exit.
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