It’s been an uneven ride for 20th Century Fox’s X-Men franchise over the past 17 years. With wild variation in timeline continuity and casting consistency, the films have both risen to thrilling heights and sunken into silly mediocrity throughout their run. Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has been a significant player from the beginning, and the actor has decided to retire his portrayal of the character by embarking on one final adventure in Logan. Taking its title from the character’s adopted alias, it’s the third solo movie for the Wolverine, and it feels like an apology for the incompetence of the two preceding films, as well as a celebration of his life.
After years of immortality, Logan can feel that something is wrong with him. He’s beginning to show significant signs of aging, and his ability to instantly heal his wounds is waning. When he’s not working as a chauffeur in Texas, he cares for an unwell Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a hideout across the Mexican border with the help of a budding mutant called Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Logan wants nothing more than to live out the rest of his days peacefully, so he’s far from pleased when a woman named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) contacts him about escorting an 11-year-old girl called Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota. After some pleading from Charles, and some interference from a company trying to capture Laura, Logan finds the motivation to take her.
It takes a while for Logan to lay its groundwork, but it’s a rewarding whopper of a movie by the time it starts moving at full speed. The best thing about it is that it gets to be so many things at once, and it pulls off each one of them. It’s a seamless hybrid of a chase-filled Western, a grisly combat slasher, and a moving family road trip. Stewart joined Jackman in declaring Logan as his final visit to his X-Men role, and both actors give heartfelt tributes to their own characters as well as to each other. Their performances combined with the desolate landscapes give the film a quiet feeling of the end of an era.
Logan’s only real shortcoming is that it doesn’t quite meet its full potential. While all of the detours the film makes have their perks, the final emotional gut-punches tend to be based on fans’ perceptions of the character rather than what has actually transpired in the movie. Even so, Logan remains a passionate sendoff for a beloved character. The liberties it takes with its R-rating allow the Wolverine’s pains, physical and otherwise, to be depicted in long-overdue detail. It’s the kind of art that only surfaces when the story isn’t concerned with leaving people hungry for more, but rather sending them home reflective and satisfied.