Hugh Jackman Returns as Wolverine in ‘Logan’
Hugh Jackman must love those prosthetic retractable claws and that steel wool fringe of facial hair. Logan marks his ninth time in the role of Wolverine (aka Logan), one of the most recognizable characters in the Marvel universe, X-Men division.
As Logan begins, Wolverine is sick and in hiding, nursing a bad limp, working as a stretch-limo driver in Texas and living in the back of that limo. Awakened by a Mexican gang trying to steel his wheels, he gives them warning and when they disdain his advisory, Wolverine claws them to death but not before sustaining bullet wounds. Director James Mangold stage manages the scene with precision. Wolverine is next seen in a gas station men’s room, wiping off blood and extracting bullets from his flesh as the sound of wailing sirens cuts through the night air. The bodies he left behind have been discovered.
Directed by James Mangold
Logan is set in a near future much like the present, but much worse. The story unfolds in an America where family farms are ground underfoot by violent agribusinesses, self-driving trucks clog the highways and the wall on the southern border stands in place. It’s not a good time to be a mutant, perhaps the ultimate other in a world that distrusts difference. Wolverine hopes to lay low, tending to the ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now a frail old man wobbling on the rim of senescence. But circumstances will draw Wolverine out of isolation. Like Rick in Casablanca or Star Wars’ Han Solo, the call of greater purpose whispers to the better angels of his being.
With its dark vision of America’s future, Logan could be called superhero noir for its muted color scheme as well as its grounding in poverty and paranoia. Aside from the chop-’em-up fight sequences, fantasy is minimized and the rueful Wolverine and Xavier come across as fully rounded and developed human beings. Unlike many one or two-dimensional movie superheroes, Jackman and Stewart bring their characters to life through empathetic acting. They could be surrogate father and son in a Chekov drama, disappointed with each other and regretting what the world has become. They have been left behind by the forward flow of time.
Laura (Dafne Keene), a young girl brought across the border from Mexico under mysterious circumstances, is at the center of the plot. Xavier insists that she’s a mutant. Wolverine doubts his mentor until her claws come out. They commence a cross-country odyssey to North Dakota, where a handful of young mutants are hiding, and planning to head north to freedom in Canada. Tension is sustained during the relentless pursuit of the mutants by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the smirking security chief of a transnational corporation with a patent on life and the means to produce soulless humanoids, lacking conscience, trained to kill and bred for rage. The partially bionic Pierce and the Blackwater-like thugs of his security force are holding Caliban (Stephen Merchant), torturing him unless he uses his wild gift for tracking mutants to help them find Laura, who escaped from their laboratory.
The screenplay has some weak links but the story pushes forward to a conclusion at once inevitable and surprising. Logan’s dystopian vision is well developed, as is the prickly yet touching relations between the fragile, unsteady Xavier and the physically and emotionally wounded Wolverine. Despite their powers they are human, all too human, and vulnerable to harm.