Since Hugh Jackman started playing Wolverine, we’ve had 3 different Spider-men, 2 Batmen, Chris Evans went from being a cocky Human Torch to being Captain America, and people are questioning if there are too many comic book movies being released on a yearly basis. When X-Men debuted in 2000, we were a few years removed from the debacle that was Batman & Robin. There were no cinematic universes. It was a different environment 17 years ago.
I do not remember there being much fanfare surrounding the release of X-Men. I remember going to see it on a whim, even though that whim did happen to be on opening day. But there was no reason to think then that we would still be talking about those actors playing those characters. And while some have been replaced by younger versions since they went backwards in the timeline, there has been one constant. Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine throughout. That all comes to an end with Logan. Logan is expected to be the final time Hugh Jackman portrays Wolverine on film. I say “expected” because you should really never say never.
I say all of this, because I believe Logan works better when viewed as the swan song for Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, rather than as the next movie in a long line of X-Men movies. It is easier to think of the movies in two distinct timelines. You have the original timeline, which includes X-Men, X-Men 2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and The Wolverine. Then there is the First Class timeline, which includes X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse. Days of Future Past links the original cast with the First Class cast, but I think it is simpler to put it in the new timeline, since it retcons events in previous movies anyways. Now, the question is where does Logan fit in. The answer to that is a giant shrug. They do not attempt to fit it in anywhere, and that is fine.
The movie is set so far in the future that it does not really matter what stories came before it. None of it matters. Everything you need to know about past X-Men stories is displayed before you in this movie. Wolverine’s age is finally catching up with him. His healing factor is slowing down, and is no longer able to keep up with the poisoning being done by the adamantium on his skeleton. This was an interesting take on Wolverine. Since the beginning, the films have been working on transitioning him from stand-offish loner, into more of a leader. This movie was a bit of a step back from that. The abrasive aspect of his personality was front and center. Yes, he is caring for Charles Xavier, but he is not pleasant to be around for anyone else, and is even a bit harsh towards Xavier.
Charles Xavier is growing old, and is starting to come down with dementia, or if it is not dementia, then he is loosing control of his power. A telepathic that loses control of their mind is not a good scenario, and it is one that is hinted at, and displayed in this movie. There are events in West Chester, New York in which a lot of people died from a psychic episode that are mentioned, but the movie never actually tells you what happens. There is a point where Xavier has an episode in a casino, and everyone is paralyzed and in agony, and it is assumed something like this, but stronger, happened before. While I wish they would have shown what happened, I understand why it was left out of the movie. This movie is about what is happening now, not what before. The past is represented in the physical and emotional scars that the characters show.
The main plot of the movie consists of a new organization and new characters, with the main new character being Laura, otherwise known as X-23. Daphne Keen’s performance as X-23 is possibly what surprised me most about this movie. Going in, I knew what Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman could do as actors, so the gravity of their performances was not surprising. What Daphne Keen was able to do alongside them was. Going in, there really was no expectation on what she would do. But I feel like her performance is what truly brought out the heart in the movie. Her performance made the movie believable. She was so charming and innocent that you think, sure, I would go on this trek for her also. But then in the next scene, she is wild with rage, slashing up the bad guys. But she made it work. That is not a simple thing to do. One or the other is what you normally find, but usually not both.
While the performances carry the movie, I do have some small issues with the overall story. There is a moment in the middle of the movie where Logan, Xavier, and Laura get invited for dinner and to stay the night with a family on a farm. Logan gets pulled into some issue involving the farmer and a large corporation that has been buying all of the property around them. It is a completely useless side story. I kept asking what kind of people would randomly ask 3 strangers to stay the night with them. The only thing it really serves is to have a nice moment right before everything goes to hell. And it provides an introduction and cannon fodder for X-24.
Which, I do not see the point in putting X-24 in the movie. Here, X-24 is a straight clone of Wolverine. It seems like he has been added just so we can get even more slash action in the movie. I suppose you could make the argument that this is a personification of the inner rage of Logan battling the older, more mature Logan, but it’s a stretch. But really, the villains were not that good. You have Pierce and Dr. Rice that are hunting down Laura, because she has escaped, along with other child experiments. And that is pretty much all their motivation. The children are trying to meet up in North Dakota, because Canada is a haven, maybe. Why this is all going on is pretty vague.
Logan is a beautifully crafted swan song for Hugh Jackman, with the best performances of the X-Men franchise. The movie is able to combine the claw slashing action that people want in a Wolverine movie, while still holding onto a sense of heart and charm. I greatly encourage you to go see this movie.