Warning: Major spoilers and sadness ahead.
“The world isn’t what it once was.”
Time waits for no man. Not even the Wolverine.
I will not profess to be a die-hard fan of the X-Men film franchise. Like many viewers, I enjoyed some while others left a poor taste in my mouth. That being said, the 2017 film, which is based on Steve McNiven and Mark Miller‘s alternative comic “Old Man Logan,” left me utterly floored.
Having watched every film, I was well aware that Logan, also known as Wolverine, hasn’t had an easy go of it. The wear and tear of his long life have never been as apparent in the film franchise as it is in “Logan”. The Wolverine has grown old and time has not been kind to him.
The film opens up in the year 2029. While Australian actor Hugh Jackman looks very good at forty-eight years old, the character he plays looks haggard and worn. According to the timeline laid out (and rearranged) in the film universe, James “Logan” Howlett is certainly no spring chicken.
The picture painted in the beginning of the movie suggests that after we last saw Logan at the end of “Days of Future Past,” something went very, very wrong. He is shown alone, scarred and gray-haired, working as a limo driver in the dry landscapes of Texas and Mexico. In this world, mutants are a thing of the past. No new, natural mutant births have occurred in decades, and Logan appears to be the last of a quickly dying species.
Given the state that Logan is in after he fights off a gang attempting to steal parts of his limo, he may not last much longer himself. As the film moves on, Logan is approached by a woman who recognizes him as Wolverine and one of the X-Men. She desperately pleads for his help, but he coldly turns her away. The woman drives off with a young girl in the back seat of her car. Viewers later learn that the girl is named Laura (Dafne Keen) and the woman, a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) rescued her from a facility run by Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). The facility, run by a company called Transigen, was using surrogate mothers from Mexico to produce babies born with mutant DNA so that the children could be used as weapons. Logan’s DNA was among that used in the experiments. Laura, also called X-23 is, genetically, his child.
At first, Logan rejects the very idea and wants nothing to do with them. Gabriela begs him to take Laura to North Dakota where a place called Eden allegedly exists. Unfortunately, Logan has bigger problems. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has been under his care, hidden away in Mexico, ever since a certain “incident.” The circumstances that led them to their situation imply that Charles, who now suffers from seizures, lost control of his power and, perhaps, inadvertently killed the other X-Men. Logan and Laura are able to endure these dangerous outbursts, but Charles must be medicated lest he loses control.
Laura, who does not speak a word for the majority of the film, finds herself with Logan and Charles in Mexico after Gabriela dies. The mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), last seen in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” is there as well. He has been with Charles and Logan for a year. He is not afraid to point out that Logan is sick. He can’t heal properly, drinks excessively and carries an adamantium bullet, which may be the only thing capable of killing him, in his pocket.
Unfortunately, Logan doesn’t have time to worry about himself. A man named Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) is working for Transigen. He has one robot hand and is a member of Dr. Rice’s dangerous Reaver crew. He has been searching for Laura and the other children that escaped the facility. He tracks Laura to Charles and Logan’s hideout and brings an entire tactical team with him. He should have brought more. Logan and Laura, who has Logan’s healing ability and adamantium claws, tear through the mercenaries and escape with Charles.
They hole up in an Oklahoma City hotel where Charles shows Laura a Western from his childhood called “Shane.” She is completely enamored by the men on screen. Then Logan discovers that Laura and Gabriela may have gotten the idea of Eden from a comic book series called the “Uncanny X-Men.” This is a wonderful nod to the original X-Men works. He insists that Eden isn’t real, but Charles angrily questions Logan’s lack of purpose.
The film heavily plays on the nature of father-child relationships. Logan and Charles bicker angrily throughout the film. During one moment, Logan even calls Charles “Pop.” Despite the difficult nature of their relationship, Logan takes care of Charles the same way many children care for aging parents. Logan’s reluctance to accept Laura can also be interpreted as a father’s struggle to come to terms with the responsibility of a child and the stark reality of how easily things can go wrong.
When the trio meets a family of farmers on the highway, Logan introduces Charles and Laura as his father and daughter. They are welcomed back to the family’s ranch and share a dinner with the father, played by Eriq La Salle, his wife and their teenage son. Charles later tells Logan that “this is what it feels like,” referring to the love of a family. Unfortunately, the feeling does not last.
Logan goes with the farmer out into the cornfields at night to help him turn their water back on. Neighboring farms have been taken over by giant corporations and the farmer remarks that the genetically modified corn is in “everything.” While they are gone, the Pierce arrives at the farmhouse accompanied by Caliban, who has been forced to track them using his mutant power, and Dr. Zander Rice, who oversaw the experiment that created Laura. They brought the doctor’s latest creation — a super soldier clone of Logan called X-24.
Under the doctor’s command, the clone murders the entire family, stabs Charles in the chest and takes Laura. Logan intervenes, and after a bloody fight that he comes close to losing, he manages to escape with Laura, though Charles dies from his wound.
Logan buries Charles near a picturesque lake and ultimately breaks down. His injuries from the battle with his clone finally take a toll and he collapses, later waking up in a clinic. The doctor looking after Logan warns him that he needs to rest and figure out what is poisoning his body. Logan firmly replies that he already knows what’s killing him.
Laura is waiting for Logan (with the stolen car she brought him in) and she reveals that she can speak. The two have a shouting match, mostly in Spanish, which Logan can’t understand, and Laura eventually tells him that he must take her to Eden to meet her friends.
A long drive through the desert eventually takes them to the place depicted in the comic books, and just as Laura said, several other mutant children are waiting there. Logan still needs a few more days to rest and recover. The children help nurse him back to something resembling health with the use of a serum stolen from Transigen. It is the same serum Dr. Rice used to help the clone heal, and it was given to the children to enhance their powers.
Logan is still in no shape to fight off Pierce and his team of Reavers, who are no doubt on their way to capture the children. He warns them that they are running out of time. He is right. When the children do depart, leaving Logan behind with the serum and the money Gabriela promised would be waiting for him, it is too late. The teams arrive, led by Pierce, and chase the children through the woods. Some of them fight back using their powers, but eventually, they are overwhelmed. Even though Logan has the money and he delivered Laura as promised, he can’t leave the children to defend themselves. He runs to help them, but quickly grows winded and staggers to his knees. His body simply is not strong enough.
Logan injects the remaining serum all at once despite a note the children had left with it warning him not to do so. It quickly takes effect. Claws out, he charges in and rips through the mercenaries … and then he meets a familiar face. Dr. Rice explains that it was his formula that, when introduced to the population through genetically modified food, eradicated the mutant gene. He remarks that Logan also knew his father, Colonel William Striker. Logan sneers that it was Striker who put “this poison” into him, indicating his claws. Logan’s adamantium skeleton has been slowly killing his body.
Just when it seems things can’t get worse, they do. His clone is back. Logan shoots and kills Dr. Rice, which launches the clone into a rage. The serum begins to wear off and again Logan does not have the strength to win.
The mutant children use their powers to do away with Pierce, and Laura comes to Logan’s rescue. She shoots the clone with the adamantium bullet, effectively killing it, but the damage has already been done. It is here that the film becomes truly heart-wrenching. As Logan lay dying, Laura clasps his hand and pleads with him not to die. She calls him “daddy,” and Logan smiles at her for the first and last time. Finally, he understands that “this is what it [family] feels like.”
The film closes with Laura reciting a monologue from “Shane” over Logan’s grave. As she and the other children leave, the cross they made tips over, forming an X.
Logan is not a nice film. It is not flashy, shiny or glamorous. This movie puts a damaged hero and an equally damaged world under a magnifying glass and strips away the fancy suit that Logan once wore for the X-Men team. It is such a far cry from the other movies in the franchise. That is what makes it so wonderful. Hugh Jackman’s performance showcases his endless talent as an actor. Viewers see the mental and physical struggle of the character in every movement, though he is still quite capable of Wolverine’s rage.
Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of an angry, foul-mouthed ninety-year-old Professor X is far closer to the James McAvoy version than the serene Charles Xavier we have seen before. His performance is genuinely saddening and gripping, as is young actress Dafne Keen’s portrayal of Laura. She has a quiet intensity about her, which makes her explosive violence and rage all the more startling.
Though Logan is not necessarily a family friendly film (it certainly earned it’s R rating) it is a movie that will appeal to X-Men fans, comic book lovers and even the casual movie goer. Director James Mangold delivered a movie that exceeded my expectations and put the Wolverine to rest in true hero fashion.
(Images courtesy of 21st Century Fox, YouTube.)