[SPOILERS AHEAD. MAJOR ONES. DO NOT READ UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN "LOGAN." I'm serious. Like, IN-ALL-CAPS SERIOUS.]
RIP, Hugh Jackman's Wolverine.
The actor has spent the better part of two years promoting "Logan" as his #OneLastTime donning the claws and tank top. Gone are Wolverine's spandex and unique hair. Instead, our favorite X-Men is rocking a grey beard and grey hair as he embarks on his darkest and most violent adventure yet.
Director and co-writer James Mangold set out to deliver a definitive and R-rated comic book movie for adults. One that makes it hard to let go of Jackman's iconic take on the character. There are a lot of good-to-great beats in "Logan." These five make it the hardest to say goodbye. And even harder for whomever picks up the claws from here.
1. So Many Great Character Moments
Not the first thing you'd expect to read in a breakdown of an R-rated comic book movie, huh? Well, it's even more refreshing to watch.
"Logan" is largely a character-first western that happens to be a Wolverine movie. It's about the cost that saving the world has on the very tortured man trying to defend it. A man who has killed more people than he's had hot meals, a man who sees every one of those deaths in his sleep and wakes up forced to live with that blood on his hands.
The movie double-downs on what this all means for our weary hero -- he drinks constantly to numb the pain that his broken healing factor no longer can, he clings to the belief that he "sucks" at caring about people because "bad sh**" happens to all the people worthy of his care. This manifests dramatically in key scenes between Logan and Charles/Professor X, as the latter -- despite suffering from the mutant equivalent of ALS -- reminds Logan the importance of family. That the tragic hero still has time to give himself (at least) a sense of a life worth living -- he just has to slash through a bunch of bodies first.
In between all the claw-happy set pieces and violence, "Logan" delivers a resonate meditation on what it takes to be a hero. Sometimes, it does so by pulling on the heartstrings in ways that make your eyes leak tears the way Wolverine's hands pop claws.
Of all the Wolverine films, "Logan" comes closest to being the best.
2. Patrick Stewart's Very Old Charles Xavier
Holy shit, you guys -- Stewart delivers an all-timer performance in a role that was previously not given enough interesting things to do throughout the entire franchise. (Unless you count passing off sage wisdom and exposition from the confines of a cool wheelchair interesting.)
Maybe 15 minutes in, we've heard Charles say the word "fu**" or its derivative several times. That's worth the price of admission, but "Logan" has more in store for the X-Men's caretaker and father figure. They actually give him -- and the actor -- new and challenging things to play as a 90-year-old mutant burdened with the most dangerous brain and mutation on the planet. His condition manifests in the form of psychic seizures. Remember how Professor X stops time in the first two X-Men films? Okay, so, his seizures are like that -- only the more violent version of that. So violent, they end up coming scary-close to putting the people Charles has sworn to protect in comas -- or, as we latter learn, in the grave.
The performance is a tricky mix of comedic and heartwarming, haunted and heroic, and it's one Stewart pulls off effortlessly.
His best scene, and one of his last, occurs in the second act, after Logan has carried him to bed before embarking on a side mission with the farmer and father who has taken them in. Charles tells Logan something we've heard only in voiceover in the second trailer, which comes off even more powerful in the completed scene: "This is what life looks like... People who love each other. A home. You should take a moment. Feel it. You still have time..."
Sadly, time runs out for Charles at the hands claws of a surprise assailant. (The reveal of which is better left for seeing in theaters). Yes, Xavier dies. Worse, he's murdered. And even worse, he dies before he can get to the tranquil life on the ocean Logan's been saving up and chasing down for him. Before he can see whether or not Logan takes his aforementioned poignant, haunting advice. This movie is dripping with tragedy, and only a pro like Stewart knows the exact amount to give that story so it can be told effectively -- and emotionally.
3. The R-Rated "Berserker" Action
"SNIKT!" indeed. The shackles of PG-13 ratings are gone. In their place, lots of claws through the head and face.
"Logan's" hack and slash approach to action grows repetitive -- you can only come up with so many new ways to stab skulls. At the same time, it's done at times in a very minimalistic way -- no wire-fu, like in previous "X-Men" films. It all builds to a mostly satisfying oner, with Wolverine going full "Berserker Rage" to deliver wants fans have waited nearly 20 years to see.
Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen) is to "Logan" what Eleven is to "Stranger Things."
Huge chunks of her screentime are spent silently observing and reacting to things, and Keen excels with her intentionally minimalist work. But the real revelation comes toward the film's third act, when she finally speaks -- and punches Logan in the face. Keen's performance gets increasingly complex as the story demands X-23 shed some tears in battle, in a scene the gives the young actor a chance to (mostly) hold her own opposite a veteran like Jackman.
5. Wolverine's Last Stand
The final fight, as refreshing as it is not taking place inside a factor or lair or involving a repeat of the crap that mired the ending of "The Wolverine," it doesn't quite pack the visceral or emotional payoff necessary to fully bring it home. Especially Wolverine's death scene.
I told you -- there were spoilers. And yes, Canada's most famous mutant export finally dies. He goes out not in a blaze of glory, or even with a chance to kill the one baddie our hero has a legit beef with. He dies realizing X-23, his daughter/clone, can go on being something different than the lab made her to be. All before spending one of his last breaths feeling what both that sense of family Charles spoke about and death -- that which this almost-immortal mutant has spent a life immune to.
As "it was just okay" as the climatic action beats are, these final moments spent with a dying Logan are, for the most part, a gut-punch. Their impact fades quicker than we had hoped, given the character's legacy and popularity. But credit must be given to Mangold for ending his R-rated, big-budget Marvel movie on an emotional note. That takes balls to give the audience a lump in their throat as they leave the theater.
An effort that hopefully sends them back in for a second viewing.