dir. James Mangold
written by: Scott Frank, Michael Green, James Mangold
starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook
The X-Men universe is the only one where I hold extended knowledge. Between the 90’s animated series, an encyclopedia or two, every team film in theaters, and the occasional comic, I was acquainted with Professor X and gang well ahead of meeting my bed companion Marvel genius who explained Ant-Man’s history with such gusto. Storm was my first grade show-and-tell. I tend to let slide plenty of mistakes, save for the Wolverine movies; the character never played well in my favor. Given a third chance to disappoint, James Mangold surprised with a violent, 3D-less conclusion to the super soldier’s story.
Based partially on the Old Man Logan graphic novel, we find Logan (formerly codename The Wolverine) crossing the Mexican border to help support Professor Xavier, degenerated from Alzheimer’s, a danger to everyone around him. Mutants have stopped appearing, and those still around are viewed as a plague. When Logan encounters a woman attempting to gain his aid, he finds himself in the care of Laura, a young girl reminiscent of his furry, Adamantium clawed rage. Striking out to find sanctuary for the girl, the chase begins for those she escaped.
Hugh Jackman is likely the best superhero casting in history. No one has thoroughly lived his character’s ferocity, bulging muscles, and tormented animalistic nature turned slightly less feral. His most vulnerable of performance coincides with his most graphic, but the bloodshed is slated as a miserable fact of life for the genetic fugitive. No nonsense is found in Jackman’s performance, but a metal-clad heart is found when dug up.
Patrick Stewart, also on his final role as the famed Professor, is given room to stretch his Shakespearean talents. From demented to goofy to distressed, Xavier buries his past transgressions within his diminishing mind. The standout of the film, though, is Dafne Keen as Laura, the multi-clawed child soldier with a penchant for guttural war cries and severing heads. Fierce enough to make Eleven look like Michelle Tanner, Keen managed silence with a background speaking volumes to the little monster she was raised to be while releasing the young girl she actually is. Determined to reunite with her fellow escaped kids, she is the true catalyst for this journey.
Though filled with a few distracting plot holes, the violence adds a disturbing realism to the story. The genre had suffered from its ties to PG-13, assuming the teenagers were the key demographic drawn to the genre. The grit allows the darker corners of mutant militants to be shown. Some action sequences, particularly a train racing first escape, should already land a sound editing nomination, and the production design department deserves props for the slightly futuristic design through the Midwest destitution, and the makeup team paired with the visual effects to mix old age effects and gore in vividly grotesque ways. One of the most enjoyable superhero movies, this is a finale to be remembered. Now it’s time to hand the rights back to Marvel though; reunite the universe!