17 years. That's how long Hugh Jackman has been playing Wolverine/Logan. Not bad for an actor who was initially picked as a replacement for Dougray Scott, who wasn't able to take on the role in the original X-Men movie in 2000 due to a scheduling conflict. Yet, it would be virtually impossible now to imagine anyone as the claw-wielding mutant than Jackman.
It feels like yesterday when I watched Jackman take center stage at Comic-Con in 2015. He gave fans a heartfelt farewell and it was then when we knew his next solo movie would be his swan song. That time has finally come.
"Logan" takes place in 2029. A bleak world where mutants are nearly extinct. Wolverine is no longer in prime physical form. His healing powers have deteriorated. Wounds heal more slowly and leave scars. He's older, bitter and battered. Often seen drowning in liquor, coughing and carrying bloodshot eyes.
Logan makes a living as a limo driver, barely earning enough to care for dementia-stricken Professor X/Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Now a nonagenarian, the telepathic professor has to be fed pills periodically in order to prevent seizures. Not just any regular seizure, but the kind that could paralyze the universe and kill people, a byproduct of possessing the most powerful mind ever known.
A limo robbery and murder put Logan back on the radar. He is tracked down by a mysterious woman, Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), with a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) in tow. Gabriela begs him to take them to cross the country's northern border to a safe haven for Laura's safety. Gabriela turns out to be a nurse from a research facility in Mexico. She has some horrifying story to share about experiments that go on inside the facility, directed by Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant).
The desperate nurse is not the only one tracking him down. The institution has dispatched soldiers, led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a man with a cyborg hand, to capture Laura, or known to them as X-23. Cut from the same primal cloth, X-23 has Adamantium retractable claws. The difference is she has two instead of three on each hand and a claw on each foot.
Keen is fearless, ragingly capable. The army of grown men learn the hard way not to mistake the child with pint-sized power. And to Wolverine's bewilderment, X-23 wordlessly leaps and lunges, hacks and beheads, stabs and slices her opponents with feral intensity. There may not have been any new mutant born in the real world in more than a couple of decades, but there might have been other means of creation.
Logan, Charles and Laura are on the run, embarking on a road trip to the border, even to Logan's reluctance, as he fears that the sanctuary does not actually exist. A detour leads to a farm house and family moment, with poignant normalcy. Then tragedy strikes close and culminates in a face-off in the forest. Wolverine, who initially couldn't care less and has nearly lost his will to fight, roars back and gives everything he has.
Among X-Men, Wolverine has always been special and it's nice to see Jackman and Stewart (assuming this is his last appearance as well) share the final scenes of their X-Men chapter together. In a somber superhero story where desolate existence, aging and ailments take toll, the surrogate father-son bond and their moments are the highlight of the movie. Those moments include surprisingly humorous instances, even among all the grimness and gore ("Logan" is R-rated).
Having followed the journeys of X-Men through eight movies, I would have liked to see flashbacks of how this version of the world has come to be. There's a part of me that would like to believe that the other, optimistic version, imagined by the young, idealistic Professor X (James McAvoy) exist in an alternate timeline.
Returning director James Mangold closes the ending scene with a single, meaningful sign for Jackman's Wolverine. A fitting farewell in this world,"Logan" is brutal and bittersweet.