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'Logan' Film Review: Wolverine's third solo outing is less colorful comic book, more gritty graphic novel

February 17, 2017Ben MK

No matter what roles Hugh Jackman has chosen to play in between X-Men movies, his connection with the superhero franchise has withstood the test of time. For 17 years, the Australian actor's name has been synonymous with the character, and vice versa; but now, after nine turns as the tri-clawed hero, Jackman's journey as everyone's favorite Canadian mutant is finally coming to an end.

Set in 2029, in a grim near-future where mutantkind has been all but wiped out, the film finds its titular hero and his former mentor, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), living as recluses in the New Mexico desert, the former now turning to substance abuse to numb the pain from years of battle damage, and the latter now a 90-year-old suffering from a degenerative brain disorder that leaves him prone to terrible, psychic seizures. The pair find new purpose in life, however, when they become the protectors of a mysterious young girl named Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen).

Born in the lab of an evil conglomerate called Transigen and on the run from her creators, Laura is far from ordinary, though. Part of Transigen's X-23 program and bred to be a vicious killing machine, she was cloned from Logan's own mutant DNA; and, as such, she shares Logan's special abilities, from his self-healing powers to his proclivity to sprout Adamantium claws from between her knuckles. Of course, she's also still a child; and even though she's a formidable force of fury to be reckoned with, her immaturity makes her vulnerable.

For better or worse, the X-Men series has become increasingly cartoonish, with last summer's X-Men: Apocalypse fully embracing the colorful costumes of its comic book origins. In contrast, Logan feels like an entirely different beast, with a dark and gritty tone that makes it easy to mistake it for part of DC's Cinematic Universe, as opposed to a movie that bears the Marvel stamp of approval. That being said, the film is far from dull, as it brings a whole new level of violence and brutality to the genre that would make even Deadpool himself stand up and take notice.

It's an interesting juxtaposition to another recent superhero film, The LEGO Batman Movie. But whereas that movie is obviously aimed squarely at the 10-and-under demographic, Logan, on the other hand, belongs on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Here, director James Mangold and his co-writers, Michael Green and Scott Frank, take full advantage of Logan's R rating; and the result is a film with no shortage of profanity and gory bloodletting, with a high body count that typically involves impalement, mutilation and a few decapitations.

As for the villains, like most superhero movies, they're the weakest link in an otherwise strong chain, with Transigen mastermind Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) filling little more than an expository role, while his team of cybernetically-enhanced mercenaries (dubbed Reavers and led by Narcos' Boyd Holbrook) ends up as essentially fodder to be sliced and diced like so many Julienne fries. Moviegoers needn't fret, though, because there is another antagonist, named X-24; and he's one that gives new meaning to the old saying that man is his own worst enemy.

Despite its flaws, Logan serves as a fitting conclusion to a trilogy that began on shaky ground with 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and continued — with more steady footing — into 2013's The Wolverine. Of the three, it's unequivocally the superior of the bunch, bringing Logan's arc to a violent, but also poetic and emotionally hard-hitting conclusion. And although its final act veers dangerously close to the post-apocalyptic YA territory of such films as The Maze Runner, it's a serious contender for the best X-Men movie so far.

Logan releases March 3rd, 2017 from 20th Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity. Its runtime is 2 Hrs. 15 Mins.

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