Here we are. 17 years after first donning the claws in Bryan Singer’s seminal X-Men, the final ride for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has arrived. Jackman is the only actor to feature in all ten X-Men films, and is undoubtedly the franchise’s most popular character. Yet, it hasn’t always been plain sailing: the first Wolverine solo entry, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine is widely considered the worst in the X-franchise, and 2013’s The Wolverine is currently the lowest-grossing X-Men film. Despite this poor track record, the pieces all come together in Logan: it’s emotional, brutal and gripping, and the perfect send-off for one of cinema’s greatest superheroes.
Jackman gives a career-best performance here – without giving much away, he has refined the personality of Wolverine, and his emotional range is showcased spectacularly, thanks in part to the terrific script by Scott Frank, Michael Green and James Mangold (who also directs). At points dialogue is sparse or vague, leaving Jackman’s performance to carry the film at times: it’s hard to believe this is the same character seen in previous X-Men films, but it’s comic-accuracy at its best, finally giving fans the grizzled Wolverine they’ve been pining for.
Despite Jackman’s quality, the supporting cast very nearly steal the show: Patrick Stewart returns as Professor X, also delivering a franchise-best performance, with plenty of nuance and a vastly-different portrayal of the character than we’re used to. New characters Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and Laura (Dafne Keen) also soar: the former diverges from his comedic history to deliver a very grounded performance, with the screenplay once again crafting great chemistry between Caliban and the two returning X-Men. Keen’s performance is worth discussing: uttering very little dialogue, this is a stunning performance from such a young actress, bringing to life a character that you’ll certainly care about by the film’s end. Villains Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) also do a good job, although they are perhaps less-developed than such a character-driven story might necessitate.
Mangold’s direction is almost a character here: it’s clear that, alongside Jackman, he has been the driving force behind the film’s creative decisions – and almost all of them pay off. It’s stunningly-shot, and the R-rating works wonders: this is the Wolverine we’ve been longing for since 2000, and despite a 137-minute running time, the bloody violence never feels gratuitous or out-of-place: you’ll initially be shocked to see Logan slicing and dicing opponents in the near-perfect opening sequence, but it very much fits in with the world of the film.
There’s no simpler way to put it: this is the best X-Men film yet, in no small part thanks to the plot. Although not lifting directly from 2008’s Old Man Logan comic arc, there’s very clear influences, with the original plot masterminded by Jackman and Mangold fits terrifically in the world. This is barely an X-Men film: it completely abandons the genre’s plot conventions, and is more of a spaghetti-western crossed with a thriller, also taking a vastly different turn than expected in its second half. The story’s filled with surprises and nice nods for fans, and is coherent despite some plot elements being poorly-explained.
If this truly is Jackman’s last X-Men film, there is no better way to leave the role that made him the star he is today: he’s never been better as Wolverine, and the plot does wonders to tie up his story in a stunning, emotional manner. This is the film Jackman’s always wanted to make, and the film fans have always wanted to see, and thankfully it’s executed to perfection. If you weren’t invested in these characters before the film, you will be once you walk out: this is the X-Men equivalent of The Dark Knight, and one of the very best films the superhero genre has ever delivered. You’ll wince, laugh, and perhaps even cry, but you’ll enjoy every second of Logan. Thank you, Hugh Jackman. You’ll be missed.