The rabid Wolverine fans among you should be warned: You won't be able to trust the following few paragraphs on "Logan."
Most of the early reviews have been ecstatic, and those fully invested in this corner of the Marvel universe tend to respond very, very strongly to director and co-writer James Mangold's picture. It's at once the most solemn, sentimental and relentlessly violent of the nine films featuring Hugh Jackman, either in the lead or in a cameo, as the furry mutant with the blood-stained blades of glory.
It's set in 2029. The specially gifted mutant population has been decimated. Wolverine makes a living as a limo driver, and south of the U.S./Mexico border, he looks after the ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and the professor's caretaker, Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Wolverine's rage has receded, more or less, and the retractable steel claw-blades don't get around much anymore.'Logan' Ben Rothstein / 20th Century Fox
Dafne Keen and Hugh Jackman star in "Logan," co-written and directed by James Mangold. This is Jackman's ninth film playing Wolverine.
Dafne Keen and Hugh Jackman star in "Logan," co-written and directed by James Mangold. This is Jackman's ninth film playing Wolverine.(Ben Rothstein / 20th Century Fox)
But "Logan" quickly finds reasons to threaten and/or enrage. A desperate health care worker (Elizabeth Rodriguez) stalks him with news of a highly illegal bioengineering program in Mexico City involving preteen mutants in training. One girl in particular, Laura, played by a first-rate scowler named Dafne Keen, is a mini-Wolverine cloned from our hero's blood. She is being pursued by security goon Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his "Mad Max"-interns posse. Their boss (Richard E. Grant; the middle initial stands for Extra Sniveling) holds a grudge against the continuing existence of Jackman's character, since the Wolverine killed his father in "X-Men: Apocalypse."
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"Logan" is a different sort of Wolverine movie. Nobody's making a spoiler issue over Jackman, at the recent Berlin Film Festival, referring to the movie as his final outing. The key sources for the screenplay are Mark Millar's "Old Man Logan" and Craig Kyle's "X-23: Innocence Lost." Jackman and Mangold wanted to amp up the violence this time, big time. (It's rated R, and Mangold declares the film "not for kids — it's that simple," thus ensuring the interest of 12-year-old boys everywhere.)
It's a Western in its narrative shape and concerns. Wolverine, the lone bladeslinger, is dying. He must protect his child from ruthless killers. The story's parallels to "Shane" extend to the moment where we see Professor X watching "Shane" on a Las Vegas hotel room TV. This occurs mid-road trip, as Wolverine and company drive north to Canada to find a place called Eden where her kind can live as free mutants.
Mangold has acknowledged that the massive success of "Deadpool" got the studio off his back, regarding the slaughter and splatter-movie aesthetic ruling the action sequences of "Logan." Big difference, though: "Deadpool" was a bloody joke with sneaky trace elements of seriousness. "Logan" is deadly serious, and while its gamer-style killing sprees are meant to be excitingly brutal, I found them numbing and, in the climax, borderline offensive.
And there, I'm sure, is where I part company with the millions who will sincerely appreciate what "Logan" is after. Director Mangold has considerable talent, and has made some very good films, "Walk the Line" chief among them, and some less good ones, "Knight and Day" on the low end. He has a facility for mythmaking, and the way he handles the last shot in "Logan" proves it; it's just right. Jackman, the most ebullient grump in the Marvel universe, has devoted the better part of his film career to making this character as interesting as possible.
Many will weep on the way out. The proficiently manufactured franchise closer (how far behind can the reboot be, really?) will see to that.
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.
"Logan" — 2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity)
Running time: 2:17
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