Bloody 'Logan' Is a Worthy Sendoff for Hugh Jackman

Hugh Jackman in Logan (2017)

Director James Mangold imagines a world in which superheroes must face their own mortality.


Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant
Rated: R
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Year: 2017
UK Release Date: 2017-03-01 (General release)
US Release Date: 2017-03-03 (General release)

“It’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” When he summed up the aging process back in 2008, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) was typically terse and frank. His description is a useful setup for the latest entry in the lucrative X-Men franchise. Logan dares to imagine a world in which a superhero must face his own mortality.

As Logan (Hugh Jackman) ponders going out with a bang, he provides plenty of such bangs -- including enough Wolverine-style headshots (such as stabbing people through the head in a most graphic fashion) to rival John Wick 2. Director James Mangold, however, dedicates most of his film to deciphering the whimpers, instead. This somber approach is largely successful, giving us a realistic look that makes Logan a singular viewing experience.

It's 2029 and Logan is driving a limousine in El Paso, Texas. This might sound like the setup for a corny joke, but it’s an inevitable conclusion for a loner like Logan. He's haunted by the screams of his victims, some innocent and some deserving, along with the adamantium eating away at his insides. All are constant reminders that being a superhero has steep consequences.

Not that he’s much of a superhero these days. Logan lives in a bottle of booze, now. He’s content to pass out in the back of his limo and avoid the obsessive fans of his comic books (what Logan dismissively calls, “Ice cream for bed-wetters”). When a group of thugs tries to steal his ride, Logan rouses enough energy and outrage to demolish the entire crew. Watching him separate arms from bodies and impale heads on his claws, you realize that Logan is a different kind of Wolverine film. Inspired by the “Old Man Logan” comic storyline, this grizzled Wolverine doesn’t give a damn about the world, humanity or even his own well-being.

Why should he? All the Mutants are gone, victims of a systematic eradication program by their corporate nemesis, Transigen. The only ones remaining are Logan, a decrepit Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose mind is so fragile that a spontaneous seizure can take out whole buildings, and the albino Mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant). They hole up in an abandoned warehouse in Mexico, tending to Xavier, who spends his days spinning in a wheelchair and reciting the lines to the latest Taco Bell commercial. It looks like the sad end of the once proud X-Men.

Both Jackman and Mangold have long advocated for an aging Wolverine installment. Jackman took a pay cut to ensure an R-rating and so prevent Logan from pulling punches. Mangold, returning to the franchise after 2013’s The Wolverine, also directed Copland, which contemplated similar themes in 1997 by way of an aging Sylvester Stallone. The result is legitimate character drama that happens to include bouts of gratuitous murder and mayhem.

That’s not to say that Logan is thoroughly original. To force Logan’s return to the superhero game, the movie introduces a new Mutant, a little girl named Laura (Dafne Keen), whose fiery temperament and razor claws bear an uncanny resemblance to Logan's. She’s part of a Transigen program helmed by the evil Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant) to create younger, more controllable Mutants. After the youngsters escape (“You can’t nurture rage,” Rice laments), a Reaver named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) is dispatched to find them and kill anyone foolish enough to hide them. That’s where Logan and Xavier come in…

Mangold uses the loose structure of a road movie to chart Logan and Laura’s egress to Eden, an enclave in Canada where the last Mutants reportedly reside. Mainly, it’s an excuse for Logan and Laura to connect while Xavier makes cantankerous observations. It’s an effective formula that sustains much of the film. Once the main action kicks in, however, and the cast is depleted of primary characters and polluted with secondary subplots, Logan loses its way.

It may sound odd to say that Logan suffers from the excellence of its sporadic action sequences. But they are so stellar in their execution -- a perfect mix of fight choreography and digitally enhanced gore -- that when each is over, you find yourself impatiently waiting for the next outburst. When the Reavers arrive at Logan’s Mexico compound and we get our first glimpse of Laura’s staggering power, you can’t wait to see what she’ll do next. The intermittent quiet character moments are undeniably strong, with Jackman thoroughly inhabiting this broken antihero, but they feel plodding in comparison.

Neither the dialogue nor the action bits clarify the objectives of the numerous villains. You're not sure just why they want the children so badly, and a subplot involving the genetic engineering of corn crops and its impact on a local farmer (Eriq La Salle) is unnecessary. Such distractions undermine the road trip premise, padding the story with the same government conspiracies that have plagued the X-Men saga previously.

Even with these caveats, Logan demands to be taken seriously. Fighting time, Logan’s body is ravaged by scars and neglect, now looking like a black and blue pin cushion. His claws never fully extend or retract, forcing him to complete the job manually, and painfully. Meanwhile, Xavier can’t go more than two hours without popping pills to sustain what remains of his telepathic power.

Watching Jackman and Stewart interact is like watching a story within a story. Yes, they are actors portraying characters within the X-Men universe, but they are also a family preparing to go their separate ways. They play Xavier and Logan as a father and son looking back as they are losing options in their futures. “Maybe we were God’s mistake,” Logan observes. It's likely that neither will return, at least as played by these men. Logan is a worthy sendoff.


In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.