Logan (20th Century Fox, R)

I’d say that Logan is a different kind of an X-Men movie, except that I’m not sure it’s an X-Men movie at all. 

I’d say that Logan is a different kind of an X-Men movie, except that I’m not sure it’s an X-Men movie at all. Certainly the major characters—Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Charles Xavier/Professor X (Patrick Stewart), and Caliban (Stephen Merchant)—are familiar from other entries in the franchise, and the conflict between mutants and everyone else remains relevant in this film’s universe. On the other hand, the tone director James Mangold achieves in Logan is entirely different from the previous X-Men films, which will disappoint fans looking forward to spending a few upbeat hours in the company of their favorite superheroes. Instead, Mangold offers a much darker look at what it’s like to get old and feel your powers waning (something we’ll all experience, if we live long enough), and to sometimes feel so tired that you wonder if it’s even worth making the effort to keep on keeping on.

When we first meet Logan, he’s trying to stop some punks from stripping his car. To them, he’s just a sad, old dude who needs a shave, someone hardly worthy of notice and certainly no obstacle to their criminal intentions. Bad guess on their part—Logan may not be the Wolverine of old, but he does manages to pop out his claws and scare them off, taking a few bullets in the process. It turns out that not only is he getting old, he’s also suffering from adamantium poisoning, so his self-healing properties aren’t what they once were, and even beating up a few punks takes all the energy he can muster.

Welcome to the world of Logan, set in a gritty, dusty desert landscape near the Mexican border. Logan has been reduced to driving a limo in order to scrape up the resources necessary to take care of Charles (now confined to a wheelchair and drugged up most of the time) and Caliban (mostly forced to stay indoors due to his sun sensitivity). Their world seems to be coming to an end: No new mutants have been born for several decades, and the few remaining survivors are reduced to living inside an abandoned silo, hidden away from a world that would love to do them harm. It’s no secret that Jackman and Stewart are retiring from playing their characters, but Logan seems intent on retiring the whole franchise and on sending it out not with a bang but with a whimper.

But fear not, comic book franchises can never really die. It turns out there’s a whole new batch of mutants, created by design and housed within in a Mexican hospital. Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez), a nurse who worked on the project, has rescued one of the kids and delivers her to Logan. Wouldn’t you know that she’s sort of a mini-me created using his DNA. There’s something feral about Laura Kinney/X-23 (Dafne Keen), who seldom speaks but has perfected a glare that could melt steel and has a sense of self-possession remarkable in one so young.

Laura wants Logan to drive her to “Eden,” which she read about in some X-Men comics (seriously!) and believes to be a real place. According to the comics, Eden is a haven for mutants in North Dakota, located conveniently near the border of Canada, a country much friendlier to mutants (as it is in real life to refugees, even bearing in mind that this film was shot long before they were risking frostbite and worse by walking through the snow into Manitoba). Logan thinks it’s all a pack of nonsense, but Laura is not one to to take no for an answer, and before you know it, they’re on a road trip north, all the while being chased by the eminently sinister Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his minions. There’s more than a little of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this film, although, in this case, the apocalypse has not come to everyone, just the mutants.

I can’t think of another superhero film where the main subject is the heroes getting old and losing their powers, nor of one that opens with their world apparently coming to an end. There’s plenty of fighting in Logan (it seemed to occupy about two-thirds of the film, although, in retrospect, it was probably more like one-third), but it’s not the fun kind of fighting you usually get in these films. Instead, you feel the blows and the weariness, and soon you’re wondering, like the older characters, if it’s really worth it to keep getting up. Logan is a superhero film with a difference, and if you’re up for some heavy-duty drama and can do without goofiness and easy payoffs, you may find it one of the more intriguing spins on the genre to come along in some time. | Sarah Boslaugh

 

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