'Logan' is the most important X-Men movie since 'X-Men'

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2016%2f09%2f16%2ff7%2fhttpsd2mhye01h4nj2n.cloudfront.netmediazgkymde1lza1.7d00bBy Josh Dickey2017-02-17 21:29:00 UTC

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Getting old sucks in ways no one foresees.

There's fussing with reading glasses and pesky new meds, as if you need more things to remember when leaving the house. Walking morphs into hobbling. God forbid you ever get hurt; healing takes an eternity and is never quite complete.

And of course, all this starts happening just as the children in your life need you most.

So it goes for aging superheroes, too — just one of the many unique shades of Logan, the presumptive last chapter in Hugh Jackman's illustrious cinematic run as the Wolverine. And bloody hell — by which I mean a sort of hell, but more bloody — what a way to go down swinging.

Logan is a spiked gut-punch from start to finish, a gleefully gory and skull-crunching R-rated slaughterfest with an emotional wallop hidden behind its back. It's also a dust-biting Western of a road-trip chase across the Great Plains, an introduction to new mutants and a farewell to some favorites, and yes, a bittersweet discourse on what a drag it is getting old.

It's a whole lot of things all at once, and yet Logan plays stripped-down and lean — it's reminiscent of Hell or High Water in tone and efficiency, which has at least something to do with how overstuffed superhero movies have become.

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Not so with Logan, whose core story is pretty simple: It's 2029, and our bleary, battle-scarred hero is in a permanent state of hiding, occasionally looking in on his old mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the tracker mutant Caliban, his caretaker (Stephen Merchant). Three old guys, no longer useful to the hostile world that hunts the last of their kind, running out the clock. Finding enough medicine to quell Charles' destructive seizures is their primary challenge — then along comes Laura.

Thrust into their care without warning or much explanation, Laura (Dafne Keen) is a pre-teen of few words, but it soon becomes clear why she's here: She's a mutant, despite what you may have heard about them going extinct. Not only that, she seems to be the second coming of Wolverine himself.

Laura and her daddy.

Laura and her daddy.

Image: YouTube

That's because she is, essentially: Laura is based on X-23, the clone-daughter of Wolverine in the X-Men comics and animated TV series. And though she may only be 11 or 12, she is every bit as aggressive and deadly as her genetic predecessor. About as talkative, too.

And so Logan and Charles have a new challenge: get this feral creature to a mutant safe-haven in the flats of North Dakota, lest she fall into the hands of the evil corporation that created her. A chase across the continent begins, despite that Logan is convinced that this "safe haven" does not exist; it's merely flimsy lore from a faded comic book.

Whoa, a comic book, did you say!? That's another new shade in Logan: Yes, the X-Men comics do exist here, a first for the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe as far as we know, a nifty nod to the origin material that's now driving our story. In the world of Logan, the comics are heavily embellished accounts of real-life superheroes, kids play with Wolverine toys and yes, Logan gets recognized sometimes. 

Because of the implications it has for the franchise, this is an X-Men movie as much as anything.

Not always, though. His advanced age certainly isn't helping. Jackman looks painfully haggard. His beard is wild and wiry. His rheumy eyes are all but shot. His muscles still bulge impressively, but like jangly ropes beneath loosening skin. His hip is clearly bothering him. He still heals, but not quickly or seamlessly; wounds linger and so does the hurt. He tires easily. The Wolverine is simply not game for this fight anymore, not up to the task of doing battle with younger, stronger, fresher versions of himself. He ain't got it no more.

But ... he did always have that thing no other hero did: The unbridled rage. The murderous berzerker state of mind. A deeply cynical darkness. That's the Wolverine, and director/co-writer James Mangold (whose last film was The Wolverine) painstakingly and lovingly earns him one last shot to put it to good use here.

The superpower of Logan, however, is that in the end, big stuff happens. Because of the implications it has for Fox's Marvel franchise at large, this is an X-Men movie as much as anything. There's still some time to play with before we get to 2029, but with an endpoint so sharply drawn, it's clear that we're about to hit a regeneration phase. 

Topics: Entertainment, Movies, hugh jackman, Marvel, movie reviews, Wolverine

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