"Logan" is a tough film to process.
That's why I took several minutes as the credits rolled to consider Hugh Jackman's last time as James "Logan" Howlett (aka Wolverine). And why I waited three hours afterward to put my thoughts into this largely spoiler-free review.
"Logan" is set in 2029 when the X-Man once known as Wolverine is a limo driver who has taken up drinking excessively.
He's graying — and the makeup team does a fantastic job of making Jackman look older than his 48 years, complete with multiple scars on the body of the still-buff actor. Jackman, and in turn, Logan, is feeling every bit of his age; I guess it's true that even Father Time remains undefeated — even when it comes to a character that stopped aging at one point and for an actor whose tremendous physique makes it seem like he has aged in reverse.
Logan walks with a decided limp and his healing power isn't just on the fritz; sometimes it just doesn't work at well. The first scene reveals that he can get the best of several thugs during a beserker rage. But he also takes a serious ass-whooping and recuperating with a faulty healing factor is rough, rough, rough. Jackman's Logan spends much of the film coughing or panting from sheer pain and exhaustion.
The innermost claw on his right hand also doesn't pop out all the way. Minor spoiler, but we learn the adamantium lacing his body has been poisoning him slowly. It's hell getting old. Even for mutants and one-time superheroes.
Age too has caught up with Patrick Stewart's Charles Xavier. The one-time Professor X is in his 90s and is apt to spout gibberish and can create havoc-causing convulsions in the outside world when he isn't medicated.
Stewart delivers another great performance and his onscreen chemistry remains strong with Jackman. Logan snaps at Xavier and he seems to barely put up with the elderly man, but when it comes to having a cover story to a family stranded on the road, he tells them Xavier is his father.
Logan is forced to be parental. And to no one's surprise, he has zero fatherly instincts.
He cares for Xavier, carries him to bed and places him on the toilet because he must; after all they believe it's just them and Caliban left in the world of mutants.
Xavier, late in the film, infers he he did "something unspeakable" years ago at his school for mutants before they all went on the lam and started living off the radar. We're left to remain to assume at the horror that due his progressive Alzheimer's and ALS, Xavier barely remembers accidentally murdering many mutants. (What's the mutant equivalent of genocide? Mutantcide?)
Being the caregiver to Xavier isn't the only responsibility thrust upon Logan. Xavier believes a preteen girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) is also a mutant.
It's no spoiler to say Laura is X-23 who sprouts two claws from her knuckles and for defense, one each from her feet. And while she's not necessarily Logan's biological daughter, her genetic donor indeed is Wolverine himself. Laura is every bit as vicious in battle as Logan — and he despises being reminded of their similarities.
"Logan" is rated R and while the ending battle is bloodier than the rest of the "Wolverine" trilogy and despite the bloodshed though out the movie, it's not necessarily more violent than the previous installments. This film isn't as gory as one might believe, given the "R" rating; it comes mostly from — or is an excuse for — Jackman's Logan uttering the "F" word. A lot. Much more than necessary.
Keen's Laura, about 11, spends most of "Logan" with Logan and Xavier assuming she is mute. (Kinda clever, a mutant being mute.) The Spanish-English actress spends a great deal of the movie expressing herself through her eyes and expressions and does a fine job of it. I see Laura not speaking as a coping mechanism from the atrocities she endured from the horrific genetic experiment that created her as X-23 — not to mention the killing she commits in her beserker rages.
When the young actress does finally say a word, it's during an attempted kidnapping and her exclamation comes off as an enraged and scared "Daaaad!"
So Logan, already beleaguered by unsuccessfully living a life trying to distance himself from others, can't help but rescue his daughter. Because that's what Logan/Wolverine does. He simply can't not help someone in need.
The underlying theme of "Logan" is the same as what's been addressed in the two previous "Wolverine" films and parts of the "X-Men" franchise: Can a person escape who he or she is — or what he or she is programmed to be?
Logan's story arc isn't about redemption. He's a lone-wolf afraid to let love into his heart, a brawler destined to be thrust into situations he doesn't want to embrace and his challenge is to make the best of ugly situations. And by attempting to do just that — being forced to pop his claws and fight even when there could be another way or even grudgingly caring for someone else — Logan gives it everything he has.
Thank you, Hugh Jackman, for creating an amazing 17-year journey for a character that forever will be linked with you.