As superheroes go, Logan’s Wolverine is in a class by himself: a near-immortal antihero sporting razor-sharp adamantium claws, who doesn’t hesitate to use lethal force when necessary. Yet for all his superhuman powers, Logan has faced an unending string of tragedies. Over and over again, those he loves come to bloody ends, as dark forces attempt to harness his powers for themselves. For the Wolverine, there is no joy or glory in the superhero’s life, but only an endless yearning for peace and home.
I’ve enjoyed every one of Wolverine’s onscreen outings—even 2009’s much-maligned “X-Men: Origins”—but none have truly done the character justice. Three years ago, upon release of James Mangold’s “The Wolverine,” I wrote this:
In case anyone from Hollywood ever happens to stumble upon this review, here’s a novel idea: make a superhero movie with no big action scenes or set pieces. Give us “Watchmen” without the gore, or “X-Men” without the big mutant throwdowns. Maybe squirrel a brief fight in at the climax, but spend 99% of the movie on plot, characters, and themes. Now THAT would be groundbreaking.
Well, it seems Hollywood listened: “Logan” does exactly that, and ends up being the best superhero film I’ve ever reviewed.
Hugh Jackman Offers a Stellar Performance
The year is 2029, the X-Men are long gone, and no new mutants have been born in decades. Logan (Hugh Jackman) works as a limousine driver in El Paso while caring for an aging Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). The years have taken a toll on them both: Logan’s power to shrug off injuries has substantially deteriorated, and Xavier suffers from seizures that cause his telepathic power to misfire violently.
But Logan’s long-term plan—buying a boat, sailing off into the sunset, and committing suicide once Xavier inevitably passes away—soon finds itself disrupted: Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl designed from Logan’s genetic code and birthed in a Mexican lab, enters their lives. To make things worse, she’s being hunted by teams of stormtroopers from genetic technology company Transigen. After a bloody confrontation, Logan, Xavier, and Laura hit the road in search of “Eden,” a distant refuge on the Canadian border that may or may not actually exist.
As you might expect, the stars all turn in solid performances. Jackman, in what will apparently be his final outing as Wolverine, is in top form as the gruff, world-weary warrior, and the rather more genteel Stewart is his perfect foil. Keen—one of the rare child actors who doesn’t detract from the film—is quite a discovery: a tiny but lethal spitfire who packs some secrets of her own.
‘Logan’ Is Haunting, Yet Also Hopeful
In terms of storytelling, this definitely isn’t your ordinary superhero flick: “Logan” is an achingly grim Western in the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Sam Peckinpah. Logan’s character reflects an age-old archetype—a gunslinger of the Old West, a ronin samurai without allegiance, a Black Knight without lord or king—infused with Sisyphean existential dread. For Wolverine, immortality means no possibility of atonement, no ability to “make things right” through self-sacrifice. All he can do is live out the fifth circle of Dante’s “Inferno”: an endless, pointless shedding of blood.
Indeed, quite a lot of onscreen blood is shed. Eruptions of gore sluice across the screen from beginning to end as Wolverine’s claws shred through enemy after enemy. (Don’t take the kids.) Fans of the character have long asked for a more brutal Wolverine onscreen, and they do get their wish: at the same time, however, this violence clearly comes with a terrible price tag. After a while, the kills dissolve into an anguished flurry of crimson bursts, and you begin to understand the dehumanizing toll that endless slaughter might exact on one’s soul.
That contemplative dimension is what makes “Logan” utterly unique among superhero films. This movie doesn’t rely on massive CGI battles or frenetic editing, but draws its cinematic strength from haunting imagery, deliberate pacing, and its reflection on the human condition.
If “The Avengers” is a celebration of globalist technocratic triumph, “Logan” represents a simpler, more community-oriented ideal. Here, “the good life” doesn’t look like shooting the breeze in a swanky, high-tech penthouse. It looks like a father holding his daughter’s hand, and a family asking God’s blessings in a farmhouse kitchen. This is a film that criticizes cozy relationships between agribusiness and the government, contains a rendition of the hymn “Abide With Me,” and denounces paid surrogacy as exploitative of both mothers and children: it’s almost certainly the highest-budget paleoconservative movie Hollywood has ever made.
What’s more, the film contains a strikingly theological thematic undercurrent. “I used to think we [mutants] were God’s gift to the world,” Logan growls mournfully early on. “But maybe we were just God’s mistake.” He got it right the first time: the narrative quest for “Eden,” which Logan initially denounces as a wild goose chase, ends up being a thinly veiled analogue for faith in the unseen—and it culminates in a powerful moment that left me misty-eyed.
‘Logan’ Is Much More Than A Superhero Movie
In short, “Logan” is a phenomenal work that transcends its genre. Somehow, director Mangold juggles merciless violence, deep emotional and cultural themes, and fundamental human relationships, making it all work together brilliantly.
Viewed side-by-side with its critical peers, “Logan” is a very different type of film than “The Dark Knight” or its sequel. While the latter made sweeping statements about humanity and the political order, the former’s scope is far narrower. This is a movie about personal loss, pain, hope, and redemption, and the blurry areas where those themes intersect. In its willingness to commit fully to the terrible beauty of its premise, “Logan” surges beyond any superhero movie before it. It deserves every accolade it will receive.
If “Logan” wasn’t so good, I’d say it’s the system shock the “X-Men” franchise needs, but frankly, it simply feels like a different sort of film altogether. I’ve never seen anything like “Logan” before, and odds are you haven’t either. It certainly won’t be to all tastes, but for those willing to steel themselves, an unforgettable cinematic experience awaits.