Hugh Jackman’s career has been defined by his role as “Wolverine”. He’s played the character for over 17 years and with the release of “Logan” is performing his swan song for the role. Fox’s “X-Men” franchise has always been a source of controversy and ridicule from fans of the source material, but “Logan” is set to take the franchise in a new and much more gritty, violent and less fantastical direction. Will this be the final bow that Jackman will be remembered for or will this just be another mediocre “X-Men” sequel courtesy of Fox?

“Logan” begins in the near future of 2029 with our hero down on his luck, driving a limousine for cash, and going by his Christian name, James Howlett. James is trying his best to stay under the radar as he is not the mutant he used to be. James’s regenerative power is deteriorating and mutants like him are near extinct and the world is beginning to adjust to being a “mutant-less” one. James is also hiding out in Mexico taking care of two other mutants: Caliban, a mutant tracker and James’s mentor and friend, Professor Xavier. Xavier is suffering from a degenerative brain disease that could cause destruction and may have been responsible for the death of many mutants. James has been taking care of Xavier and keeping his mind under sedation. During this time, a woman has been reaching out to James and begging for his help and his answers have been nothing but refusals. What James doesn’t know is that the woman asking for help has a link to his past, his mutant powers, and possibly an answer to James’s meager existence. The answer is a girl, who has been in mental contact with Xavier, whose name is Laura and is being hunted by army because of her special abilities and James A.K.A. Logan A.K.A. “The Wolverine” may be the only one that could save her from her perilous predicament.

“Logan” is without a shadow of a doubt Fox’s finest moment in the “X-Men” franchise. Director James Mangold has fashioned an amazingly involving follow-up to his 2013 film, “The Wolverine”. Hugh Jackman has never played the character better. Jackman’s down trodden and reluctant hero, Logan is one that has never been more grounded, more believable, and more relatable. Jackman’s co-star, Patrick Stewart’s Xavier is Logan’s voice of reason and the only family he’s got left. Stewart has never been better and his portrayal of Xavier has reached its pinnacle here. The relationship between these two main characters are the glue that keep this story tight and ironically human. Newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura A.K.A. X-23 is a real standout. She is a young actress, but she stands toe to toe with Jackman and Stewart in some very intense scenes. She is not afraid to bare her claws (pun intended) and show strength and moreso a vulnerability that any young girl could relate to for being different. The villains are played with menace by Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce and Richard E. Grant as Zander Rice. They too may be our villains, but they are more than willing to be vulnerable and make the audience sympathetic to their cause. The performances all around are just spectacular.

“Logan” is the first “R” rated “X-Men” movie and takes full advantage of that distinction. This film is extremely violent. The audience for the first time will see the repercussions of the damage caused by Wolverine’s claws on those that stand against him. The violence is visceral and during some moments shocking. This not a film for the young kids, so parents be warned. The story has a more mature tone and deals with topics not normally broached in a comic book movie and is not afraid to spout a few expletives (too many at times). “Logan” doesn’t succeed from this new rating, it succeeds because it takes chances. Having Logan deal with being a mutant in a near mutant-less world, having him wrestle with his humanity and being caretaker for his mentor while he can’t even take care of himself and finding out someone exists that is just like him and struggling with the same issues he did as a young mutant. Finally, having Logan reflect on who and what he believes he really is and who he has actually become pushes the audience to the film’s final frame. Director James Mangold has carefully and subtlety shared these themes without beating the audience over the head with them. It’s up to the viewer to make up their mind as to what legacy if any Logan has made in the world he inhabits.

“Logan” is that rare comic book film that is mature not dark, intense not exciting, human not super-human. These all add up to a film that’s a modern day western veiled in comic book dress. “Logan” is visceral, violent, mature, intense and most importantly human. Jackman, Stewart and newcomer Dafne Keen have held this film together with near pitch perfect performances. As for Jackman and Stewart, this film truly is a fitting swan song for them in this franchise. “Logan” is not a great comic book movie, “Logan” is simply a great movie.

OVERALL SCORE: 4.5/5 Stars

-originally published in MAUIWatch