Wolverine finally gets an “R” rating, but it doesn’t amount to much.
Is it worth $10? Unless you’re a Wolverine fan, No.
You know that dream you have where you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry but your feet feel like lead and you’re moving like molasses? “Logan” is that nightmare burned into film (or captured on digital, more likely).
The movie takes place in the near-ish future of 2029. The titular former X-Man (Hugh Jackman returning for his ninth go around as the character) is aging, his regenerative mutant powers slowly failing him. He’s a mess and so is the world around him. Most mutants are gone. There’s political upheaval. We get glimpses of it in an opening that, as good science fiction does, uses a futuristic setting to hold up a mirror to our present: frat bros jeer “USA” as they drive past a group of refugees being rounded up by border police. The world building ends there, though, as the rest of the future is only glimpsed by Logan’s constant reiteration that the world sucks.
Logan ekes out a living as a limo driver in the Texas/Mexico border where he also hides/cares for a senile Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart, another welcome return) whose affliction has rendered him unstable and his telepathy extremely dangerous. Logan keeps the professor sedated to curb his powers as he slowly descends into dementia. The dour situation is interrupted by the appearance of a nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) with a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), in tow. They’re on the run and need Logan’s help to safely transport them to Canada. Logan reluctantly agrees; he needs the money. Before long, he, Laura, and Professor X find themselves heading north while chased by a nefarious, mutant experimenting organization that wants the mysterious, feral girl back at any cost. Violence ensues.
That’s the big selling point of the film. This is the first Logan/Wolverine movie that doesn’t have a restrictive “PG-13” rating, and it makes the most of it; “Logan” is violent and gory. Though it sometimes tries too hard (a barrage of brutal action, “f” words, and even a bit of nudity in the opening 30 minutes alone), it is a natural fit. Wolverine is a violent character whose weapons of choice are the blades that protrude from within his hands. A character who fillets his enemies doesn’t make much sense in a more restricted setting.
The initial shock of seeing Logan embed his claws into a villain’s head did elicit a yelp of surprise from this embarrassed critic (an aural reaction at a mostly silent screening), but that shock wore off quickly with each repetitious stabbing and limb removal. And in a weird way, the action isn’t that different from that of its predecessors. By the end of the film, as Logan tears through wave after wave of antagonists the only thing that differentiated it from the bloodless earlier entries is the accompanying digital viscera.
Early on, Professor X yells, “Blame someone else for your boring shit!” He’s right. Logan/Wolverine is boring. That line, this movie, and its lackluster predecessors finally elicited this epiphany: I’m not a fan of the character. Hugh Jackman is charismatic and does a good job as always, but he can’t cover the fact that Logan simply isn’t that interesting. It matters less when he’s part of a team in the “X-Men” movies, where his angry shtick is offset by the differing personalities of the mutants around him. But when he’s front and center, he’s one note and monotonous.
And so is the movie. It’s dour and grim, but not much else. Director James Mangold seems to conflate misery with maturity, but by the umpteenth time that Logan stated some variation of “I’m not the man you think I am,” I began to suspect that the movie had little to say… except that Wolverine is not the man we think he is.
Having said that, this is probably still the Wolverine movie fans have been clamoring for. If you fall into that camp, ignore me. See the movie. But know this: an “R” rating is not a magical salve; “Logan” has mature themes and content, yes, but that doesn’t make it mature.