Over the years, I’ve grown further and further away from the X-Men movies, but the critical buzz around Logan (2017) seemed to warrant attention. As superhero films go, it’s got an interesting set-up, stirring some futurism into its scenario: it takes place in 2029, a future in which mutant-kind has been largely exterminated by ruthless government policies. Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has survived, however, and manages a tenuous existence, driving for a Lyft-like limousine service in a Texas border town. Secretly, though, Logan is caretaker for an elderly, failing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in Mexico. Helped by mutant-tracking mutant named Caliban (Stephen Merchant), Logan wants nothing more than to stay off the grid and avoid the authorities. But when a nurse named Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) seeks him out for help, bringing an enigmatic young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) with her, Logan gets dragged into one last battle against the anti-mutant forces at work in the world.
Logan scores points for novelty, anyway, standing out against the glut of superhero franchise films in its straightforward focus, darker approach, and chilling futuristic scenario—which, frankly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing developed in more depth. Jackman’s grizzled charisma still holds up, although quite frankly he’s outdone by Stewart’s outstanding turn as a tortured, near-death Xavier. Dafne Keen, meanwhile, makes a remarkable first impression in an intense, emotionally demanding role.
Alas, for all its well deployed, emotional notes, Logan isn’t particularly engaging structurally; it’s basically an extended graphic violence action sequence combined with a road trip. Fans of Wolverine will surely enjoy seeing his vicious rage in its most unmitigated form to date, but for me the character’s grim attitude grew a bit bludgeoning and charmless. I usually watch superhero movies for ensemble chemistry; a full-length Wolverine-centric movie, especially one fueled by such rampant testosterone, felt like eating a meal consisting of entirely of jalapenos. Not a flavor I dislike, necessarily, but much more palatable as an ingredient than a main course. Logan is gritty and compelling, sure; but its onslaught of masculine grimdark ultimately became of a test of endurance.