While not every outing was a gem, Hugh Jackman’s seventeen years as Wolverine have made him a superhero movie icon. Taller and prettier than the comic book character, he nonetheless won over the nerds during his six-film run (plus two cameos).
The missing ingredient (“X factor”, if you will), however, has always been edge; his take on Wolverine has always been decidedly family friendly. Hardcore fans yearned for a bolder, bloodier, more adult portrayal. And in Jackman’s final in-universe role, they have finally got their wish.
It’s 2029, and Logan/Wolverine is a wreck. An alcoholic Uber driver with slowly fading powers, he takes care of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), whose brilliant mind has been made dangerous by dementia. Having lost faith in himself and humanity, Logan is offered one last chance at redemption when a young girl (Dafne Keen) shows up at his door.
This film is nothing like any X-Film, or superhero movie, that has come before. Seeing two familiar heroes so disheveled, so forgotten, is powerful stuff. Director James Mangold (3:10 To Yuma) removes any sign of gloss, redrawing the character as a Western anti-hero (there’s even a heavy-handed parallel to the film Shane). This is not about saving the world, it’s about saving one child, and himself. The simplicity of this final mission makes it all the more moving.
Jackman finally gets to unleash hell, dishing out more gruesome punishment than your average horror movie villain. He also gets to create one of the year’s best partnerships with Stewart, who also puts in a franchise-best performance. Like a foul-mouthed Jiminy Cricket, he keeps Logan on the path to salvation. Boyd Holbrook, meanwhile, is wickedly menacing as the man on their tail.
This is the film fans have been waiting for, the antidote to the noisy, messy superhero films of last year. It’s the perfect goodbye to a beloved character.