BY RICHARD SUPLEE It has been 17 years since the first X-Men movie introduced the world to Hugh Jackman’s razor-clawed Wolverine. Saying that Jackman’s solo Wolverine films “are a mixed bag” is probably too generous of a compliment. The first spin-off, 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, is a film only talked about in conversations about “the worst comic book movie ever.” The film is so toxic that it made Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool nearly impossible to make. It was just a bunch of fight scenes, random forgettable mutants, and CGI powers jumbled into a cliché, convoluted plot. Billed as a prequel, the film established Logan’s backstory: born in 1845 with mutant powers, he’s fought in every war since, and somewhere along the way he had metal grafted onto his bones and claws. Storylines that took over 30 years to be unpacked in the comics were crammed into a single film alongside characters like Sabretooth (archenemy with similar powers), Blob (big fat guy with super-strength), and Deadpool (who was granted Wolverine’s powers, eyebeams, teleportation, etc). In 2013 came The Wolverine, a decent movie to watch on cable if you have no other plans and a pizza on the way. It’s basically just wall to wall ninja fight scenes set in Japan with some forgettable plot that seemed besides the point — which was, of course, fighting ninjas. So how does this final outing for Hugh Jackman fair? Pretty good, actually.
The main reason for Logan’s bump up in quality is the cast. In addition to Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Logan/Wolverine, the film features franchise newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura, Logan’s daughter/clone from the comics raised as an assassin before escaping from the scientists who created her and eventually attending the Charles Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) Institute. As Logan’s clone, Laura inherited his healing powers that enable him to repair gunshot wounds in seconds, his heightened sense of smell, his claws and presumably the longer lifespan. The film does make some minor changes to Laura but it keeps her as a tiny little rage-fueled murder machine discovering the world. Logan’s tender attempts to protect and mentor Laura is what gives the film heart.
As the film opens, we find Logan/Wolverine trying to retreat from a world where the X-Men no longer exist and Xavier is no longer the wise founder and leader of the X-Men, but an old man whose brain is malfunctioning due to age. Which is very dangerous for the world’s most powerful telepath. Xavier and Laura constantly appeal to Logan’s better angels despite how much the 200-year-old mutant just wants to ride off into the sunset. This character development drives the narrative, unlike the previous films where attempts at actual human interaction just seemed to gum up the works. As a result, the fight scenes don’t feel tacked on just to sell tickets, like they did in previous outings. And The Reavers, Logan’s chief nemeses this time out, trigger a subtly ingenious plot twist that I’ll not spoil here. Overall, this swan song for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine character is a film that will please both comic book obsessives and casual fans. Even if Hugh Jackman is still too tall to play the 5’3” Canadian and never bothered to rock the yellow spandex and horned mask from the comics, Jackman’s rakish grin and mutton chop sideburns will always be the first image that pops to mind whenever someone mentions Wolverine.