In nine “X-Men” films over 17 years, Wolverine’s biggest nemesis has arguably been a PG-13 rating. While the popular Marvel character had the swagger and sideburns right, the conformist limits of making a movie blockbuster ensured few surprises.
“Logan” takes its indestructible metal claws to comic-book movie norms and destroys them, and it’s a wonderful thing. The new Wolverine film exists in an established universe, but it takes a massive tone shift from the relatively bloodless earlier X-Men films, going berserk in its own moody and ultra-violent direction.
“Logan” isn’t quite as good as Clint Eastwood’s 1992 revisionist Western “Unforgiven,” but it performs a similar function. The film celebrates the medium by taking itself seriously, with an added hint of apology for the genre’s earlier sins. Best of all, there’s an element of risk. The success of the equally brazen “Deadpool,” and the quality of this adventure, bodes well for the artistic future of comic-book films.
The movie imagines the hero in a bleak future, his powers waning, his body poisoned, and most of his mutant brethren either missing or dead. He drives a limousine and cares for Professor Xavier, a telepath who was once among the greatest minds on the planet, but now battles dementia. Logan (or Wolverine) is a few dollars away from achieving his final sad dream — buying a boat and sailing away with his old teacher, leaving the X-world behind. More than a decade of technology advancement has given military personnel cyborg-like enhancements, putting them on close-to-equal footing with our diminished hero.
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Into this dismal backdrop comes Laura Kinney, a girl version of Logan who brings the real Wolverine back in the game, as her own mystery unfolds.
Hugh Jackman is wonderful as Logan, rejuvenated by the added depth of character. Jackman walks with a limp and successfully conveys bigger battles going on inside his indestructible skull.
But “Logan” reaches action movie critical mass with the arrival of Kinney, who has the mute steeliness of Newt from “Aliens” plus the fighting prowess of an in-his-prime Wolverine. Actress Dafne Keen is solid in the role.
“Logan” is plodding at times and inconsistent — after all that R-movie carnage, the ending takes a softer “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”-style turn. But these shortcomings are overwhelmed by the relief of seeing a big budget superhero film try something new.
Rated R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity. 2:20. Fayette Mall, Frankort, Georgetown, Hamburg, Nicholasville, Richmond, Winchester.