All good things must come to an end, and that’s been the case with some of the most iconic teamings of actors and roles in film history. Sean Connery and Roger Moore played James Bond in seven films apiece, Daniel Radcliffe worked his magic as Harry Potter in eight, and now Hugh Jackman is hanging up his claws after nine films portraying the X-Men team member Wolverine.
His swan song is called “Logan,” and that stark title using his legal last name is but one sign that this edition of his cinematic adventures is more human-scaled than the usual flash and fury of his earlier adventures. The new film is co-written and directed by James Mangold, who has built an eclectic career as the director of such diverse movies as the Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line,” the terrific Western “3:10 to Yuma,” and the offbeat romantic comedy “Kate & Leopold” (which also starred Jackman), and brought impressive grit to both this entry and the previous film in the series, 2013’s “Wolverine.”
Yet the biggest difference is that the new film is rated R, a big leap from the PG-13 ratings Jackman’s prior outings as the superhero received. The change is likely a response to fan boy complaints that the last film was not violent enough to provide them the rage-filled rampages the character is known for in comics, but it also is likely tied to the fact that Marvel Comics’ film division saw gold in pursuing the same hell-raising R-rated path that “Deadpool” followed to nearly $300 million at the US box office last year.
The new film takes place in 2029, and it’s a bleaker society in which Logan is working as a chauffeur and trying to put his past behind him as most of his fellow mutants are now dead. He is living in hiding in a desert junkyard, overseeing the care of the now-elderly Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) as he suffers from dementia.
Logan is dragged back into action by a Mexican woman who begs him to take her young daughter, Laura (Dafne Keen), to a rumored secret location near the Canadian border where mutants can live in peace. The girl’s very existence is a surprise to Logan, since the official government story has stated that no mutants have been born in 25 years.
It turns out Laura is but one of many children who were specially bred in a laboratory with the DNA of the various X-Men to have superpowers and eventually become an unstoppable and heartless army. As Logan and Xavier race to their destination with the girl, chased by ruthless hordes of assassins led by a bounty hunter (Boyd Holbrook) and evil scientist (Richard E. Grant), the film veers between incredibly violent battles and surprisingly thoughtful encounters.
Those showdowns are probably among the most violent fights ever committed to film, as both Wolverine and Laura slice, dice, puncture, stab, and even decapitate dozens of villains and gallons of blood spew everywhere on their cross-country race against time. Add in a boatload of strong obscenities throughout, and this is definitely not a movie for children to see— a caveat I offer after having seen plenty of young children attend “Deadpool” with their clueless parents.
Lacking the strong comedic edge of “Deadpool,” “Logan” is a darker tale in which the violence stands out even more distinctly and disturbingly. Frankly, it made me wonder if there are any standards of what child actors should be required to do in a performance.
That said, “Logan” has a great emotional depth and Jackman is terrific in it. Adult fans of the Wolverine character will definitely be pleased with the results in spite of (and perhaps because of) the relentless carnage, and Mangold has crafted a movie that sends its hero off in great feeling and style. But be very aware that this movie is really gruesome.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.