Director: James Mangold
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
Might as well get the comic-book connections to this film out of the way first:
(1) The film is only loosely based on the fan-favorite character Old Man Logan.
(2) The comic through which the mutant haven Eden was discovered was created specifically for the movie.
(3) The appearance of Mister Sinister, predicted based on the Easter egg at the end of “X-Men: Apocalypse,” did not happen here. The film’s creators were telling a different story, so Sinister is still floating around out there waiting for a story of his own.
It’s something like 25 years into the future. Logan is hiding out in an abandoned factory just south of the Mexican border with Charles Xavier and the light-sensitive albino mutant Caliban. He still has his healing factor, but it’s getting weaker – Logan may have cancer in this film and he is being eaten up from the inside. And Charlie still has the most powerful brain on Earth, but he is having seizures as well. Whenever he has one, it’s powerful enough to kill hundreds. One such seizure killed most of the remaining X-Men.
Caliban is there to watch Charlie while Logan makes a living driving a limo, and also to keep the others safe because Caliban’s mutant power is to sense other mutants. If the bad guys catch him – and of course they ultimately do – no mutant is safe anymore.
The evil corporation Alkali Transigen has raised a group of mutant kids – it’s hinted that they are the last such kids on Earth – to create super-soldiers. Those kids are released by a Transigen nurse and hit the road looking for “Eden” near the North Dakota border with Canada. Eden’s location was found in the comic book mentioned above.
The nurse begs Logan to care for one of the kids, labeled X-23 (as in the comics) by Transigen, and named Laura. He doesn’t want to do it, but (a) the nurse is killed by Transigen security forces, (b) Charlie wants him to protect Laura, and (c) Laura exhibits two Adamantium claws exactly like Logan’s three, again, just like the comics. I’m sure you can put all that together.
That’s a detailed, layered plot – more so than I see in most superhero films. And the sickness displayed both by Logan and Charles Xavier makes them more vulnerable than I have ever witnessed. Although the battle at the Statue of Liberty (from the first “X-Men” film) is mentioned, this is nothing like that. Instead of heroism, there is desperation. Instead of the determination to defeat a single foe, there is hopelessness, a feeling that for whatever good our heroes may have ever done, they have been abandoned. They are lost.
Logan especially. He just wants to live his remaining years in peace. And keep Xavier alive too, if possible, though Charlie’s seizures are enough of a danger that they must stay completely isolated. They only change this direction for the kids. And for the hope that Transigen may be stopped.
The X-Men franchise has had mixed results over the years, with some really good work (e.g. “X2” and “First Class”) and some losers (e.g. “The Wolverine”). But his one here is a triumph. Bittersweet at best and a tear-jerker more often than not, the heroes are loaded with vulnerability. Mutants are just like the rest of us. It’s the X-Men story Marvel has wanted to tell all along.
It’s really too bad that Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman are both saying they are retiring from their characters. But I get it, and you will too.
Oh by the way: there is a Deadpool out-take ahead of the movie. Feel the joy.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5