By Esosa Omo-Usoh
Of all the super hero characters in the X-Men movie franchise, James Logan Howlett/Wolverine is (more unarguably than arguably) the fan favourite. This, no doubt, propelled the decision to undertake a trilogy origin story woven around the Wolverine character.
The first installment, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was released in 2009 to a generally okay reception amongst critics and fans (albeit some among the latter, like me, found it more than just okay). Then in 2013 came The Wolverine which had an almost Japanese anime-ish feel about it. 2017’s Logan is the third and final installment in the trilogy.
Set in 2029, a time when mutants are all but extinct in a seemingly Trumpocalyptic dystopia where the few remaining mutants have to go under the radar to escape hounding by non-mutant humans. What is left of the X-Men appears to be a grizzled Logan and an aged Professor Charles Xavier.
Logan is looking scruffy and has lost that feral bounce we have come to associate with his wolverine in previous movies in the franchise. Reduced to a beat-up limo driver, Logan is a shadow of his former self no thanks to the poisonous effect of his adamantium implants which has slowed down his self-healing abilities and expedited his aging process. A fatal irony if ever there was one; the thing that enhances his superhuman ability ends up being his Achilles’ heels.
Prof Xavier, on the other hand is broken by age and battered by ailment. Prone to recurring extreme spasm attacks with debilitating effects on anyone within range of his presence, he is reduced to an almost vegetative state of near dementia in their hideout somewhere in El Paso. His once cerebral mind has earned him a spot on the wanted list as a weapon of mass destruction.
In the dystopian world of Logan, if you are a mutant; you are under the radar only for as long as it takes for either another mutant or the mutant hunters to find you.
It turns out that when they are not busy hunting down mutants, non-mutant humans are busying creating them. Transigen, a company involved in genetic mutation cloning experiments, is breeding children with the DNA of mutants from a previous experiment. Transigen is killing off the children used in the cloning experiments. However, some have escaped, and one in particular is rescued by a nurse who works with Transigen. She approaches a reluctant Logan to help her take the mutant child to Eden, a safe haven for mutants located in North Dakota.
This sets off a chase sequence of events that succeeds the slow-burner opening of Logan. An encounter with Transigen’s genetically enhanced enforcement team eventually leads to an interesting revelation about the mutant child, Laura, and her abilities.
Even though he has always been a part of the X-Men super hero crew, Wolverine has always come across as a lone ranger non-crusader who would rather beat his own path than be part of a leather-clad ensemble of super heroes. In the origin trilogy, this lone wolf bent of his character has always been unmistakable.
In Logan, there was a feel about the movie that suggested a homage to classic lone ranger movies like Mad Max and Terminator. It was there in the dystopian settings of the movie, the mutant child rescue, the race to Eden and the unrelenting pursuit by the genetically-enhanced army of bad guys.
With a Rated-R rating, Logan in its fight scenes made mincemeat literally of any thought that given its X-Men franchise origins, this could in some respects be kids-friendly watchable. The feral rage and unrestrained evisceration unleashed in the fight scenes were visceral. There was deliberateness to the use of the claws that was designed to inflict maximum damage. There was a palpable feral rage that propelled razor-sharp claws into unimaginable parts of the human anatomy with the ease of a red hot knife cutting through butter. The fight scenes were a brutally choreographed macabre slash fest.
Rumored to be Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine, the best part of Logan was Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of every cinephile’s favourite X-Men badass. It’s been 17 years since cinema welcomed the first X-Men movie and was introduced to Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.
The attraction to Jackman’s portrayal of Logan/Wolverine was instant. He embodied every minutiae of the character much the same way Chris Evans embodies Steve Rogers/Captain America and Robert Downey, Jr. embodies Tony Stark/Iron Man.
From his signature mutton chop sideburns to the scraggly hair, from the form fitting X-Men leather jacket uniform to the toned biceps rippling with sinewy veins, from the scene-stealing cameo spewing the badass one liner “Go fuck yourself” to the sound effect of the adamantium claws sliding out of his knuckles, Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine and Wolverine has been Hugh Jackman.
When he needed to be the brooding lone ranger Logan, Hugh Jackman has portrayed him with a powerful subtlety that resonated with movie goers. When he needed to be the kickass indestructible slash meister Wolverine, Hugh Jackman has portrayed him with a ferocity that was both astounding and endearing. To fully appreciate how consummately Hugh Jackman embodies Logan/Wolverine, watch Hugh Jackman as Hugh Jackman and then compare him with his portrayal of Logan/Wolverine. The resounding difference is as striking as the personalities of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
Logan is a dark and unrelentingly bleak movie set in the dystopian future of an America that shares more than a passing resemblance with the intolerant one Trump seeks to “make great again”. In Trump’s America, Canada offers open arms of welcome to immigrants that America puts on a travel ban. In Logan’s America, Canada is the ultimate destination for the children mutants being hounded by Transigen.
But beyond that, Logan is a fitting swan song for the eponymous hero lone ranger. In, perhaps, a final act of defiance, Logan, through his spawn, rejects the messianic symbol of a cross and opts instead for his preferred anonymity with an X marking the spot.