Raising a child is hard enough without a kid who has retractable claws in her hands and feet and is willing to slice open a convenience store clerk rather than own up to shoplifting. Enter the proud parent of “Logan.”
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“Logan,” rated R
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 137 minutes
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook and Dafne Keen
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.
The year is 2029, and mutants are a thing of the past. The super-powered anomaly to humanity is slowly dying out, with few living members of the species remaining.
Among those still kicking is James Howlett, aka Logan, aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), but even he is hanging on by a thread, working as a chauffeur near the Mexican border, where he remains in hiding along with an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).
Logan’s old life among the X-Men is one he’s long since forgotten, but when he has an 11-year-old girl (Dafne Keen) dropped in his lap it isn’t long before a gang of mercenaries named the Reavers start making trouble.
Barely escaping, Logan and Xavier and the girl take to the road, where the two men learn just what makes their young passenger such a sought-after commodity and why only they can help her.
He takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’, but the decades are starting to wear on Wolvie, and Jackman gives the best performance yet in his umpteenth time portraying the Marvel Comics mainstay, achieving a sense of vulnerability he’s only danced around in the past eight films.
The timeline has always been as fuzzy as the title anti-hero’s mutton chops, but if we’re going by the franchise rules, Logan is older than 190 in this near future, and he’s finally showing his age with a healing factor that’s being impeded by his adamantium skeleton and can’t keep up with the major injuries that Wolverine comes by on a daily basis, and the toxic effect he tends to have on others is now turned inward.
Be honest, though — if the worst thing that happened to you after a shotgun blast to the chest were suddenly getting gray hair and requiring reading glasses, you’d still take that deal.
Stewart is equally effective as Xavier, the world’s most powerful mind slipping into senility and suffering seizures tantamount to psychic tsunamis. This isn’t the confident and commanding leader we’ve grown used to, now a wizened, eccentric shell of his former self reduced to living in an isolated water tank, looking back on what could have been and pestering Wolverine to make the most of what’s left of his time.
Life in Texas may not suit either of them, but it’s got to be hell for their live-in assistant Caliban (Stephen Merchant), living in mortal fear of the sun due to his aggressively albino body and being the owner of one of the least fun superpowers of all: mutant tracker.
But, that makes him a nice little tool for head Reaver Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), the most flavorful villain yet we’ve seen in Wolverine’s solo adventures.
Preteen actress Keen has a lot to handle and does it well as Logan’s newest protégé, Laura, the product of genetic engineering and a lot of extra tinkering to make her just like a certain wielder of metal claws, having had all the torment that Wolverine’s been through but at a much younger age.
No wonder she doesn’t speak for more than half the movie.
As often as he’s had to play father figure in both the comics and the movies, it’s different when Logan has to contend with a pint-size copy of himself, yet that doesn’t mean this is a family feature by any means.
Indeed, following a welcome cameo by the same character who showed a hard-R rating could still bring in the crowds, director and co-writer James Mangold wastes no time giving us the graphic berserker rage attack we’ve always wanted to see from the most popular X-Man.
The violence and profanity are upped, but there’s a greater realism than we’ve seen from any of the films in this franchise, a welcome change from last year’s exponentially disastrous “X-Men: Apocalypse.” An odd yet appropriate homage to the classic Western “Shane” provides a guiding light for something that’s more of a personal journey than an ever-expanding statement film.
A series that has been heavy on both the jokes and social commentary strips away a great deal of both — even blowing the brains out of a bad guy’s (Richard E. Grant) head before he can fully detail his contrived evil scheme that likens mutants to future frankenfoods — to give the full spotlight to a hero who has never wanted any part of his life and very much wants to die.
Yeah, it gets bleak when you remove the yellow spandex from the equation, but if Jackman can’t get you to care about his lonely plight by now, nothing else will work.
“Logan” flirts with being the best of the bunch that have been released since 2000, though if you’re an “X-Men” purist, you’d have to pick one of the ensemble movies as the top of your list.
Still, you’ve got to love the serious take on one of Marvel’s most complex characters even knowing the odds are pretty good the studios will find some way to erase it and get back on the wrong path.
Yeah, Bryan Singer, I’m looking at you, bub.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.