Or: At last they let the beast out of the cage
In his final outing as Wolverine, Hugh Jackman plays the weary and definitely battle worn anti-hero of the X-men franchise, with his legendary regenerative powers waning and his health definitely on the downward slide. Shacked up with a progressively mentally unstable Charles Xavier and a house-maiden Caliban we are shown a future with mutants having been hunted down and wiped out and no more being born to replace those lost.
It is 2029 and Logan is now living the life of a limousine chauffeur driver for hire. Shuttling people around as they need in his own stretch limo before returning home over the Mexican border to care for Professor X, a shadow of his former self, unsure and frail. There is a plan for them to escape this hell hole that they are in; a fancy boat and a life on the waves, far away from the hassles of their new lives. However, that plan is temptingly close when Logan gets hunted down and drags him into a new war of humans vs mutants.
At the centre of it all we have Laura, an 11 year old girl who has been extracted from a bio-tech facility by her nurse, Gabriela. She is trying to get Logan’s help to get this girl to safety, to a specific location in North Dakota and believes that Logan is the person to do it. This girl has more in common with Logan than he realises and it takes the situation coming to a head for them to be forced together and for their preconceptions of each other to change.
So while the action sequences are riveting, brutal, visceral and kinetic there is more to this story than that. The failing mental faculties of Professor X is demoralising for this nonagenarian, and Patrick Stewart is still able to tug on a few heart strings in his last outing too, making me laugh and bringing a tear to my eye. But this film is most about Logan and him making the decision to do the right thing, for the right reasons, something that he has been lacking in most of his other outings. He has the opportunity for redemption and he takes it, eventually, does what he can at the risk of himself to allow others to benefit. Managing to evoke emotion with a superhero film is no mean feat but here we have a character who has been around in the film series for 17 years and he is a changed man, totally different from when he first made his appearance and it is a fine send off for a great character/actor pairing. Hugh Jackman has embodied Wolverine/Logan perfectly throughout and with this last film they have finally let him loose, and in much the same way as seeing Darth Vader do his thing at the end of Rogue One, seeing Wolverine let rip on the cannon-fodder soldiers is a sight to behold. Anger and aggression, ruthlessness and wild rage pouring out of this icon of the X-men films.
As said above, Hugh Jackman has been Wolverine, there is nothing else to be said, from start to finish. Patrick Stewart again, shows his ability in this secondary role, bringing humour and humanity to the role and Dafne Keen is simply amazing as Laura, a wild child showing all the restraint of the pre-X-men Wolverine. With her healing factor present and correct, Adamantium enhancements and rage meter stoked to the max, when she lets loose it is a sight to behold. For me, there were a few downsides to the casting; Stephen Merchant wasn’t enough changed from his own persona and his scenes kept taking me out of the film, the West Country accent not feeling at home alongside the other characters, and Richard E Grant was pretty weak as the evil mastermind behind the wiping out of the mutants and this generation of new, genetically modified, test tube mutants. His delivery left something to be desired, no passion or power being exuded, no mania or desire for control, just a bit middle of the road. Boyd Holbrook had a fuller role and attempted to be controlling and empowered but again he fell short of this and, if it wasn’t for the sheer numbers of assailants being sent after the main characters this wouldn’t have felt like the ordeal that it should have been.
James Mangold has done a great job in converting these characters into something darker, making their world a bit more dangerous, a bit more real and the film is that much better for it. Why they have waited this long is beyond me but it has been worth the wait, sending this great warrior into the great beyond. A really great addition to the X-men franchise and is credit to this character and Hugh Jackman for bringing him to life so well.