Movie Review: “Logan” ends the Wolverine’s run with guts and grace

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They’ve never let James Bond age. Not really. Batman gets replaced almost constantly. Spider-Man? Don’t get me started.

But there is but one Wolverine — Hugh Jackman  — and kudos to Fox and Marvel for letting the best of the X-Men make a dignified exit.

“Logan” is a bloody and noble finale to Jackman’s turn with the sideburns and metal claws. The movie and the character brood and growl, lash out and curse, and Jackman is magnificent at every one of those.

And its tale of “others” forced underground and on the run has extra resonance, considering the machinations of the current regime in Washington.

In 2029 Logan, the Wolverine, is laying low as a limo driver in the border country. About all that gets his dander up is messing with his Avanti-inspired stretch Chrysler, as a gang of car-stripping cholos learn.

The mutants are all gone — died out — though they’re still excoriated on right wing talk radio.

He’s still a wanted man.  Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) begs for his help taking her and a girl (Dafne Keen) north. Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a metal-handed mercenary, pays him a visit to let him know “they” can come get him at any moment.

And that screws up his plans to stay out of sight, feed and protect the aged and unstable Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and X’s caregiver, the empathic mutant Caliban. All Logan wants to do is get enough money to buy a boat and get away from it all with his mentor, for both of them to die in peace.

Not happening.

Events conspire to force Logan to take that ten year-old girl, Laura, to some “Eden” — in North Dakota. And the bad guys, basically a multi-national pharmaceutical let run riot by a fascist government with Richard Griffiths as the Mad Scientist in Charge, will spare no expense and no number of minions to stop that from happening.

logan1.jpgWith all the op-ed pieces on the new American Dystopia, science fiction is hard-pressed to improve on reality. But the screenwriters work in shots at the Agri-Industrial-Complex of Mega Farms, GMOs and the high fructose corn syrup they’re shoving into everything we drink and much of what we eat.

With all the digitally-enhanced action and violence — and it is graphic and delivered in large, gory doses here — it’s easy to lose track that there have been some fine performances in comic book movies over the years. It started with Christopher Reeve, but Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Ian McKellan, Michael Fassbender, Famke Janssen and Christian Bale have all made a mark from behind a mask or in tights.

Jackman is in a whole other class, which is why, “First Class” to last, he and he alone is Logan.

It’s not a great movie, with generic “What a disappointment you are” dialogue, gratuitous, pitiless slaughter, far-fetched “How’d a child learn THAT?” moments, and a late second act introduction — one of Logan’s foes — that took me right out of the picture. And Hollywood’s idea of North Dakota has always shown a reluctance to actually visit that arid pancake, its ghost towns and oil wells.

But Jackman makes it  all work, bringing the tragic weariness, cynicism and reluctant nobility that are the hallmarks of this X-Man to the fore.

He is a modern “Shane,” a Western Logan and Laura glimpse in one scene while they’re on the run. “A man has to be what he is, Joey… It’s a brand. A brand sticks.”

Indeed. Thus, Logan and the man who branded him take their curtain call.

Until Marvel and Fox figure out a way to cash in again and screw that up.

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MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence and language throughout, and for brief nudity

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard Griffiths, Stephen Merchant

Credits:Directed by James Mangold, script by Michael Green, Scott Frank and James Mangold, based on the Marvel Comic. A 20th Century Fox release.

Running time:  2:15

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