“Logan” is the first Marvel movie made for DC fans.
For years, the divide in geek culture has been between moviegoers who prefer the lighter, wisecracking tone of Marvel’s stable of superheroes and those who favor the darker, grim feel of DC’s characters.
But for Hugh Jackman’s final turn as Wolverine — and, based on a recent interview, Patrick Stewart’s last go-round as Professor Charles Xavier — “Logan” has pulled out all the stops. It’s the first R-rated X-Men movie. It’s a surprisingly emotional bloodbath. Heck, it’s barely even a superhero movie at all. It’s just a raw, gritty, neo-Western about a makeshift family trying to stay alive.
Set in 2029 in a time when mutants are all but extinct — it’s been 25 years since the last one was born — Wolverine/Logan is living off-the-grid as a chauffeur in El Paso, Texas. He’s older, slower and drinking too much. For the first time, his body is failing him. His eyesight is shot, and he doesn’t heal like he has for the past century or so. He even, briefly, is beaten down by some midlevel gangbangers before he recovers long enough to savagely, brutally slice them to bits.
But if Logan has it bad, Charles has it worse. Since he started losing control of his powers and his brain was classified as a weapon of mass destruction, a frail Charles has been hiding out in a rusty, overturned water tower in Mexico where Logan keeps him sedated, along with the help of the albino mutant-tracker Caliban (“The Office” co-creator Stephen Merchant).
A weary Logan eventually becomes the reluctant guardian of Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl sporting adamantium claws remarkably similar to his own. She’s being hunted by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a gold-toothed, metal-handed baddie who comes across like a post-apocalyptic mash-up of Val Kilmer’s Doc Holliday in “Tombstone” and Jonny Lee Miller’s character from “Hackers.”
Laura’s arrival reinvigorates Charles as the three of them set off on a road trip to get her to the safety of a promised land known only as Eden.
“Wolverine” stand-alone movies have been a mixed bag, to say the least. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” was so bad it not only derailed plans for future “Origins” movies, it nearly ruined the character of Deadpool. And I barely even remember there was such a thing as “The Wolverine.” So it’s no stretch to say that “Logan” is easily the best of the “Wolverine” movies. But it’s also the best “X-Men” movie yet and quite possibly the best superhero movie since Christopher Nolan hung up his Bat-camera. (Not the most entertaining. Not by a long shot. Simply the best.)
To wrap up Jackman’s 17-year run as the title character, director James Mangold (“The Wolverine”), who co-wrote the script with Scott Frank (“The Wolverine”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”), has crafted a small, personal story. No worlds or cities are endangered. For the most part, it’s just a road movie, with Logan and Charles, who’ve been through the wars and more than one timeline together, getting the chance to bicker like an old mutant couple.
It’s also an opportunity for Jackman and Stewart to emote more than they have in all their previous turns in their iconic roles — combined.
“Logan,” though, is certainly not for the squeamish. Laura is a rage-filled, pint-sized slaying machine who, along with Logan, puts so many claws through so many skulls, you’d need an accountant — preferably one who isn’t tweeting at the time — to keep a tally.
“Logan” takes a detour involving a farming family led by Eriq La Salle and Elise Neal that doesn’t contribute to much aside from its running time. But that’s one of the movie’s only false moves.
This final chapter is such a bloody departure — influenced by everything from “Mad Max” to “Jurassic Park” to “Shane,” which Charles watches lovingly — it’s the Wolverine movie some fans have been waiting for for nearly two decades.
And it’s a fitting, somber end to Logan’s run.