Nixon
Nixon

With "Logan," an X-Men movie that's more Western than world-shaking summer blockbuster, Hugh Jackman has donned Wolverine's adamantium claws for the ninth — and supposedly last — time in 17 years. This marathon run demonstrates the enduring nature of one of comics' most memorable characters and gives a quantifiable value to attach to superhero movie exhaustion, both considerations the filmmakers have taken note of in crafting a suitably leathered sendoff.

Set along the dusty backroads of a near future that's moved on from mutants, "Logan" is a much-needed departure from the calamity come to be expected from seasonal entries into the superhero genre. Hard-drinking and weathered from his past excursions saving the world from monolithic threats (and from his current gig-economy venture of shuttling around bachelorette parties in a limo), the Wolverine now passes his days sleeping in the back seat and stashing cash away for an eventual escape to a yacht with a now-senile Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, reprising another key comic book role).


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The scrounging can't last forever though, and soon Logan is dragged back into the game by the arrival of a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) being pursued by paramilitary forces. Most of the movie plays out as a road trip and chase thereafter, with the reluctant Logan shepherding Laura and an increasingly frail Charles north across the country. The trip (via secondhand pickup truck rather than Blackbird jet) takes them through El Paso, Oklahoma City and North Dakota instead of again shattering the bases of New York or San Francisco.

Inevitable scuffles put up along the way, of course, and the movie is quick to flex its hard R rating through extreme bouts of violence (and more than a few gratuitous "fucks" yelled out by both Logan and Charles right at the onset, just so there's no confusion surrounding the level of family-friendliness). Logan may be more grizzled and nursing a stronger hangover than in the past, but that doesn't seem to lessen his talent for feral bellowing and spearing countless mercenaries in the brain.

Other encounters see nameless bad guys similarly disemboweled (one notably done in by a telekinetic flurry of pine needles). While these are fun from an action junkie standpoint, they do reek of having something to prove in a movie that is otherwise attempting to show a more reined-in and human superhero story.

Still, the occasional overabundance of supplementary violence doesn't completely detract from the overall move away from set and stale expectations of the comic book movie. Logan and Charles spend more time floundering in regret than posturing their visions of the future; the genre conventions are effectively rearranged and the scope is scaled down in ways that make superhumans more human than they've been in the past.

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