Fans of Marvel, X-Men, and the Wolverine character should be pleased with Logan–it’s a strong finale and arguably the best in this highly uneven spin-off series. With three prominent names credited for the screenplay (director James Mangold, eminent screenwriter Scott Frank, and Michael Green, whose name is also on the upcoming Alien: Covenant and Blade Runner remake) it’s impossible to know who came up with the ideas that make this movie work as well as it does. But any film that invokes George Stevens’ classic Western Shane—and shows an 11-year-old girl getting caught up in it—is definitely on the right track.
The setting is the near-future and Logan is worn down, to say the least. He still has his mutant powers but they are greatly diminished. He has become a vulnerable figure and that changes the playing field for this story. Living in a makeshift shelter near the Mexican border with an aged Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Logan is suddenly given the responsibility of caring for an eerily quiet little girl (Dafne Keen) who may be one of a new generation of mutants.
Everything makes sense in this solid (if overlong) screenplay, well directed by James Mangold, who also piloted The Wolverine. Even playing a weakened old man, Patrick Stewart commands the screen, and the presence of Charles Xavier gives this story a feeling of context and continuity. Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant, and Eriq LaSalle are definite assets among the supporting cast. Rugged, often beautiful locations remove this from the visual world of earlier X-Men outings.
Then there is Hugh Jackman, who could be phoning in the part by this time; instead, he is fully invested in this broken down, underdog version of Wolverine. That’s why we’re willing to root for him and the few good guys who turn up during his journey. Logan even dares to invoke the words of a hero from the movies’ past, a fitting way to say that some values survive even in a world turned bleak. It offers a ray of hope for the characters—and for us.