Rating: 4 Stars
The following review contains spoilers.
Time has not been kind to Wolverine and the X-Men. Professor X, the world’s most powerful telepath, is suffering the effects of old age, and is cursed with seizures that attack all the minds around him. The X-Men aren’t around anymore, and mutants are no longer being born. The adamantium in Wolverine’s system has overwhelmed his healing factor, and he’s finally aging and will one-day die. Correction: Wolverine was the name of an unstoppable warrior; now he’s simply Logan, a limo driver, saving up money for a boat, so he and the Professor, the only man to ever see him as something other than a weapon, can go far away out onto the ocean, where neither of them can hurt anyone else.
But the mindset that lead to Logan being captured and turned into Weapon X all those years ago has not gone anywhere, and though mutants are no longer being born naturally, they are being grown in labs and raised to be soldiers. One such new mutant, Laura, a little girl with Logan’s powers and killer instinct (and created from his sperm sample I guess? why not just a clone like in the comics?), has escaped with the help of a sympathetic nurse. Logan agrees to help Laura—one last mission—to give her a chance at the life he never had.
The first half of this movie is easily one of the best comic book movies ever made. The tone, the performances, the rhythm, the action, and the writing (for the most part) are all operating at a level far beyond what any of the other Wolverine films (or X-Men films in general, for that matter) have ever reached. I spent most of the early-going in shock that James Mangold and Fox were capable of something like this. It just works.
In all the times Patrick Stewart has played Professor X he’s never been better. All belligerence and resentment and anger and fear when he’s living in isolation with Logan and Caliban, and then switching into the kindly Professor X mode when he thinks a new mutant has finally been born in Laura.
Hugh Jackman, in his 340th time playing Wolverine, has also never been better, as he portrays a broken-down old soldier at the end of the line. Once an unstoppable killing machine, now he’s just barely getting through each day without tumbling into despair. His breakdown trying to say a few words over Xavier’s grave was heartbreaking.
Laura, played by Dafne Keen, is fantastic. She’s able to flip between being this pure and innocent kid, grabbing for plastic sunglasses or demanding the cute outfit from the mannequin display, to being a terrifying ball of rage, killing soldier after soldier absolutely effortlessly.
The best sequence is probably when Xavier has a seizure at the casino-hotel, and Logan has to crawl through a frozen crowd up to their room, stabbing paralyzed Reavers on the way, until he can finally deliver the medicine Xavier needs.
“Actually, I’m a nonagenarian.”
The second half of this film is where things start to come apart. It’s pretty obvious as soon as the kindly family invites Logan and friends to have dinner with them that said kindly family is going to be slaughtered. It would’ve been nice if the filmmakers had even tried to subvert the cliché here in any way. That aside, the real turning point is when X-24 shows up and kills the Professor. I get thematically that this is the worst version of Logan, the remorseless, murdering beast he’s always been afraid he truly is, but it’s also boring. How many dark mirrors of the hero do we need in these movies? And why is a clone of Wolverine the next evolution in the Weapon X program after the mutant kids escaped? It’s a sequel to the very first Weapon X! How much better if they had done a version of Fantomex or even just hired Sabretooth to track him down? And why is he also an old man? With a beard? X-24 just sucks.
And the on the topic of X-24, very briefly, why is Laura X-23-23 instead of just X-23? Such a silly change from the comic.
Anyway, once X-24 shows up, the movie has a hard time recovering. Suddenly the plot holes that the great tone papered over throughout the first half start making themselves known. Like why are they only looking for Laura and not the 12 other mutant kids if they all survived the escape? And what happened to the other nurses? And what is this park ranger station all the kids found and why are they safe there? And why would a secret group of evil scientists and cyborg mercenaries respect Canada’s sovereignty and stop chasing the kids once they make the border (the Reavers make a big deal about stopping them before they get to Canada, as if this matters)? And how did altering the formula of corn actually stop all mutants from being born? Does every person in every single country in the world drink these energy drinks?
And now that we’re poking at it, why the hell did Logan ask Caliban to take an unconscious Donald Pierce to any random spot in the desert and leave him there instead of simply killing him? He had literally just gotten done maiming/killing a bunch of racist-caricatu—I mean, car thieves, and now suddenly Logan is squeamish?
If you’re going to set up a big battle between old man Logan and soulless-animal X-24—which again I think is dumb—then at least follow through thematically, and somehow give Logan an edge based on his humanity and his ability to connect with other people (like Laura and the kids), instead of just introducing some last-minute super-serum that makes him young again for 10 minutes.
The kids trimming Logan’s beard so he looks like original recipe Wolverine reminded me of Xavier losing his hair in X-Men: Apocalypse, which is a bad thing to be reminded of at any time.
I was super disappointed we didn’t get one Reaver with tank-treads for legs.