By Bob Bloom
“Logan” is far from your average superhero movie.
This latest venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe is an intense drama surrounded by a thick aura of melancholy.
It is a bleak and sad experience, but a worthy farewell — at least for now — to two beloved Marvel characters.
The movie, set in 2029, finds an aged, worn-down and heavy-drinking Logan (Hugh Jackman), aka Wolverine, hiding out in Mexico with an ailing Dr. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a grousing Caliban (Stephen Merchant).
Mutants are nearly extinct, and Logan, who works as a driver for hire, drinks to forget the past.
Logan’s self-imposed exile abruptly comes to an end when he is thrust into protecting and transporting a young girl with extraordinary gifts to safety.
The girl, Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen), is wanted by one of those sinister corporations that are trying to create super-soldiers by using DNA and other materials from mutants.
“Logan” bypasses the escapism normally associated with the genre.
This is a violent, profane feature that, when Logan is forced to unleash the Wolverine within him, sends heads rolling and limbs flying.
If this is the last hurrah for Jackman and Stewart, then director James Mangold, who also is one of the screenwriters, has given them a vehicle worthy of their talents.
It’s a bit disconcerting hearing Wolverine and Dr. X drop f-bombs as though they were in a Quentin Tarantino feature. However, the language is appropriate for the setting.
Stewart’s Dr. X has severe seizures that, when they erupt, have devastating effects on him and those around him.
Jackman’s Logan is resentful and angry about carrying the responsibility of driving Laura to a sanctuary in North Dakota where she, and many children like her, can cross the border into Canada where mutants will find sanctuary from hate, fear and extermination.
Despite the graphic and viscous violence, “Logan” is a movie with heart.
Logan may growl and complain about his unwanted charge, but he slowly comes to care — even love — the youngster, who is more like him than he can imagine.
At close to 135 minutes, “Logan” drags at times, and the villains are one-dimensional caricatures.
Still, “Logan” is a fitting sendoff for two pillars of a Marvel franchise that has been uneven and seems to be searching for a singular identity like its cinematic cousins at Disney,
That aside, “Logan” is a satisfying thriller that constrains the superhero spectacle in favor of emotional human drama.
A farewell valentine, “Logan” offers visceral excitement combined with empathy and soulful introspection.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.
(R), graphic violence, language, brief nudity
3½ stars out of 4