As soon as Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt’ strummed its way into the trailer, I got a sense that man-sized tissues would be needed for Logan. Just in case I got something in my eye. Wolverine’s weariness and Professor X’s aged vulnerability foreshadowed a last stand which would carry more emotional heft and heartbreak than X-Men 3, albeit hopefully for slightly different reasons.
Wolverine’s final fight finds Logan (Jackman) trapped in anonymity: grinding at a chauffeur job to finance Charles Xavier’s treatment for the senility and seizures which have turned his mind into a weapon of mass destruction, whilst Logan’s own body is slowly poisoned by the Adamantium that powers him. However, the introduction of Laura (Dafne Keen), the escaped experiment formerly known as X-23, puts the kibosh on their exit strategy as she leads her previous owners straight to the self-exiled former X-Men. With Pierce (Holbrook) and the cyborg Reavers in hot pursuit, Logan begrudgingly drags X and X-23 across America in search of the near-mythical Eden, where mutants can supposedly seek sanctuary.
The resulting escape in Logan’s indestructible limousine is edge-of-your-car-seat stuff that injects a sense of frustrating realism and urgency to an audience accustomed to seeing GTA-style car chases. The dismembering of baddies is laugh out loud enjoyable too and X-23 more than proves her metal with her claws well and truly out. Here, the true grit promised by the trailer and the 15 age certificate is in abundance as the Wolverine is truly let loose: limbs leave bodies, henchmen are halved and there’s more grunting than a Tom Hardy Taboo super-cut (roll on Mangold’s rumoured black and white version). Unfortunately, whereas Logan’s brutality in 2000’s X-Men was shocking and stood apart, the audience quickly becomes desensitized to the selection of skewered heads on offer here, leaving the more human moments to connect. Almost.
That the seal on the tissues remained unbroken is perhaps more an indication of the fleetingness of superhero cinema. Hugh Jackman’s anti-hero has self-healed from the wounds of reboots, spin-offs and alternate timelines so this being his onscreen swansong resonates more than the demise of the character himself. All the ingredients are there: Logan’s relationship with Patrick Stewart’s infirm Xavier is touching and shows a tenderness previously unseen, whilst his role reversed turn as a father figure to Laura sees him move closer to the feeling of family that he’s been so afraid of. Affecting, yes, but it just doesn’t deliver the “POW” that the trailer had me hoping for. Call me cynical, but it’s the sense that perhaps this isn’t really the end for Wolverine; the sense that the resurrection has probably already been “writing roomed” that takes away some of the poignancy. While mirror universes and Earth 2’s are a comic book staple, a sated sense of finality they do not create and I wonder how long it will be before we hear of the sound of snikts again.
That aside, this is the finest X-Men outing yet and a near-perfect presentation of a jaded, aging, flawed hero. Let’s hope those behind The Batman are watching.