I don’t have much love for Fox Studios’ stewardship of the X-Men intellectual property and skipped out on their last film. I was prepared to give this one a miss as well but a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and rave comments on Broken Forum made it impossible to ignore. In the end I found this to be a decent action movie but I would consider it to be more of a missed opportunity than anything else.
It’s 2029 and Logan, his powers weakened by the long-term poisoning effect of the adamantium in his bones, is a bitter and weary old man who is reduced to being a limousine chauffeur. New mutants have not emerged for some time now and Logan is taking care of a very elderly Professor Xavier who is suffering from a neuro-degenerative disease and is losing control of his powers. One day a woman comes to him begging for help, dragging along with her a young girl. It turns out a company is responsible for both disseminating a mutagen inhibitor in food to suppress the emergence of new mutants and developing new mutants of their own from the genes of known ones. That girl is of course Logan’s own genetic daughter with powers similar to his own and she is one of the children who have escaped from the company and wants Logan’s help to flee the United States.
One thing that’s for sure is that the level of violence is shockingly high, even after I had mentally prepared myself for it. Watching Logan liberally sever limbs, stab through eyes and visibly deform heads is bad enough but having the 11-year-old Laura do it with a snarl on her face is something else. Personally I’ve never cared for any version of the Wolverine characters but visually this interpretation absolutely nails it. The shot of her scrabbling up Logan’s back to slash at an enemy is such a perfect portrait of their dynamic. In general the mood of the piece is great and I like that they at least aspire to some weighty drama. Hugh Jackman probably overdoes the reluctant hero bit but Patrick Stewart’s performance as Xavier is fantastic. His character still has hope but even when he’s lucid he seems a bid addled and there’s more than a hint that his hope is founded on naivety.
Unfortunately I find this to be a case of coming frustratingly close to being a good film but ultimately still missing. Though it starts well, a plethora of missteps eventually causes the whole film to derail. The biggest problem is that the development of the relationship between Logan and Laura is unbalanced and the rapprochement at the end feels unearned because Logan spends far too much of the film rejecting her. The moment when I started being seriously annoyed by this film is when they introduce the nice, innocent family who the audience can predict will all be slaughtered when their enemies catch up with them. This genre blindness results in stupid and uncharacteristic behavior on the part of the main characters. Other problems include the bland and ineffective villains including the head of security who is all bark and no bite and the inconsistency of Laura being a feral mini monster while the other children are mild and rather ineffectual. Having a cloned Logan who by design has no personality and no purpose as the final boss enemy is a perfect example of how unimaginative the filmmakers are.
Overall I found this to be a more than adequate action movie, though it peaks early and the later action scenes are boring compared to dynamism of the earlier ones, and a worthy send-off for the two characters who we have first seen on screen way back in 2000. But it’s certainly not a film that deserves a 90%+ rating and I’m very disappointed by what a missed opportunity this represents.