It’s been a long 17 years since I first saw Hugh Jackman on screen playing Logan aka Wolverine. In those 17 years I graduated college, got married, had a kid, moved almost a dozen times, and every couple of years or so there would be another X-Men movie where I would get the chance to see Hugh Jackman play the role once again. There has been a lot of fluctuation in the cast of these films, but there has been one constant, one actor you could count on to at the very least give a two word cameo. The quality of the films fluctuated quite a bit but one thing never seemed to waver: Jackman’s commitment to the role and his performance. The Last Stand or X-Men Origins: Wolverine are not great movies, but Jackman still gives a great performance and embodies what we have come to think of as the definitive Wolverine in spite of comic purists who may complain about his 6 foot stature vs comics Wolverine’s much shorter height. It’s so great that he was able to make his (supposed) last role as the character such an unforgettable one where he gets one hundred percent of the spotlight and makes Wolverine feel like the well rounded character that he is.
This is a movie that takes place in a slightly alternate universe from the other X-Men films. The year isn’t 20XX or the not-too-distant future, it’s specifically 2029 where things don’t look too much different except for a few bits here and there. Mutants have been driven to near extinction, though it’s not entirely clear if it was due to being wiped out by external forces or if it was merely an evolutionary bump in the road and only a handful of mutants are left. Including Wolverine, Professor Xavier, and Caliban. Though Wolverine has given up both of his previously preferred names and has reverted back to his original name James Howlett. This in an of itself is a great way to show that he’s moved past his superheroing ways and has also made peace with most of his past, for better or worse.
In this version of the future, Wolverine is at the line. There’s no specific reasoning given as to why his healing factor isn’t working as well as it once did. He has a chronic cough, he has a limp, he has plenty of scars that haven’t fully healed. There’s a hint that it’s due to the adamantium in his bones that’s poisoning him somehow, but nothing concrete. And Jackman’s performance at portraying this beaten down and nearly defeated character, but one who’s still Wolverine deep down inside, is near perfect. This is a character that you can tell he knows inside and out and it comes through brilliantly. The introduction of his biological daughter, created by giving his genetic code to a random Mexican surrogate plays out in a similar way that he did, only with a bit of a twist. When Laura is first introduced, she seems to be just a regular kid. As we find out that she is a mutant, she behaves like a feral animal similar to some depictions of Wolverine. She doesn’t speak, and she is intensely violent. But as the film progresses, we get to see that there is more to her character, and she is more than what they made her to be.
There are a few issues throughout this movie, but they are more than made up for via the amount of character present. Charles, Laura, and Logan create this perfect little trifecta of characters in the oddest sort of road trip movie. Xavier is a very different character than what he’s played in the previous X-Men films. Similar to Logan, he’s been broken down. The only difference is that he’s been broken down mentally where Logan has been broken down physically. Charles has a non-specific degenerative disease that is affecting his mental capacity and surfaces itself in what they refer to as seizures where everyone is essentially frozen solid except for anyone with an advanced healing factor. They also imply that one of these seizures killed several of the original X-Men, the guilt of which has also taken a toll. It also adds a level of humor via his confusion and doddering old man moments. The amount and pacing of the humor is quite well done as moments of comic relief to address the increasing amounts of drama and pain these characters are going through.
While the heroes of this film are great examples of fleshed out characters, the same can’t exactly be said for the villains which are one of the very few weak points in this film. We get a seemingly endless supply of militarized, musclebound mercenaries working for a mysterious corporation and headed by a sleazy guy with a gold tooth and a cybernetic arm. On top of that, we also get a brief glimpse of X-24, which is an identical and age-induced clone of the original Wolverine, which means that in the climax, he’s facing off against a younger version of himself. But this clone isn’t exactly all that intelligent and is mostly just a killing machine that you point in the right direction. It’s an ok concept, but in a film like this that makes such a point at making these character interactions feel tangible, X-24 felt a little too fantastic. But it didn’t diminish the rest of the themes of weariness, morality, and family – both biological and adopted. The film ends on such a perfect note to lay both Wolverine and Xavier to rest as characters. While Xavier may still be reprised by James McAvoy, I do hope that it’s a long time coming before Wolverine returns to the screen to be played by a different actor. Right or wrong, it’s a brand, it’s a brand that sticks. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.