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Each of the Wolverine series of films has typically followed a storyline that escalates into cartoonish levels of mayhem and opponents. However, the latest installment, Logan, manages to avoid jettisoning off into overindulgence with a far more grounded, grim, and often depressing script. But it's also one that resonates with topical issues, reflecting our current outlook on a bleak future beset by numerous problems.
We find the former Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, in his last hurrah as the Canadian mutant), now known by his name Logan, in 2029, living in a world in which mutants have not been born for the past quarter-century. An aging Logan is suffering from his own weakening mutant abilities. That includes diminishing self-healing powers, causing his adamantium skeleton to poison him.
It's a risk to depict a superhero with failing powers or wrestling with mortality issues, for as their abilities wane, so does their appeal. But as a symbol of hyper-aggression, however, Wolverine has always been an irresistible, magnetic draw for fanboys and his personality has been as fierce as his powers. Consequently, he's the safest bet to explore this element with, in what is basically Wolverine Unplugged.
He and the light-sensitive albino Caliban (Stephen Merchant), who can psychically track mutants, are eking out a meagre existence in an industrial Mexican wasteland with the income Logan makes as a limo driver. They're also caring for an Alzheimer's-afflicted Professor X (Patrick Stewart, who will never be bested by anyone else who portrays this character), whose seizures cause him to involuntarily unleash painful telekinetic blasts.
A woman (Elizabeth Rodriguez) tracks down Logan, requesting his help a youngster get to—where else—Canada to seek asylum. The woman's young Hispanic charge, Laura (played by a ferocious and stunning Dafne Keen), is actually a miniature version of Wolverine and was one of several children experimented upon in a Mexican laboratory.
With X-Men nemesis Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his gun-toting Reavers on their tail, a reluctant Wolverine and his comrades set off to help Laura reach a haven for mutants called Eden in Canada. Taking on western noir elements, not to mention Mad Max, their difficult journey is complicated by several twists and developments that manage to throw in a few curveballs—and casualties—that don't necessarily make things completely unpredictable but manage to keep things appropriately messy.
The far-from-subtle political symbolism touches upon issues ranging from national borders to immigrants and persecuted minorities (check out Laura's rainbow shirt). Yet, strangely, little is made of Wolverine's Canadian origins as he heads there.
It may not the most celebratory send-off for Jackman but aside from being the most well-crafted Wolverine film, it's also the most human.