Hugh Jackman delivers in what is to be his last experience as Wolverine. His performance has carried the sequel very well. Logan recreates the character as an older less adventurous version of the Wolverine that audiences know. He is demure and mature and helping a struggling immigrant and a young child navigate through the tough world. 7 out of 10 stars

Hugh Jackman ones came to Ethiopia. This was before he was a household name, and People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. I was sitting at home, minding my own business, a little bored, when I opened ETV (now EBC). The program at the time was the long running Meet ETV, hosted by Tefera Ghedamu. Jackman suddenly appeared on screen, introduced by the host as a Hollywood movie actor.

Years later, I had the opportunity to talk about this episode with Tefera (a good friend). He told me that the interview was scheduled only a day before it took place. The movie star had been visiting the country with some NGO’s (do celebrities come for any other reason?). Jackman was asked if he was willing to appear in the show, and agreed without much ado. This type of sincerity, believe it or not, is characteristic of most other great actors.

Jackman’s new film is Logan. It is playing in theaters around the world, is currently the number one movie at the box office and directed by a man called James Mangold. Jackman’s character has superhuman powers and unlike most other superhero films, the movie is not in 3D. I think it is fairly obvious which franchise I am talking about.

The year is 2029 and mutants no longer exist. It would be more accurate to say that no new mutants are born. But the Wolverine is still out there. It quickly becomes obvious why the film is titled, Logan. The Wolverine has gotten old. His wounds do not heel quickly or completely as they used to. He limps and even cannot read without eyeglasses. The Wolverine is not the rambunctious hero we used to know. He is old, not exactly shriveled, but all the same sober. He spends his days babysitting his former boss, the X-Men leader, Professor Xavier.

According to mainstream movie theory, something has to happen that disturbs the orthodoxy of the protagonist’s life. Logan gets a call from a Mexican woman who has smuggled herself and a girl across the American border, and desperately needs his help (a not-so-thinly disguised allusion to the current mass deportation of Mexicans?) They want Logan to get them to a place called Eden, located in the north (another not-so-thinly disguised allusion to migration to Canada?). Logan, at first is reluctant, reconsiders his position when he finds out the girl, called Laura, has somewhat similar powers to that of his. Getting across the northern border proves a little tricky, though.

R rated superhero movies – are they becoming a thing? One only hopes so. I have always believed that for so much punching and kicking, there indeed seems to be way too little blood and broken bones. The R rated Deadpool last year was not as good as I thought it would be. I believed the R rating would ensure a little realism, some narrative sophistication, but all Deadpool did was squeeze in a bunch of vulgar words and female nudity (not that I am complaining).

Logan is a little more serious. As the final blow to Wolverine, the film tries to be respectful. There are not a lot of unwarranted jokes. It may not be that complex a movie – the plot is pretty typical – but most of the characters do their mighty best to rise above cliché dialogue. Jackman, as always, is fantastic in the role. The fact that he will never play Wolverine again – his most popular screen persona – is truly the end of an era.

I just do not see anyone else in the role, at least not as natural as Jackman is in Wolverine’s skin, if and when the studio decides to reboot the franchise. Such grumpiness, such nefarious feline slickness, does not come very often.

James Mangold directed Logan. This is not his first Wolverine film; he also directed the prequel, The Wolverine, where the superhero gets to go to Japan. But Mangold is not necessarily a mainstream blockbuster movie director. He is more respectable than that. One of his best films is Girl, Interrupted (which won Angelina Jolie an Oscar). Another is the biographical Walk the Line, which contains some of the best acting ever committed to the screen. His most exciting film is the Western remake 3:10 to Yuma, which has some drama, as well as frontier violence.

All these films are decidedly distinct from superhero films. The last time Mangold directed a Wolverine movie, it was tepid. It was not bad, but it was the type of film that is quickly forgettable. The director understands the character better here. The loneliness and nihilism of Wolverine is what the films is all about, making the ending somewhat poignant.

This is the last we will ever see of Wolverine.

The company, 20th Century Fox, has finally called it quits. Rightly so. To keep the franchise going would have been a strategic mistake. One of Wolverine’s powers is rejuvenation, meaning the character does not age. But the actor playing the character, Jackman, given that he is human, does.

More importantly, from the perspective of the studio, the Wolverine movies have never been that profitable. So the franchise is getting the hack. But the joke is on Fox. Logan, with its weak and old Wolverine, is set to become the highest grossing solo Wolverine movie ever made.



By Christian Tesfaye
Exclusive to Fortune

Published on Mar 11,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 879]



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