Patrick Stewart’s Best Role Isn’t Picard, It’s Charles Xavier, Here’s Why
Opinion Editor Michileen Martin argues that while he may be better remembered as Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek, the best Patrick Stewart role is his time as Charles Xavier in 2017's Logan.
Every editor at GIANT FREAKIN ROBOT will corroborate that I am a big enough Star Trek nerd that when a writer or editor who isn’t me is assigned a story about the franchise, I’m just a teeny bit angry about it. Regardless of that, and of the so far critically hailed final season of Star Trek: Picard, I can’t in good conscience argue that Jean-Luc Picard is the best Patrick Stewart role. No, the Shakespearean veteran’s best performance is as Charles Xavier in James Mangold‘s Logan.
Set in the year 2029, Logan presents a world in which mutants are believed to be going extinct. Just south of the US/Mexico border, Logan (Hugh Jackman) and the justifiably frustrated Caliban (Stephen Merchant) keep the ailing 90 year old Xavier (Stewart) in an abandoned smelting plant. The founder of the X-Men has suffered from dementia for years, and keeping him medicated and isolated is the only way to make sure his powers don’t unintentionally kill hundreds; maybe more.
Stewart appeared as Charles Xavier in 6 films before Logan, always as the picture of composure. If he had been present in the Westchester Mansion kitchen in 2003’s X2: X-Men United when Stryker’s forces began their infiltration, you would’ve half expected him to offer them all tea before unleashing his psychic powers on them. Hell, the guy visits his arch-nemesis in prison to play chess with him and when Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) literally pulls him to pieces in 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, he dies (for a while at least) smiling.
Ravaged by time, dementia, and guilt, the Xavier of Logan is drastically, but believably, changed from his teaching mutants. A big part of what makes his role in Logan the best Patrick Stewart performance we’ve ever seen is that, with it, Stewart humanizes a Marvel hero in a way that’s never been replicated. In his first Logan scene this once eloquent and poised teacher randomly yells out old Taco Bell ads, sobs after throwing himself out of his own wheelchair, and tells Logan to “f–k off.”
The Xavier of Logan is not just sick: he’s temperamental and childish. When he angrily sticks out his tongue at Logan to show he’s taken his pills, it’s more of a believable and utterly human moment than just about anything that came before in the franchise.
Stewart doesn’t play a completely different character, however; this is the same Professor X. In spite of all that’s happened to the X-Men founder, everything that was best about Patrick Stewart’s character remains. He is still hopeful, he is still at heart a teacher, and he is still Logan’s conscience.
It’s been a long time since I saw the Oscars as anything but a thinly veiled popularity contest, and the fact that, as remembered by IMDb, no Best Supporting Actor nomination in 2018 found its way to Patrick Stewart doesn’t do a lot to bolster my opinion of the Academy Awards. Stewart delivers the performance of a lifetime in Logan, giving us the tragic and all too convincing end to an icon.