Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant
Plot: In a future where mutants are almost extinct, Logan (Jackman) is no longer Wolverine but a self-loathing limo driver who cares for a dying Professor X (Stewart).
It took three films to get right, but Logan is finally the Wolverine movie we have been waiting for.
The year is 2029, far enough into the future, so it can theoretically work no matter the timeline you are assuming it is set in. Due to some unknown evolutionary process, mutants are no longer being born. Most of the characters we know and love have passed away or were killed in action, never explained. As snippets of radio stations tell us, mutants are considered a history long forgotten, an evolutionary mistake that God corrected. This backdrop gives Logan a strange apocalyptic feel, most of the action set away from major cities and in isolated areas. One set in the final third could be ripped straight from a Mad Max film. Perhaps this apocalypse is not a literal one, but a figurative one when it comes to the psychology of our leading hero. Wolverine, now only going by his human name, James Howlett, is an ageing limo driver, living from bottle to bottle and running away from anyone that recognises his name and calls him a superhero. Jackman is unrecognisable here, a roughly shaven beard growing over his face, more grey hairs than black. His eyes are glazed over with the shield of a man who no longer cares. As we later learn through the movie, age is finally catching up with the immortal mutant, the adamantium in his body slowly killing him, slowing down his healing powers and turning his once fighting body into one that has a rasping coughing fit whenever the action creeps up. His body is no longer the toned muscular one the female fans get hot under the collar for, but a bruised and broken one, the deeper wounds no longer healing. Logan’s living consists of earning just enough money to get medicine for a 90 year old Charles Xavier, crippled by a degenerative brain disease that gives the once almighty mutant brain seizures powerful enough to wipe out the nearest city. Xavier, too, is unrecognisable, a babbling lunatic who battles with staying lucid every moment of the day. He is also painfully aware that Logan is just caring for him long enough for him to die peacefully, deep down wanting totally free from his past. This is not the Wolverine we remember, but as Xavier heartbreakingly declares “a disappointment”. Then, along comes a mysterious young girl, whose mother is murdered by a mysterious government unit. Xavier convinces Logan that his shot of redemption is taking this young girl to North Dakota, where she believes she will be safe.
Right from the off, this is a Wolverine movie like nothing we have seen before. One of the most important changes to the formula is the upgrading of the film from a 12A to a bloody 15. After the success of Deadpool that proved that bloody, adult superhero movies could be just as financially viable as the family friendly ones, Logan was graciously given the freedom to use as many swear words and bloody deaths as it pleased. Now, while the financial side of blockbuster movies do not concern me (after all, this is a movie that we don’t want a producer to be tempted to make a cash-grabbing sequel out of), the addition of adult themes really does make Logan a critically better movie. For one, there are no restraints when it comes to the narrative. This is Logan at the end of his story and as the shocking reality of his existence is bared to the world by Mangold, we don’t want some child-friendly glossing over of the drama. Patrick Stewart is introduced to the audience as an angry, swearing pensioner, his F-bomb count rivalling Jackman’s. When the hard-hitting sucker punches crop up, Mangold has the power to show us the pumping heart of the movie by focusing the material for adults. The violence plays a part also. God, the violence is brutal. Whenever a fight crops up, from the first mini-brawl over the top of the opening credits, we realise just how far Mangold is pushing the adult nature of this movie. Eyes are popped out, guts are ripped from bodies… some of the bad guys get the kind of untimely ending that will probably turn your stomach. Some might be turned away from watching Logan due to the extreme content, but it must be said that, with the bloody rampage we see on-screen, this movie feels far more ‘Wolverine’ than any of the previous ventures. Logan has always been a character that nervously pushed the boundaries of family friendly entertainment. X2 and The Wolverine featured scenes that were borderline 15 anyway, the directors holding back yet not quite enough. Removing the red tape could be the best thing to happen to Wolverine. His power is so primal, so animalistic, claws that are designed to rip at his enemies, that it makes Logan’s fight scenes feel like the material we have been waiting for anyway. It is the uncomfortable nature of how he disembowels his opponents that really hammers home the brutality of the character. In Logan, when he reflects on how his soul is tortured by the amount of people he has killed, it actually hits the spot, rather than coming across as action movie hero dialogue 101. You cannot do what Logan does and walk away without psychological scars. On a more simple note, the violence simply improves the action. The fights in Logan are far more sparing than you might imagine, a lot of audience members potentially walking away frustrated at the focus on narrative over fights. The small amount of action scenes are often brief and brutal, which means that the violence is imperative to making them as memorable as they are. A final showdown between Wolverine and an experimental mutant thug is a sickening display of full throttle action, a meaty conclusion to a bitterly visceral movie.
But the real reason Logan is such an importantly brilliant movie is because it is, first and foremost, about Logan. My complaints with both X-Men Origins and the Wolverine is how both movies got distracted with the supporting cast, when really its job should have been to selfishly focus on its leading hero. Wolverine is by far the most interesting character in the Marvel canon, which made distractions not welcome at all. Logan is far more than an action movie, but a character piece of a mutant who has washed his hands of his superhero calling. Hugh Jackman delivers a show-stopping, heart-breaking performance, the kind of acting he has probably been dying to embrace, ever since he took on the character. Jackman’s Wolverine, in terms of acting, as always improved with each instalment, so, if this is the last time we see the actor take on this iconic character, then this is the height of his emotional arc, a true tour de force of a turn from Jackman. Mangold seems less interested in the fights this time around and seems to put most of his weight in the smaller scenes in between the action. Quiet reflections around a dinner table between Logan and Xavier, moments on the side of a road when Logan gives into the pain he has been bearing for the last nine films, a clever story beat when Logan finds a X-Men comic, supposedly based on his life. If we had to pick a flaw with this film, perhaps its pacing is a little stretched, but what it does do is give this character piece all the time it needs to breathe. If OSCAR films can spend three hours dissecting the character of Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street, then surely Jackman’s Logan should get the same treatment. While the two scenes that stay with you are the utterly devastating tearjerkers, perhaps the more impressive stunt is the constant anguish Logan is subjected to. The slow-burning sadness that burns over the atmosphere, as we are forced to watch a shadow of the man we remember saving Rogue from the Liberty Statue in the very first X-Men film. This is more than a movie about a hero coming in and saving a day. It is about a broken man trying to save himself. And that is the Wolverine movie we were waiting for.
Final Verdict: Logan is a film that steps away from the action and focuses first and foremost on the incredible character it has been given, creating a memorable final venture that will stay with you for some time.
I seriously cannot wait to see this. Hopefully this weekend.
This was the first film I saw in the theatre since Little O was born and it was definitely a worthwhile choice. Great review!