So I watched Logan…
I went into this film with a cautious sense of optimism. I had liked 2013’s The Wolverine and the idea of a wounded Wolverine who couldn’t heal quite as effectively as normal. Sadly that film’s final third regressed into typical comic book cliches and never fully delivered on the premise it promised. I feared the same would happen with Logan but, fortunately, my fears proved to be unfounded with James Mangold and Hugh Jackman producing not only the best Wolverine movie yet; but possibly one of the best comic book movies to date…or at least since The Dark Knight.
Okay, basic plot: In the distant future, mutants are all but extinct after the development of a virus to halt mutation. A beaten-up, run-down Logan (Hugh Jackman) lives out a quiet life on the Mexican border working as a limo driver. In his care is Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whose advanced age has made his telepathic abilities a danger to those around him. One day Logan is approached by a mysterious woman who asks for Logan’s help to transport Laura (Dafne Keen) – a young girl in her care – to a location known only as “Eden”. Turns out that Laura escaped from a facility owned by Transigen – the same company that infused Logan’s skeleton with adamantium and turned him into The Wolverine. Logan initially refuses to help but – persuaded by Charles – sets out on a journey to the mysterious Eden and what could be his last mission.
I want to start this review with a quote,
A man has to be what he is, Joey. Can’t break the mould. I tried it and it didn’t work for me. Joey, there’s no living with… with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her… tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t any more guns in the valley.
This is a line from the classic western Shane and a quote that pops up a few times in this movie. I think it’s a perfect summary and description of everything that I loved about Logan. Let’s start with an excerpt from that quote, “Can’t break the mould.”. Wolverine has featured in nine movies (including the X-Men films) over a period of seventeen years. For the majority of those films he’s always depicted in a similar manner. As a man consumed by his past, who’s story can only ever be told through flashbacks. Logan shatters this storytelling mould and presents Wolverine as a man – who although haunted by his past – is squarely focused on his future. It also has no flashbacks! This was so refreshing because one of my constant complaints about seeing Wolverine on screen is that he can’t go two seconds without a flashback about his traumatic past. These two changes not only lead to a Wolverine story we’ve never seen before but also to a style of storytelling we’ve never seen with this particular character. This all makes the movie feel original and fresh as if we’re seeing the character for the first time.
The film also reminded a lot of 2015’s smash hit Mad Max: Fury Road; in that, it doesn’t feel the need to explain every little detail of the film’s plot. It gives you the general outline of things but leaves space for interpretation and insight. This leads to a story that is much more engaging than any other Wolverine film we’ve seen before.
“There’s no living with a killing.”. If I had to describe this movie in one sentence, it would be that one. The Wolverine we see in this movie is older not only physically (due to his reduced healing factor) but also mentally. The weight of the vicious, savage life he’s lived – and the lives he’s taken as a result – weighs heavily on him.You can feel the remorse and conflict in the character in every scene. Hugh Jackman has such a wonderful understanding of the character and his performance in this movie is testament to that. He delivers the badassery and swagger that you classically associate with the character but also adds a fragility to him that truly makes the character memorable. This is a more intimate look at Wolverine and you have to applaud Jackman and James Mangold – who developed the film’s story, co-wrote the script and directed the film – for fighting for this version of Wolverine to be made.
Now just because we get to see the fragility in the character, make no mistake, this film still features The Wolverine and, as such, there is a beautiful amount of violence. We have to say thanks to Deadpool, because if not for its success, who knows if the studio would have been brave enough to give this film an R-rating? Logan would not have been as good as it is had it not had the freedom of an R-rating. There is blood, there is gore, the action is a work of art! We’ve seen Wolverine slice and dice before but the addition of blood squibs just makes the violence all the more corporeal. There’s an added savagery and intensity to the action that you can’t recreate in a PG-13 format. Just look at the difference between the Redband and Greenband trailers for the film. The exact same action sequences without the blood, without the gore, without the perfectly placed F-Bomb just fall flat in comparison.
Now while I loved the gratuitous and graphic violence of this film, it had me worried for Dafne Keen who stars as Laura. If you’ve watched the trailers you’ll know that she – like Logan – has adamantium claws AND she – like Logan – uses them to dismember and disembowel anyone who threatens her. She’s twelve – she’s not even allowed to see the violence she’s involved in, in this film. Her performance was brilliant and she’s second only to Jackman in terms of her acting in this film. She has a wonderful savage intensity and this is wonderfully juxtaposed against the childlike innocence you’d expect someone her age to have. She’s amazing to watch but she might need some therapy after this film. The regal Patrick Stewart also gives a fantastic performance – as always – as Charles Xavier. As with Logan this version of Charles is past his prime and more fragile than ever. Hugh Jackman has said this will be the last time he plays Wolverine and Stewart has said the same about Xavier so – without getting into spoilers – the gravity and magnitude of this film should be clear.
The only real criticism I have to level against this film is against two members of its cast – Richard E. Grant and Boyd Holbrook. Grant’s acting is far too dramatic and theatrical for the down-to-earth and sober tone of the film. He’s horribly miscast and it detracts from the quality of the film. Holbrook does fine work as the film’s main villain, Donald Pierce. My qualm with him is that his character is rather plainly written and feels like another cliche Marvel villain. I also have to mention the slight problem with originality this film has. A few years ago there was a video game released called ‘The Last of Us’ which tells the story of Joel – an grumpy, middle-aged man – who has to transport a young girl called Ellie to a secret sanctuary. I’ve personally played the game (it’s one of my favourites) and the similarities between it and Logan are obvious enough for a blind person to see. This, however, doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of the film and most people probably haven’t played the game so they won’t even notice.
Overall, Logan is AMAZING! It reaches that level of quality where it transcends the comic book genre and stands as solid piece of film. There’s rumours of Oscar buzz already and while I doubt The Academy will nominate a film like this, it’s definitely deserving of an Oscar in several categories. It’s absolutely brilliant and the perfect goodbye to Jackman’s version of the iconic character. 8/10
P.S. There isn’t a post-credits scene at the end of the film but there was meant to be a pre-film scene i.e. a scene that played just before the opening credits. It was unforunately cut from the theatrical release but Ryan Reynolds was kind enough to release it on his YouTube channel. Click below to check it out.