Directed by James Mangold.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Daniel Bernhardt and Elise Neal.
In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
A righteous ferocity flows through Hugh Jackman’s apparent swan song as the clawed superhero he’s made his own over the last two decades. James Mangold’s Logan gamely bats away most of the genre’s perceived narrative mold and “fatigue”, jettisoning a previously de-clawed, 12A-rated Wolverine in favour of a full-fat, crimson-soaked final outing for the iconic mutant.
Unlike so many movies unfurling in the shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga, Logan is not merely playing pretend at being a “dark” superhero film. It dares to go one step further by not only stripping away most of the froth and bombast that characterises the genre, but resolves to create a resoundingly bleak world starring characters drenched in their own sadness, regret and longing.
When Logan begins, the title character (Hugh Jackman) is essentially an upscale Uber driver, ferrying around Oorah fratboys and drunk bachelorette parties. He’s also caring for a 90-year-old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), stricken with literally weapons-grade Alzheimer’s kept only at bay by a regimen of medication in scarce supply. Xavier is perhaps the only thing stopping Logan from drilling an adamantium bullet through his own head until circumstances bring young Laura (Dafne Keen) into his life.
Equipped with a Very Special Set of Skills indeed – primarily being Logan’s clone and retaining his penchant for slashing throats – Laura is doggedly pursued by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a security operative who seeks to recapture her for his nefarious scientist boss, Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant). At Xavier’s behest, Logan reluctantly becomes guardian and protector to Laura as the trio travels on the long road to apparent sanctuary.
Logan wears its influences on its sleeve throughout and clearly wants you to know it; there are moments in this film indebted to pictures as diverse as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, No Country for Old Men, Unforgiven, Mad Max: Fury Road, and even one of Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies, to name just a few.
The key take-away from that eclectic list is that Mangold wanted to make a mature solo Wolverine film like his fans have been craving for years, and following that missive, Logan is a largely unqualified success. The pace is methodical (some might call it “slow”) at times, there are long breaks between action sequences where we double down on character over incident, and most of the overzealous excess of the two prior Wolverine movies – bar one incredibly silly reveal in the movie’s second half that thankfully doesn’t stick around too long – has been shrewdly slashed away.
The result is a film that gets to have its cake and eat it too, making full-bodied characters out of Logan and Xavier in particular, who share a singular bond that’s both touching and frequently hilarious throughout. Placing a premium on the central trio as people informs the action and makes every beat feel deathly intense, because the movie’s detachment from the core X-Men mythos and the adult tone creates a palpable feeling that all bets are off. Free of executive hand-wringing, death can come at any time for anyone. It sure ain’t pretty, and it happens a lot.
Those who rolled their eyes at Wolverine’s rather bloodless kills in prior franchise entries may find themselves cackling with demented glee as he severs limbs and paints the walls with blood, topped only by seeing a child do the exact same thing with a youthful vigour the beaten-down Logan simply can’t any longer.
The concept of saddling him with a child could have gone so horribly wrong, but thanks to terrific casting and a rather intelligent decision to keep Laura mute for most of the movie, we get a fascinating young character who is dared to convey emotion mostly through facial expressions and the sheer physicality of her action. Her bond with Logan is by turns sweet and difficult, feeling wholly earned by the constant reminders that he isn’t exactly a willing participant in most of this.
Jackman is the beating heart of the movie as you’d expect, and gives by far his most nuanced portrayal of the character, which is of course enormously fitting given it being his final time playing the part. Jackman’s intense physical, anguished performance might’ve picked up Oscar buzz had it been released later in the year, but fans should rest easy that it nevertheless stands among the finest performances in the history of the superhero genre.
It would be remiss not to mention Stewart, who also gets his juiciest material as Xavier, and rises to the challenge in a complex mutation of his typical wise sage role that’s unmistakably sad but also suffused with much-needed comic relief.
Boyd Holbrook meanwhile does solid work as the main villain, a Wolverine fanboy of sorts who has less screen-time than you’d expect but makes the most of it even though he’s never really a compelling physical threat. Richard E. Grant is fine here also, though his role is basically an extended cameo and doesn’t make too much of a dent.
A towering testament to the benefits of being unbound from cinematic universes and teen-friendly subject matter, Logan serves up a grand helping of visceral action – with at least two all-timer sequences for the genre – in a tripwire-tense, deeply satisfying comic book film that stands tall alongside the likes of The Dark Knight, The Avengers and X-Men 2 as one of the best-crafted efforts to date.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.