Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart & Dafne Keen
Synopsis: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hideout 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.
Rating: 15 Duration: 137 minutes Release date: 1 March (UK)
It’s been 17 years since Hugh Jackman first walked onto our screens as the now iconic Wolverine. First seen in Bryan Singer’s X-Men, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine was perfectly cast in a Canadian bar taking part in illegal cage fights for money. It was a wonderful introduction that cemented the character and made Hugh Jackman an instant star. It’s been a long and often hard journey for the character and his fans, but the characters charm has remained constant. It would be a cold heart not to feel attached to him after all this time and Logan brings the curtain down in a brilliant, emotionally charged way that is haunting in its bleak beauty.
Set in the year 2029, Wolverine cuts a lonely, broken figure. Now working as a chauffeur, his old life is long behind him. The only remnants from his time with the X-Men are an elderly and severely ill Professor Xavier and mutant tracker Caliban. The three hide out in Mexico in a disused factory where Xavier is being cared for while Logan attempts to raise enough money to finally get away from their current excuses for lives. With Logan ageing and now suffering from poisoning from the very thing that used to keep him alive; adamantium, and Xavier deteriorating to the point where his mind is now “a weapon of mass destruction” time would appear to be up for the both of them. That is until a young girl named Laura who has similar abilities to Wolverine shows up in desperate need of their help.
Although quite clearly set after the events of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Wolverine and several of the X-Men films, Logan feels distinctly like its own beast. There are subtle nods to Wolverine’s previous adventures as well a horrific yet subtlety touched upon explanation of what has happened to the other X-Men. There is bleakness in both the feel and tone of the film as well as the overall look. While not quite the barren wasteland seen in Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan comic, upon which Logan is loosely based, it feels like a different landscape that what we are used to from the X-Men films and moves away from the over-saturated and bloated feel that those films can hold; here’s looking at you X-Men: Apocalypse. Instead we get a focused, highly driven film strong on character and featuring little in the way of world-ending bad guys. It’s a welcome change from recent superhero outings and feels closer to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in the sense of escalation and character driven moments.
What is striking about Logan is the sense of hope that prevails throughout the film. Of course, there is a bitterness and a sense that things may not end well for our heroes, but through Logan and Xavier’s relationship as well as the introduction of Laura, aka X-23, comes a new sense of promise. Despite being broken in more ways than one, Logan begins to find himself with a fresh purpose, much to the joy of Professor Xavier who carries a few demons of his own. It’s interesting to see a superhero film play out like this and stay away from the recent tropes that have hindered the genre in many respects and instead aim for something different. In ways similar to Mad Max and even The Terminator we get a chase film wrought with action and tension. When the action hits it does so in a visceral, bloody sense and Logan finally lets Wolverine go full berserker as we see truly what he is capable of.
In among the action are some dark, sombre moments. Both Wolverine and Xavier are allowed the time to reflect on their respective pasts and director James Mangold knows when to let these scenes flow naturally and when to break them up with another set piece. Logan owes much to the western genre and Mangold is smart enough to make this relevant. He builds events and emotion through patience and only the late arrival of another villain feels somewhat shoehorned in. It’s an almost delicate approach, which feels ironic when the film is so savage in other areas.
Credit must go to Mangold for finally making the Wolverine film that the character and the fans deserve. Critics were quick to lambaste Origins, while The Wolverine was indeed a noble effort, but failed to engage the audience with Mangold even recently admitting it didn’t go as he had planned. Likewise, Hugh Jackman put everything into this role. It’s clearly a character that is very close to him and his engagement with Wolverine here is arguably his best performance in the role full of feeling and gravitas. If this is his final time playing Wolverine, it will de difficult to see anyone else stepping into the role.
At times Logan can be hard to stomach, it’s an emotional gut-punch like no other. And even when it threatens to lose its way it picks itself and dusts itself off ready to go again. When you’re involved with a character in the way you are with Wolverine it’s hard to let go and Logan will sink in and stay with you in a way unfamiliar with most superhero outings. It’s a remarkable feat for a remarkable character.