Directed by James Mangold
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen, Richard E Grant
Released on 1st March 2017
The X Men franchise has never really grabbed me. Perhaps I just haven’t seen enough of the series to get into it, but those I have seen just made me shrug my shoulders. OK, but nothing special. Logan, though, is different. It’s nothing to do with my affinity with Hugh Jackman because we share the same birthday. We genuinely do, by the way! If there’s a reason, it’s because it charts a different course from the other nine – yes, this really is number ten! – and it works. Seriously well.
Wolverine, aka Logan’s (Jackman) final outing finds him in New Mexico in 2029, looking after an increasingly ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) while his own powers are on the way out. He knows his body is falling apart, knows it’s nothing to do with age and believes he’s one of the only mutants left on the planet. He finds himself looking after a young, almost silent girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) who turns out to be something of a chip off the old blade. Which means that the possibility of a new generation of mutants could be a possibility after all.
In theory, it’s a comic book movie – but is it really? OK, it’s based on comic book stories, but it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Fantasy action isn’t on offer here: instead, what we get is gruesome, bloody, grim and unapologetic. Decapitation comes as standard. It’s a meaty adventure yarn with a hero at the centre whose first word is an f-bomb and who’s less than loveable on the surface – but his heart, though well concealed, is still most definitely in the right place. The closest the film gets to the original comic books is the ones that we actually see in the movie.
James Mangold, who directs the film, makes his vision clear early on. For him, Logan is an old fashioned western hero, the strong, nearly silent type, protecting the vulnerable, aka women and children. Clips from classic western, Shane, with Alan Ladd as the mysterious stranger who protects a family under threat, spell it out for us. Mangold’s camera lingers on the final scene from the film, when Shane rides off into the sunset, probably mortally wounded, with a tearful Brandon De Wilde calling after him to come back. Now, Logan doesn’t exactly ride off into the sunset, but he most certainly has a final showdown, this time against X-24, a new and especially ruthless version of himself. He’s also played by Jackman, but this time with shorter hair and those familiar mutton chops, all of which makes him look more like Sabretooth, his adversary from X Men Origins:Wolverine.
Knowing his time is limited, Logan is darker and more brooding than we’ve seen him before. But, regardless of his future, he has a chance for redemption in the shape of his young charge, Laura, a ferocious child who, for the majority of the film, lets her mini mutant manicure do her talking with utter savagery. She’s merciless, although her lack of awareness of the ways of the ordinary world does create some amusement. In her first major film role, Keen just goes for it and lets rip in spectacular fashion.
But, despite all the darkness and the gore, Logan has a beating heart and it belongs to the titular mutant himself. There are some genuinely moving moments, some involving Patrick Stewart’s ailing Xavier and others involving the new generation of mutants. And there’s the bond that develops between Laura and Logan so that, even though the film is meant to mark the end of an era, the door is left open for the youngsters to pick up the torch and carry it forwards.
Don’t go expecting a typical X Men movie because you won’t get one. But you will get a film that doesn’t just hit the emotional spot but seems to be remarkably in tune with all the uncertainties in today’s world. Ultimately, it’s Wolverine’s last stand. And he stands tall.
Logan is released in cinemas on Wednesday, 1 March and reviewed on Talking Pictures on Thursday, 2 March.