Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine is an emotionally satisfying swansong for the much beloved mutant.
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Sir Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant
Released: 1st March 2017
Wolverine has had vastly varying levels of treatment on the big screen. As Hugh Jackman’s claw-wielding anti-hero graced our screens in 2000’s inaugural X-Men film, he has proven to be a compelling synthesis of rogue and warrior, light and dark. There could be no better fodder for a standalone movie.
Unfortunately, X-Men Origins: Wolverine happened. The less said about that, the better. Then along came The Wolverine – and along it went, barely making a dent in the collective mind of audiences, critics acknowledging its passing with a courteous shrug.
It can be said, then, that Logan never had to reach a particularly high bar. In terms of its Wolverine-focused peers, it simply had to be “passable” to make the cut. Thankfully, Logan is almost incomparable to its predecessors; it barely deserves to be considered a counterpart. Where those films relied heavily on gimmick, Logan grounds its forays into novelty with a strong foundation of both head and heart.
In a world where no mutants have been born for decades, Logan is attempting to live a relatively quiet life while caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Sir Patrick Stewart), whose neurological debilitation periodically causes him to lose control of his telepathic abilities. Before long, a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) is thrust into their lives, on the run from a looming threat. With Xavier’s illness and Logan’s own powers weakening with age, their ensuing journey together is as much a race against time as it is against their hostile pursuers.
The stakes in Logan are very high, and very effective. Logan and Xavier are older, weaker and cannot blithely assume victory. Their enemies nearly always have the advantage, but Logan’s mission is too important to abandon. This time gruff, tough guy Wolverine is not portrayed in such one-dimensional terms as previous cinematic incarnations; while his motivations seem begrudging, they are strong. It yields a cutting disparity between Logan’s yearning for the glory days of his full strength, when he might have conquered his mission with ease and detachment, and the Logan before us now: older, weaker, and tired. As a result, he is an infinitely more sympathetic and relatable figure than ever before.
The film is made even more visceral by its unabashed uses of colour and space. As Xavier’s telepathy spins out of control and everyone in the vicinity is pinioned by an overwhelming physical manifestation of his anguish, the camera pulls in close on Logan, on Laura, on people frozen in their positions, making the audience feel the tension and their suffocation.
Logan is also unabashedly gory, with blood spurting out even during the most unlikely of foliage-based attacks, but it serves to give the film the same sense of outlandish style and self-aware humour as its comic book source material. As Logan clutches an X-Men comic and bemoans its lack of reality, the irony is evident.
Jackman’s performance helps to cement the films assured grasp of atmosphere. It is arguably the best portrayal of Wolverine he has done, with many more subtle sentiments at work than before. Jackman is given opportunity to convey a lot of emotions through the smallest of gestures and expressions. Stewart, as is expected, turns in an incredible performance. Meanwhile, the wide eyes and nervous glances given by Stephen Merchant, as Logan’s long-suffering albino ally Caliban, are at once endearing and perturbing.
Most impressive of all is Keen’s work as Laura. Often tacit, the depth of her feeling is mostly conveyed through Keen’s physicality, and it is supremely impressive. Such an astonishing performance from someone so young is a great indicator that Keen will be talked about for years to come.
These actors, though, are helped immensely by the script, which gives their characters enough nuance and complexity that the actors have real substance to work with. It must be said that Logan does not pay the same level of attention to its antagonists, and while Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant ostensibly try their best, their characters are given very little depth beyond the label of “villain”. It might have been beneficial if Logan had made its villains a little less obvious.
On a similar note, Logan’s biggest problem is to do with pacing. At over two hours long, its punchy bursts of energy are difficult to sustain, and certain concepts and thrills are worn thin by the third act. Holbrook and Grant’s characters are given far too much attention for so little development, and certain lingering shots of transit do little to develop the film.
Yet these issues don’t dent the experience too much, and deep down Logan is – surprise, surprise – about Logan. And here is where it succeeds the most.
Wolverine has been a cinema favourite for years, and Logan is easily the film to do him real justice. It wins the audience’s attention and investment easily, and rewards them with a heart-rending journey. At times violent, at times bleak, nevertheless both Logan and Logan have at their core a flame of fierce, hopeful humanity.