Released: 3rd March 2017
Director: James Mangold
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant
It’s telling that there’s no mention of either the X-Men or Wolverine in the title of this latest installment of the franchise. It’s not only a bold statement of intent, it’s perfectly and simply illustrating that this isn’t anything like what has come before it.
Despite making the Wolverine role his own over the last 18 years or so, Hugh Jackman has never had the opportunity to do as much with the character as he has in Logan.
As far away from a superhero film as any Marvel property is likely to be allowed to be, Logan is simply magnificent, though it’s anything but an easy watch. There’s nothing majorly comic-booky going on here. It’s a Western. More, it’s a bloody, violent, bleak and at times even upsetting, Western road movie and if it is indeed the last time Jackman is to pop his claws, he’s clearly gone out in the best way possible.
The predicted similarities to Millar and McNiven’s Old Man Logan have proven to be fruitless, save for the fact that it’s set in the future and Logan is an old man. Not as old as Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) though, with the pair being the last surviving X-Men and, as far as they know, alongside their companion Caliban (a never more droll Stephen Merchant) the last surviving mutants full stop. No more are being born and Xavier’s degenerative brain disease means he needs to be kept drugged and locked away for the safety of everyone in the vicinity due to his uncontrollable psychic seizures.
Logan is splitting his time nursemaiding Xavier and bringing in the money as a limo driver along the Tex-Mex border, which appears to have a large wall in 2029. Poisoned by his own Adamantium skeleton, the Wolverine is a shadow of his former self, with a misfiring healing factor and a burgeoning drink problem. It’s actually hard to watch at times, such is the weight Jackman brings to his most iconic role. This is a broken man and a million miles away from any a Wolverine we’ve seen before.
Redemption comes in the tiny but lethal form of X-23, or Laura (Dafne Keen) as the good guys call her. It’s played as a kind of mystery to her origins, but we all know who she is and they’ve not taken any liberties here. Logan’s clone (or “daughter” as Charles insists) has been rescued from a Weapon X offshoot by a nurse who wants Logan to take her to a safe haven for mutants in North Dakota, but she’s being pursued by The Reavers, cybernetically-enhanced mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
What follows is a road movie, with Logan trying to outrun not only The Reavers, but his own legacy and it’s not until fairly near the end of its lengthy 140-minute run time that we get anything like the old Wolverine that we know and love. It’s a testament to how both well Mangold tells his story and Jackman carries it on his visibly-scarred shoulders that it doesn’t matter at all.
It’s not just Jackman doing the heavy lifting though, as Patrick Stewart is remarkable here. Frail and helpess at times, but still with that spark of genius and optimism for mutantkind shining through in his more lucid moments. It’s his interactions with Logan that trigger most of the film’s few attempts at humour, giving the pair an almost Steptoe and Son relationship.
Saying that, there’s plenty of pathos to their complicated friendship. Even though they’re planning on escaping to live on the ocean, you can’t escape the feeling Logan is just waiting for Charles to die so he can put that Adamantium bullet he carries around in his own brain and end it all.
If this sounds like a dark character study, that’s because it generally is, but there’s plenty of action too. It’s by far the most graphically violent Marvel movie so far, with the damage meted out by Logan and Laura’s claws positively wince-inducing at times, but it’s all in service of the plot.
There’s a solemn streak of finality about Logan from the very first scene to the final credits, so there’s no mistaking that this is, 100% the final Wolverine movie, but it’s also the best by some margin. It’s also arguably the best X-Men movie and going to be pretty hard to top for the rest of the year’s big comic adaptations.
An instant, stone-cold classic. Who saw that one coming?
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy