Logan: Not your typical superhero film, but something to get your claws into
Director: James Mangold
It was the year 2000 when the first X-Men film hit movie screens. In the seventeen years since, eight further films have been released, and all-in-all it’s been a mixed bag. We’ve been treated to the highs (X2, First Class, Days of Future Past) and been disappointed by the lows (Last Stand, Origins: Wolverine, Apocalypse). We’ve had alternate timelines, multiple actors portraying the same characters and continuity errors abound.
But one feature that has been consistent throughout this juggernaut film series, is the metal-clawed mutant immortal himself; Wolverine. Played by Hugh Jackman, Wolverine (Also known by his real name Logan) has appeared in every X-Men film since the beginning; even if it did feel rather shoe-horned-in in First Class and Apocalypse. Furthermore, the character’s undoubted popularity has led to two previous Wolvie-centric films, making the latest one, simply titled Logan, the end of a trilogy and also, the end of an era. Jackman has decided that this will be the final time he dons the famous adamantium claws and plays the legendary anti-hero. And it certainly feels like a fitting way to say goodbye.
Logan isn’t your typical superhero film, in fact it’s easy to forget that it is indeed a superhero film that you are watching. The better X-Men films are the ones more grounded in reality and director James Mangold has made a conscious effort to ditch the latex suits and bright CGI in favour of a cleverer, grittier, more stylised tone.
Here we find Logan at the end of his tether. He spends his time chauffeuring people around to pay for medication for a dying Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). But Charles isn’t the only one with health concerns. Logan isn’t healing as quickly or as effectively as he once could; and that’s bad news for a guy with as many enemies as him. Just when it seems things can’t get any worse for our hero; they of course, do. Logan unexpectedly finds himself caring for a young girl, Laura- a mutant like him. What follows is essentially a pursuit, a road trip movie; one that’s more Mad Max: Fury Road than Dumb And Dumber.
The plot is nothing complex, but the script is undoubtedly well written. It’s clever, fresh, full of pathos and not lacking in charm or wit. There are no superhero clichés here, it feels wholly original.
As for the performances, they are, on the whole, first class. Patrick Stewart proves once again why his Professor X is superior to the James McAvoy prequel version. We get a glimpse here of a side of Charles we’ve never seen before, and Stewart gives a layered performance with such ease. Richard E Grant’s big bad villain is the only disappointment of the piece. His Zander Rice is underwhelming and rather clichéd and not nearly as threatening as Boyd Holbrook’s Donald Pierce, who gives a surprisingly twisted, menacing performance. Newcomer Dafne Keen is a revelation as Laura. She encompasses the screen with such presence and nuance for such a young talent. Her action scenes are as entertaining to watch as Wolverine’s and even in her emotional scenes, she never feels anything less than Jackman’s equal.
But of course, it is Jackman’s show. The actor has always committed 100% to the role, but if possible, here he seems to commit even more. Logan is a weakened man, hardened by life and still living with the guilt of all the lives he has taken. Jackman’s is an unfaltering performance, perfectly capturing Logan’s tiredness and rage, and doing so with such nuance. This is a character he knows like the back of his hand, but this is never a weakness in his portrayal, only a strength. Fellow superhero Ryan Reynolds has tipped Jackman’s performance here as Oscar-worthy, and while that is unlikely, Reynolds’ sentiment can certainly be shared.
Mangold aimed for a more basic superhero film, with its epic-ness seen through the storytelling and character nuances rather than a large cast and colourful effects. Logan is stripped back, comparable to an acoustic album in a discography mostly consisting of pop and soft rock. It’s also violent… very violent. Previous films have been limited by their age rating, but here a 15 rating (Gained at the sacrifice of a lower pay cheque for Jackman) allows Mangold to show almost as much blood and gore as he wants. There aren’t many characters that make it to the end credits with their heads still attached to their bodies. But what did we expect? After all, this is a film about people with knives attached to their hands.
One aspect I was uncertain about upon viewing the film’s trailer was the meta-fiction element. Laura is shown to be a fan of the X-Men, carrying X- Men comics around with her wherever she goes. The X- Men are presented as famous in this world, almost legendary. My scepticism was aimed at whether this could be pulled off without seeming gimmicky or a novelty thrown in for fan service. But I needn’t have been worried, Mangold makes it work here. The comics have a purpose, they, in part, drive the narrative. Meaning the meta-fiction is a success. But with this, and last year’s Deadpool, it now seems fashionable in cinema for the lines between fiction and reality to become blurred.
Logan is not your standard superhero film; it’s more. With beautiful direction, poignant storytelling and a cast largely giving it their all, Logan breaks new ground in a crowded genre. It’s director and lead actor working harmoniously to create something that’s both large and epic but also emotional and nuanced. This may well be Jackman’s magnum opus and it undoubtedly feels like the perfect way to say goodbye to a much-loved character, an old friend.
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