The Verse’s Oliver Pendlington reviews the latest instalment of Wolverine’s Story, ‘Logan’
Director: James Mangold
Screenplay: Scott Frank, James Mangold and Michael Green
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant and Dafne Keen
Plot: In the near future, mutants are on the verge of extinction. An ageing Logan (Jackman), whose healing powers have begun to deteriorate, now spends his days caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Stewart). But Logan soon finds himself thrust back into action when a mysterious 11-year-old girl named Laura (Keen) ends up under his protection.
After 17 years since the first X-Men movie in 2000, Hugh Jackman and Logan/Wolverine are pretty much as synonymous as bread and butter. And yet we now have the film which (seemingly) sees that long association end. During production, director James Mangold repeatedly stated that he did not want Jackman’s swan-song as the metal-boned mutant to be a “CGI fuck-a-thon” like most contemporary superhero films. (Particularly last year’s CGI-messy X-Men: Apocalypse). Astonishingly, he has largely stayed true to his word. Even more so, he has done it in a way that completely exceeds all expectations. Logan literally re-defines the modern superhero genre.
That being said, Logan doesn’t even look or feel like your average superhero film. It is certainly far more bloody and violent. Which is genuinely quite shocking (hence its 15 rating). But it is also different in numerous other ways. For instance, it largely draws on influence from classic Westerns and road-trip movies for its locations and pure scope. From barren deserts to isolated roadways (all beautifully shot on location with relatively little CGI enhancements). At one point, Shane is even played in a casino hotel, further reinforcing this genre link.
But story-wise, this near-futuristic world that Logan and Charles (Patrick Stewart) live and hide in does not seem too far removed from contemporary society. One considerably ruled by dark hostility and prejudice. The X-Men films have of course heavily focused on these themes. However Logan addresses this in a bleak and mournful way that feels extremely humane and realistic compared to what has come before.
This extends to its portrayal of the characters, who are thankfully allowed to drive the story more than the visuals. Though Logan and Charles’ exploits have been explored for 17 years, neither have been more vulnerable than they are in Logan. Both are shown as crippled from the ageing side-effects of their powers. Jackman and Stewart give their best performances as their characters. Bringing such nuanced depth that adds to the two’s multi-layered relationship. However, they are often upstaged by young newcomer Dafne Keen as Laura. A character driven by violent actions and sullen expressions more than dialogue. When the action scenes come, she literally draws more blood than Logan ever did. And yet she is still a strong and sympathetic addition to the X-Men canon, forming a wonderfully poignant trio with her mentors while having her own special awareness of the world around her.
It is this notion of family and the faint glimmer of hope that gives Logan an overwhelming emotional core that makes it hard not to cry at times. Because of these heavy themes, it may not entirely appeal to fans expecting usual superhero conventions. But in truth, this doesn’t really matter. In an age when countless superhero films dominate the box office, Mangold has created one so elegiac and grown-up that it stands out as something unique. Logan is the best X-Men film. Furthermore, it is one of the best of its genre, to date.