20th CENTURY FOX (2017)

Director: James Mangold

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant

Firmly billed as Hugh Jackman’s final outing as the legendary Wolverine, after a mere 17 years in the role, surely Logan brings the Wolverine snarling and brawling back to the big screen for a last hurrah? Well, actually, no, not quite. Instead, we see Logan as an older man, withdrawn from society, married to booze and living out his life as a restrained chauffeur.

 

The mutants of the world are all but extinct (now ex-men, if you will) and Professor X lives a sheltered life near the Mexican border, hidden away by Logan and helped through the quiet stages of his concluding life by the sun-hating Caliban. So, we have a weary old drunk hiding a senile, elderly man aided by a giant heliophobe – sounds like a hoot huh? Well, let me tell you, it most certainly is, all aided by a young girl who comes into Logan’s life.

Of course, it isn’t that simple. The young girl isn’t just any girl, she’s extremely gifted in the ways of the mutant and is bought to Logan’s reluctant attention as she is being hunted for escaping a facility where she, and many similar children, were being housed. On top of that, Professor X requires treatment to prevent seizures that create seismic shockwaves (and seismic problems for everyone nearby) and Logan’s adamantium skeleton is poisoning his inside. All going well so far. Together, they must all reach a location that allegedly provides a safe haven to surviving mutants – and of course, the baddies have other ideas.

 

Shedding the usual beats and tropes of modern superhero movies, Logan inverts all of this and becomes something bigger and ultimately, much better. Less superhero movie and more Western. Of course, Logan uses his trademark claws and mutants are present throughout, but it’s not about them or the powers they possess – this is a character driven story that surprisingly throbs with emotion.

 

Hugh Jackman really gives his all in his final ride as Logan/Wolverine, by the end of the movie every bead of emotion has been left on screen – his bitterness, violence, anger, rage, compassion, and the rest all laid bare. It’s clear he relished the chance to delve deeper into the man, as opposed to the mutant, and delivers an exceptional performance as the weary and withdrawn ex-legend. Similarly, Patrick Stewart offers a fine display in probably his final outing as Charles Xavier – a solid supporting role as the broken Professor struggling to control his enormous failing brain activity.

 

Newcomer Dafne Keen is a revelation in her role as Laura/X-23. Initially, I was concerned at how her presence would fit into this gritty, violent world, but thankfully she not only fits but belongs. Putting the mute into mutant (give me that one) her near silent performances simmer with an underlying fury belying her youthful exterior. Also, it was nice to see a villain who wasn’t as useless as standard superhero nasties, Boyd Holbrook – well done.

 

The story follows Logan, Charles and Laura travelling across the United States as they seek the Promised Land and along the way, trouble follows them at every turn. Logan here, however, is unrestrained and is ultra-violent in his quest, the movie’s higher rating allowing for greater violence and language and there is no shortage of crunching violence – never becoming gratuitous or over-saturated. Thanks to the great camerawork and cinematography, the action is close and frenetic, allowing it to feel as brutal as it looks. The hotel seizure scene is a standout for relentless Wolvie-claw rage.

 

There is a surprising amount of emotion dripping from the movie. Maybe this is partly due to the pre-release hype of Jackman’s final performance being ingrained in the viewer, but the raw delivery of the movie certainly helps pack a punch during the scenes where it’s necessary. The sense of doom lingers over the picture from the first frame and never seems to let up. Does that make Logan a depressing movie? No, but it is certainly devoid of the colour fest and whizz-bang of usual comic book offerings. It’s that which may lead to negative reactions from some, the movie is so different and moves at a completely different pace than standard that it may have people wanting more as the story unfolds. Thankfully, the pacing is fine as it is and James Mangold shows sufficient restraint.

 

Delivering an understated epic, Logan provides Hugh Jackman with the fitting send off for the character he made his own for so long. He can hang up his claws proudly now.

 

No yellow spandex still, thankfully.

October 27th 2016

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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