“I’ve done terrible, unspeakable things.”
It’s taken far too long to get here. Seventeen years since the first X-Men movie and finally someone has realised that a film about an indestructible human being who, via several super secret military experiments, has enormous razor sharp claws that appear on command should probably be a little bit violent. A little bit bloody. Maybe, just maybe, there should be a fatality or two in it.
The fear, of course, is that things might go completely over the top. With 20th Century Fox chasing that Deadpool money, it’s always possible the studio get their grubby little fingers into the Wolverine flavoured pie and ruin it for all of us, forgetting that The Merc with the Mouth was almost certainly a one-off. But there I was, popcorn in hand at the premier screening of director James Mangold’s latest foray into the X-Men universe, hoping for great things.
It’s 2029, mutants are all but extinct and Logan (Hugh Jackman) is an old man who has completely dropped any illusions of being a hero. Living day-to-day as an Uber driver to make enough cash to keep himself in booze, and his ward – the ageing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) – safe, away from prying eyes that may be looking for him. Logan’s world is turned upside down when he meets Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl with extraordinary abilities.
Suddenly finding himself with an army of mercenaries on his tail, the man the world once knew as Wolverine unwittingly has a new mission: to get Laura and Xavier to safety.
As much a western as it is an action film, Logan‘s story is one of redemption. It’s not your everyday, run-of-the-mill comic book movie; and certainly not what you’d expect from a film in the X-Men universe. These usually fluffy and slight films are all well and good – ok, they’re not really, not any more – but that’s not what you’re getting here. Instead, a darker tone (without being all The Dark Knight about it) is how we get to spend the little over two-hour runtime.
First, the elephant in the room. The question so many had. After Deadpool last year, the rumours of a violent, expletive-filled Wolverine movie were floating around almost instantly. There was a worry that 20th Century Fox were just going to throw us a crappy film loaded with content that gives it a 15 rating, with no thought to actually giving us a decent film.
That’s simply something you needn’t worry about. Back on directorial (and writing) duties is James Mangold, the creative force behind 2014’s The Wolverine; a film that was more fun than most of the other films in its shared universe and very, very close to being a perfect Wolverine movie. With Mangold at the helm and seemingly let off the leash to flex his muscles, the veteran writer/director has delivered a thriller that has you enthralled for the whole time it’s on, riveted to the screen, unable to look away.
Hugh Jackman’s Logan is a character to be admired – and the performance is one to sit in awe of. As one of the last remaining mutants in this near future, Wolverine has been forced to become a care-giver and protector of the professor that used to be both to every mutant at his school. This position change takes its toll on the biologically upgraded soldier. He looks tired, both battle and world weary, and Jackman sells that fatigue beautifully.
The same goes for Patrick Stewart as the ninety year old Professor X. A character so used to being the one in charge and in front of everyone else when it came to danger, but has to rely on Logan’s dwindling strength to protect him. Almost entirely helpless in his old age, the ailing mutant can only look on impotently, where once he would have taken charge. Like Jackman’s role reversal, Stewart’s is a thing of beauty to watch. A heartbreaking turn from a person who has previously shown nothing but strength, it’s guaranteed to gently pluck at those heart strings.
Relative newcomer, Dafne Keen, is truly thrown in at the deep end. The eleven year old Laura, a mute girl, whose past mirrors that of Logan’s, is a role that she takes on wholeheartedly and brings everything to. Teaming up with Wolverine is just as much a necessity for her as it is unwanted. Forced into this pairing with the cantankerous mutant is as much a shock to her as it is to him. The young actress deserves a ton of respect; clearly fighting for screen presence against Stewart and Jackman, yet she still manages to shine whilst surrounded by all that star power. Her action scenes are sublime and I was in awe of her performance. She’s clearly worked exceptionally hard to get as good as she is. Long may she continue to impress us.
On the surface, the bad guys can seem a little rubbish. Richard E. Grant’s head-honcho businessman, creating mutants for weapons, is possibly the most one-dimensional, clichéd bad guy you can get. A proper weak spot in an otherwise excellent film is made up for by his dogs body, Pierce. The lead mercenary chasing Laura and Logan is a surgically cold killer. Played by Boyd Holbrook, the brutal, violent headhunter should be commended for being limitlessly entertaining in a role that should be pretty bland, maybe even a little boring. Not here though. The robotically enhanced killer is the kind of guy you could root for, if he wasn’t trying to kill Wolverine.
I feel like we’re being spoiled with Logan. Between Mangold’s near perfect direction and his excellent writing, it has culminated in a brilliantly filmed, amazingly paced actioner that has a surprising amount of emotion and heart. It is excellently acted by its stars (both old and new) in a story about a violent world gone completely mad.
And make no mistake: this is a violent, bloody film. But its beauty is in the fact that while it’s nasty and over the top, it never feel gratuitous or unnecessary. Every bloody swipe of Wolverine’s claws, and every bad guy impaled on the end of them, feels like it had to be done for the good of the character’s progression. Even those moments that make you wince feel necessary.
Dark, morose and grim were always going to be the order of the day for Logan. Loosely based on a comicbook story arc called “Old Man Logan”, there was only ever had one choice when it came to Hugh Jackman’s last outing as Weapon-X. Whether the adaptation is true to the comic book arc or not, I neither know nor care. What I can tell you is that we have finally gotten the Wolverine film that we all wanted. A near perfect movie from everyone involved. If this is indeed the last time we see Jackman and Stewart on the screen together in an X-Men movie, like so many interviews up to his point have said, then everyone has bowed out on a genuine high for the series.
I went into Logan with phenomenally high expectations – as I write this I’ve already seen the film twice and I’m looking to squeeze in a third showing – yet it still managed to blow me away. Honestly, if the people that do the organising can remember this far back when the time comes, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this grabbing a few retrospective awards, later down the line.