Director: James Mangold – Genre: Action/Drama – Year: 2017 – Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant
Logline: In the near future, an ageing Wolverine must protect a suffering Professor X and a mysterious new mutant called Laura.
Whilst watching ‘Logan’ it doesn’t take long to realise it this isn’t an ordinary superhero film. Beyond the fight scenes, the blood, and the claws there’s a solid bed of realistic and compelling human drama. In fact, in many ways the film can be considered a character or family drama given how much it focuses on the pain of its modest cast. Stripping the film to its bare bones, we have a washed-up and irrelevant anti-hero, that now drives a limo as a means of earning money, who looks after his senile ‘father’ with a degenerative brain condition. He is later forced to take care of a daughter that, until recently, he didn’t know existed. This narrative set-up sounds like a painful but quirky indie film – along the lines of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. But these character dynamics aren’t a secondary part of the movie, on the contrary, they’re under the spotlight and they drive the film forward. It’s probably for this reason that they went with the title ‘Logan’ rather than mimicking the older titles (‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ and ‘The Wolverine’) – because it’s effectively a story about human drama. This is the primary reason why ‘Logan’ is so impressive.
The portrayal of the central character, Logan (a.k.a James Howlett, a.k.a Wolverine), is nothing short of fantastic. We’re used to seeing Captain America and Batman with their chests puffed out and fists clenched but when we see Logan we see a graying and bespectacled man, who walks with a limp and wears glasses. The film brings us up to speed with the state he’s in with an brilliantly executed opening scene where Logan is forced to use his claws to deal with some gangsters. Even though we get to see him in action, it’s evident that he’s not the animal he used to be; his claws don’t full retract all the way and his regenerative powers are much slower than before. What we understand from this is that, after being portrayed as immortal in multiple films, Logan now seems vulnerable and frail. On top of this, he’s also shown constantly swigging bottles of booze and even carries an adamantium bullet with him as he contemplates suicide. He’s a has-been celebrity that’s now totally irrelevant – a truly tragic portrait of a once great superhero.
This thorough revision of Logan as a character is certainly a fresh and welcome change to the usual superhero formula. Perhaps we’ve already reached the point where superhero films must do something drastically against the grain in order to stand out because, as fun and spectacular as they are, the MCU films can be ultimately considered quite invariable. Whereas, if we look at the box-office success and positive reception of ‘Deadpool’ and take into account its R-Rating and its uniquely different and fourth-wall-breaking protagonist it’s clear that different is good. Although, ‘Suicide Squad’ can be said to have tried to the same thing and failed by having super-villains as protagonists so I guess the makeshift conclusion can be; make a different superhero movie to be innovative, but make sure it’s still good.
Going into the film I was extremely nervous about the man in the director’s chair, James Mangold, because of how much I hated ‘The Wolverine’ – it was *shit*. I was pleasantly surprised to see ‘Logan’ take a very different path to ‘The Wolverine’ although there were still some ‘classic’ X-Men movie moments – Logan fighting with a younger, stronger version of himself, for instance. Praise is also due to Hugh Jackman because his alleged final appearance as the Canadian super-hero may just be his best – mainly because he’s not only required to growl and scream but also *act*. It is sad to see Jackman leave a role which he has truly made his own over 17 years but I’m certain this is not the last we’ll see of Wolverine. There have been calls from fans for Tom Hardy to adopt the role but who knows what will happen. Perhaps the X-Men rights will be purchased by the MCU and a whole new generation of X-Men will be created…
The rest of the cast was similarly solid; Patrick Stewart is, as always, class as the wilting Professor X and newcomer Dafne Keen is surprisingly great as the young Laura – a character with a strangely large amount of similarities to Eleven from ‘Stranger Things’. Fans of ‘Narcos’ will be glad to hear that a beefed up Boyd Holbrook (a.k.a. Agent Murphy) is delightfully villainous as Pierce.
One thing that has puzzled me about the film is how it fits into the larger X-Men cinematic universe – totally separate to the Iron-Man and Captain America universe, of course. There are now multiple timelines at play here after the event of ‘Days of Future Past’ but, even then, didn’t Professor X die in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’? I’m sure there’s an easy answer to this seemingly gaping plot-hole but the films do risk becoming a bit muddled and confusing. Multiple timelines are ubiquitous in the comics but comic book readers are more dedicated than the average moviegoer.
Some extra tidbits on the film; I respect that the film doesn’t include gratuitous cameos of other X-Men characters and, instead, focuses solely on Logan and his story – brave considering the massive cast list of the last few Avengers films. I also really appreciated the meta-referentiality at play when Logan picks up an X-Men comic and brands it ‘bullshit’ – it totally fits with the theme of him being past his prime. Lastly, I greatly enjoyed how ambiguous the film was with the timeline that the story takes place in – it’s discreetly revealed that Professor X killed a number of X-Men a year ago due to a seizure. Every character seems so desperately bleak and broken even though they were once saving the world – it’s fucking great.
All in all, the film is raw, it’s different and refreshing and this is all affirmed by the ending – I was praying that it wouldn’t end the same way as ‘Batman vs. Superman’. I’m not a huge fan of the X-Men franchise but this is without a doubt my favourite. Maybe the best piece of praise I can give the film is that even if you completely removed the superhero aspect, you would still be left a great movie.