Stars: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook | Written by James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green | Directed by James Mangold
Oh man, Logan. Everyone’s favourite Mutant is no longer the perma-young man he once was; his healing factor is greatly diminished, he walks with a limp, his hair has turned grey and he needs reading glasses. Eking out a living as a limo driver, Logan is alone, with only a profoundly sick Charles Xavier and Stephen Merchant’s Caliban for company. The Mutants, once feared as the next step in man’s evolution, are all but extinct.
This isn’t Mark Millar’s hyper-violent dystopia, but it is a hyper-violent dystopia. Or at least, it is for Mutants. The X-Men are dead and new Mutants are no longer being born, leaving Logan, Charles and Caliban as the last of their kind. Or are they? Logan’s solitude is penetrated by a very special young girl, seeing refuge from meddling mankind. Pursued by the government, Logan and his hodgepodge family take to the road in search of Eden – a safe haven for little Laura, and away from those that would do her harm… or force her to do harm unto others.
Little Miss Sunshine this ain’t – with its new and hard-earned R rating, Logan is the Wolverine as we’ve always wanted him (no, not wearing the yellow and blue suit, the other thing): super violent and gory. Following hot on the heels of the similarly potty-mouthed and violent Deadpool, it’s the adults/big teenager Wolverine movie that fans have clamoured for since the very beginning. Unlike Deadpool, however, Logan is the superhero movie at its most mature. F-bombs are dropped and limbs are lopped off, but this is in service of a dissection of Logan’s legend, as Mangold, Jackman and the characters parse their own version of continuity. It’s a reality in which X-Men comics exist and perpetuate the idea of Logan the hero – in stark contrast with the reluctant, battered man who limps before us.
Part modern Western, part road movie, part superhero film, it’s no surprise that word of mouth puts Logan on a par with the likes of The Dark Knight and Spider-Man 2 (although I’d go more with Blade). Largely free of the series’ silly and confusing continuity, it’s a strong and focused character piece, and an emotional farewell to a character a whole generation will have grown up on. At last Hugh Jackman gets a movie worthy of his Wolverine, mostly unsullied by studio-mandated CGI fight sequences or teaser-y post-credit sequences. It’s the perfect storm of star, director, character and studio – the latter stepping aside long enough for Jackman and director James Mangold to deliver something truly special.
Special, in this case, being a profane, upsettingly ill Charles Xavier and a Wolverine whose claws now slide out rather than ‘pop’. There’s almost twenty years’ worth of potency to Jackman and Sir Patrick Stewart’s scenes together, and seeing the pair in so much anguish and pain is enough to break any fan’s heart. And, as we might have guessed from the use of Johnny Cash’s Hurt in the trailer, it rarely lets up. Logan is achingly sad; a poignant reminder of man’s mortality and impermanence – even if that man happens to be a 137 (ish) year old Mutant with a healing factor and bones coated with unbreakable metal.
To praise Jackman and Stewart isn’t to undersell the new blood though – newcomer Dafne Keen is shockingly good as Laura/X-23, in a role which calls for bilingualism, ferocity and the ability to do a lot with relatively little. This she accomplishes with aplomb, and watching little Laura do her thing is akin to seeing Hit Girl in Kick-Ass for the very first time. Elsewhere, Stephen Merchant is likeable enough as Caliban, while Boyd Holbrook and Richard E. Grant get the job done as the sinister but perfunctory villains. Holbrook is enjoyably slimy, but Grant and Merchant do tend to feel a little underutilised in places, with Caliban eventually serving as little more than a plot device, lost during more exciting developments.
Inevitably the story does take a turn to more traditional comic book action, but thankfully never enough that it distracts from the matter at hand. It sticks to its guns to the end (silly green superhero serum aside), and emerges as one of the best superhero films ever made for it.
But does Logan, as many have suggested, ‘transcend’ the comic book superhero genre? Ultimately, no. What it does is even better than that; it shows how great the genre can be when it is allowed or sets its mind to it. Certainly, it transcends every X-Men movie so far, and gives Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine the send-off he so thoroughly deserved. Oh man, Logan.