Logan

Posted: March 12, 2017 in Film reviews
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Directed by James Mangold. Starring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart.

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“For the last time I’m not Mel Gibson!”

The year is 2029 and James “Logan” Howlett (Jackman) is working as a chauffeur in Texas. It’s been fifteen years since any new mutants were born, and a year after a devastating event in Westchester saw many civilians and members of the X-Men killed. In constant pain, and with his healing powers failing him, Logan spends a lot of time drinking. He also buys black-market drugs from a hospital employee, but they aren’t for him. Instead they are for Professor Charles Xavier (Stewart) who Logan lives with at an abandoned smelting plant across the border in Mexico.

Xavier’s powerful mind has been brought low by a degenerative brain disorder, and at times he doesn’t know who Logan is, whilst occasionally he has seizures that can create psychic storms that are dangerous to those around him. Also living with Logan and Xavier is another mutant, the albino Caliban (yes that really is Stephen Merchant).

Logan’s only goal is to save enough money that he and Xavier can buy a boat, but one day he is approached by a woman and her daughter. The woman claims she’s being hunted by her ex-boyfriend, and asks The Wolverine for help. Logan initially refuses to help, until the woman offers him money. It soon becomes apparent however that the little girl Laura (Dafne Keen) is not the woman’s daughter, and is far more than a normal child. It also becomes clear that powerful forces are hunting for her, and Logan and Xavier are forced to go on the run with her, but however far they go can the Wolverine escape old age and a history of violence?

 

And so, after playing the character for seventeen years, Hugh Jackman dons the adamantium claws for the final time having declared that, after Logan, he won’t play the character of Wolverine again. This will be his ninth X-Men movie appearance as the character, although in some instances (X-Men First Class, X-Men Apocalypse) those appearances were effectively just cameos.

For his final turn Jackman pushed for a more adult, darker film, even by all accounts reducing his fee to ensure the film could be R rated, and the result is something unlike any other film in the X-Men series to date, which is both a good and a bad thing and, laying my cards on the table, I have to say that I came out of Logan feeling somewhat how I felt coming out of Rogue One (another film that could be considered a darker take on a particular franchise) in that whilst I really liked it, it’s very detachment from the tone of the rest of the franchise prevents me genuinely loving it.

Taken in isolation though Logan is a very well put together film, although much of what makes it good comes down to the central performances; primarily Jackman, but also Stewart, with both men putting their all into the roles. As Logan Jackman essays a man who’s been fighting his whole life but who has finally reached a point where his body is beginning to fail him, a man whose only remaining drive is to protect and care for his mentor.

As Xavier Stewart plays a man whose mental facilities were always his crowning glory, now reduced to man whose mind is now as crippled as his body. It’s a wonderful performance that, for personal reasons, resonated with me a lot. He never overplays it, but always sells it right. The little flashes of light when the real Charles comes back, the confusion when the fog descends. At another time, and in another frikken universe, it’s the kind of performance worthy of a best supporting actor nomination at the very least.

Together they make an amusingly melancholic double act, and for all its swearing and violence it is the quieter moments between these two men that are the best parts of the film, and for part of the film the double act becomes a triumvirate with the addition of young Laura. Dafne Keen gives a performance above her years, although I have to say I thought she was better when she was mute, seeming more alien. The strongest section of the film is probably the middle third down to these actors.

The R/15 rating ensures the film features the F-bomb a lot, and also features some quite gratuitous violence of the kind unseen in any other X-Men film. It’s always been a slight problem with filmic Wolverine to show the man in action, after all his primary fighting style does involve giant metal claws, and here for the first time we see him in all his gory glory, but that said there’s only so much you can do to vary ‘man stabs claws into other man’s head’ so without the quieter character moments this might have been an infinitely less interesting film.

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Xaver “take the next left.” Logan “Bloody back seat mutants!”

Eschewing many of the superhero tropes, Logan is better described as a western, and shares a lot of DNA with something like Unforgiven, the man who’s led a life of violence finding some kind of redemption with one final battle. Mangold helped write the script, and it’s clear where his and Jackman’s inspirations came from. Again, in part this western setting is what sets Logan apart, but whilst original for a superhero film, Logan doesn’t deviate much from western tropes, and some of the film is painted in brush strokes that are a little too broad. Doing a homage to Shane is one thing, but Mangold overdoes it, and the grizzled gunslinger drawn back for one final battle is, has already been said, hardly original. As such large swathes of Logan are somewhat formulaic, and anyone who understands the concept of Chekov’s Gun (a gun shown in the first act will always be fired in the third) will quickly pick up on the presence of Chekov’s ‘you’ll know it when you see it.’

Which isn’t to say the film doesn’t surprise on occasion, I just wish it had deviated from the well-trodden path more often than it did. There are some genuine shocks, not least what happens to some innocent civilians, made worse by the fact that said events were completely avoidable.

Going back to Shane, of course what Shane had was a worthy adversary in Jack Palance’s sneering hired gun, and if there is a place where Logan falls down it’s in the adversaries. Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his Reavers are little more than a bland group of expendable mercenaries. The X24 mutant is more interesting, but given he doesn’t say a whole lot he’s more a force of nature than anything else, which leaves much to fall on Richard Ed Grant’s shoulders as the villainous scientist and Grant at least tries his best.

I guess the producers will say the villains aren’t that important, because the real enemy for both Logan and Xavier is time itself, and I can’t entirely argue with that.

As a film to bow out on Logan is a worthy end for the character, certainly Logan is ten times the film something like X-Men Origins: Wolverine was, and is a better film than quite a few entries in the X-Men canon. I can’t say it’s the best X-Men film, though I know many people will call it that. Dark, powerful, heartfelt, action packed and exceptionally well-acted it’s clearly the best Wolverine film and credit to Jackman for pushing for this kind of sign off.

But I can’t help wishing he’d relent and come back one more time for Deadpool 2…

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“Who are you looking at?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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