Logan, directed by James Mangold, delivers the film that both the character of Wolverine and the actor, Hugh Jackman have always deserved. A focus on characters and the support of a contained, simple story, make this not only the best the X-Men franchise of films has to offer, it also now puts it in contention for one of the best superhero films. It is also a touchingly fitting end to a character that has been played by the same actor for the last 17 years. I’m eager and excited to get into the review so let’s get to it.
Hugh Jackman returns for the final times as Logan/Wolverine. It is the year 2029 and mutants are more or less extinct. The two remaining that we recognise are of course Logan, but also Professor Xavier – played also for the final time by Patrick Stewart. They come across, Laura/X-23 – played by Dafne Keen – a girl with special abilities, abilities that remind them of someone in particular – Wolverine himself. They must protect her from an organisation that wants her back (for it nefarious means), but they must also shepherd her and guide her towards a better path. While it is the ending for some, it is a new beginning for others.
I, like many other people, was really eager to see Logan – particularly after the first trailer – but something that was forever on my mind was how this film couldn’t possibly live up to the hype built up by people, let alone the hype built up in my own head. Well, it somehow did it, it was able to live up to that hype and also surpass it. Logan is undoubtedly the highlight of Hugh Jackman’s time with the character and is also possibly the best X-Men film to date (some more reflection is needed on that last point before I perhaps set it in stone).
As Hugh Jackman’s last time as the character comes to a close, I have no reservations when stating that this is absolutely the film he and the character have always deserved – it is his swan song, if you will. The film really takes the time to explore a side and a contextual situation for the character that we have never seen fully. This is Logan at his lowest and his most detached; a place where he has fully lost touch with who and what he was – not even his abilities can be relied on anymore. It is such a vulnerable place that we find him in, and it is explored brilliantly – both in the context of the character, and by Hugh Jackman himself.
Much more than the previous two solo Wolverine films; this one fully opens up and explores him as a person. When you remove a man like Logan from world saving events, where the magnitude of the situation overshadows his issues, you really do get to see just how hurt he really is. For a man who can heal himself, he really does have a lot of scars – internally as well as externally. Well actually that externally part is true, as Logan is now at a point in his life where his immortality and indestructability are ironically the things that are killing him. We haven’t seen him in this kind of state before; where a simple conflict with some car-jackers is now a painful struggle for him.
The best decision that they perhaps made for this film (though there are quite a few) is that they brought Logan down to a level, a place that we haven’t witnessed before. In a weird way, they make him more human than he’s ever been. And with that comes a person whose soul and pain is truly on show to see. Logan takes what has always been a deeply rich character (who has never properly been explored) and gives us one of the most honest and meaningful explorations ever seen on film. It is in the character that this film fully finds its success.
Speaking of which, there is more than just, Logan himself in the film. There is a very rich supporting cast of characters/actors that deserve praise. This is also Patrick Stewart’s last time playing the role of Professor Charles Xavier, and much like Hugh Jackman and the character, Wolverine, this is a perfect ending to his time as the character and also perhaps his best performance as him. There is a tragedy within Charles and there is also a sickness, and all of it makes for the character – much like Logan – being in a very vulnerable place. But he also helps to bring quite a bit of levity to the film; delivering some of the funniest lines. What you get is a nice balance of humour, but also the emotional and physical turmoil that plagues the character. It is both Stewart’s and Xavier’s swan song as well, and while of course it’s sad to see, it is also nice to see them both go out in such a powerful and truly memorable way.
And then there’s, Dafne Keen (Laura/X-23) who is a revelation in the film. For such a young girl, whose experience in front of the camera is non-existent before this film; it is incredible to see what she achieves in it. She mirrors the intensity and the rage that Hugh Jackman is famous for bringing out, and she is very much his equal in terms of the characteristics that they exude. Even though she barely speaks in the film, she still says so much with her mannerisms and also her expressive face. This is a young actress who should have a very promising career going forth, and I’m excited to see where she goes from here.
The last character I want to touch upon is the films primary antagonist, Donald Pierce – played by Boyd Holbrook. So for me the character wasn’t given the level of development that I personally would have liked, but interestingly, Boyd Holbrook himself was so charismatic in his delivery of the character, that I couldn’t help but be excited every time he appeared on-screen. There are parts where he is only in a scene to look menacing, and in those instances, yes there wasn’t much to work with. But overall, Holbrook himself was so intriguing and so memorable as the character, that I couldn’t help but enjoy anytime he appeared in the film. So while I would have liked more of him in the film, I still think it is primarily thanks to Holbrook that he was as much of a standout as he was. I’m also eager to see him in other films going forward, too.
All those characters are then of course placed within the overarching story, which is one that is contained enough that it never really gets in the way of what is most important: the characters. When you remove the need for the plot to involve a world ending event, it really frees the film up to have a more direct and unencumbered attempt at a story; one in which the characters can move more fluidly within it. Now I wasn’t overly engaged by the entire story; elements of it felt a little bland. But in the grand scheme of things, the story was the least important part (which I know is a weird thing to say). As I’ve already pointed out, the film is predominantly about the characters, and it is does a great job of never losing that focus. So even though I wasn’t fully enamoured by the plot itself, I still felt it was an adequate accompaniment to the actual elements that pulled me in and engaged me. Also not being a world ending type of film is just really refreshing and in an odd sort of way – kind of relaxing. Those types of films can get overbearing and slightly tedious. It’s nice to have something that’s smaller in scale, and more deliberate in its intent.
In fact this is what I think Fox needs to do more of. It worked great for ‘Deadpool’ last year and it works great for Logan as well. Meanwhile, ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’ was just a mess. A film that isn’t locked into a larger narrative; not having to tie it into multiple different films and also prepare to set up the next one; is just a more freeing and easier to manage experience. Fox more than anyone else really struggles with continuity in its franchises – just look at the mess that is the X-Men film franchise. Logan and ‘Deadpool’ very smartly remove themselves from that burden, and make it so there are no repercussions for their decisions, nor do they have to submit to other rules set up in a different film, by a completely different team of people.
And the other great decision – one that I can’t believe Fox signed off on, though I’m glad they did – was that they allowed it to have an R rating (a 15 rating here in the UK). That ability to show the true damage and carnage that Wolverine can unleash, really does add something to the experience of watching him in a conflict. It’s more visceral; it’s more impactful, and it just makes for a much more fulfilling engagement with the action scenes. It didn’t feel like it was used in excess and it didn’t feel like they went silly with it just because they had the option too. It felt like what would happen if Wolverine was to unleash on a group of bad guys, and when you look at it honestly, it’s just cool to watch – simple as that.
In the end, it’s a bittersweet experience. On the one hand this is such a perfect ending for Hugh Jackman and the character he has played on-screen for the last 17 years – as well as for Patrick Stewart. But it’s also sad because this film is just so damn good that you want to see them do another one. In Jackman and Stewarts’ last time as these characters, they deliver their absolute best. It’s crazy really; this is the end of an era for something that has been a constant in my life since I was a wee lad. Hugh Jackman has always been Wolverine – unlike other superhero characters who have had multiple actors play the part – only Jackman has been Wolverine. And now for that to no longer be the case is… well sad. I suppose the good thing that can be gleamed from it all, is that his last time was absolutely his best, and that’ll always be the case.
So this is an easy one; I am recommending Logan. Go see it; it’s as simple as that. A superhero film of this calibre has been a long time coming, and you’re going to want to make sure you experience this one.
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