Sunday, 5 March 2017


(MA15+) ★★★★

Director: James Mangold.

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Dafne Keen, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Elizabeth Rodriguez.

"You've got some red on you."

Given this is supposedly Hugh Jackman's last outing as Logan AKA Wolverine, it's worth remembering how close we came to having someone else in the role.

In an alternate universe, Mission: Impossible 2 didn't run over schedule and Dougray Scott retained the role of the clawed mutant, potentially delaying (or completely erasing) Jackman's big break (in that same universe Stuart Townsend is Aragorn and Tom Cruise is Iron Man).

We'll never know what Scott would have made of the role, but it's hard to argue against the idea that we would have been robbed of one of the great marriages of comic book character and actor - surely Jackman's Wolverine is up there with Heath Ledger's Joker and Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark.

While eternally grateful for Jackman's belated casting, the films Wolverine has appeared in have been a mixed bag. We've had two good original X-Men films and one bad, two good X-Men prequels (with Wolverine only getting a cameo in one) and one average one (with a slightly longer cameo), and one terrible Wolverine spin-off movie and one predominantly okay one.

Thankfully, finally, just in time for Jackman to hang up the adamantium claws, we get a bona fide great Wolverine movie. Much has been made of Logan's MA15+ rating, and the fact it's an "adult" superhero movie somewhat in the footsteps of Deadpool. This is indeed a contributing factor to Logan's excellence - no more bloodless violence dished out by a bladed rage monster. There will be blood, promised Jackman, and he and Mangold deliver.

But splashings of claret (and the dropping of f-bombs) aside, this is an adult superhero movie because it treats its characters seriously and with respect. It has little to do with the Old Man Logan comic that fans may have been expecting but instead crafts a sensible story about a man running out of time, and with nowhere left to run, who finds he may be the only hope someone else has. This is The Dark Knight of the X-Men universe. It's sombre and serious but not in a daft or OTT way a la Batman Vs Superman.

The story is set in the year 2029, where Logan is one of only a handful of mutants left. A shadow of the invulnerable beast he once was, he spends his nights driving limos and his days caring for the ailing Professor X (Stewart) with help from fellow surviving mutant Caliban (Merchant).

Into this tedious existence comes Laura, a young girl with remarkable powers and a whole host of bad guys on her trail. Against his own better judgement, Logan and Professor X hit the road in the hopes of getting Laura to safety while avoiding getting killed.

The film is a road movie and a one-last-job actioner but at its core, Logan is about death and the fact that it catches up with everyone. And when it does catch up with you, much like in the Johnny Cash song When The Man Comes Around which plays over the credits, the question will be posed as to what your life has been worth. Logan is about Wolverine getting one last shot at something close to redemption, as much as it's about the filmmakers ensuring Jackman gets the Wolvie film he deserves. It's redemption all round.

The big talking point for fans is the violence because of how it shapes the tone of Logan, making it more in line with the darker aspects of the character. It's visceral and initially alarming to see this much-loved mutant stick his blades through someone's head, given how bloodless and tame his previous appearances have been, but it's necessary. After all, as previously mentioned, this is about death, and right from the opening confrontation we understand just how high the stakes are in Logan.

It might sound bizarre to say this for those of you who dismiss superhero movies as "just superhero movies", but this is one of Jackman's best performances. He knows the character like the back of his bespiked hand, so the joy is in seeing him take Wolverine into new directions - more vulnerable, angrier, nihilistic, and more dangerous than ever before.

Stewart is also excellent as the 90-year-old version of Professor X. He has always given his all for these films, and doesn't disappoint here. Merchant is solid in the role of Caliban, but the show-stealer is Keen as Laura. Her character is a terrified and mystified ball of rage and Keen handles the physicality and emotional sides with equal aplomb.

Good villains are hard to come by in superhero films and most of the baddies here won't leave an imprint on your memory. Grant's Xander Rice is merely a catalyst and Holbrook's Donald Pierce is mouthy and okay, but it is the film's physical threat - an unlikely but welcome twist - who is the most interesting.

The smaller size and scale of the film is a refreshing change from the things-falling-from-the-sky-style superhero movie we've been seeing a lot of lately (Suicide Squad, Dr Strange, Age Of Ultron, Avengers etc...). It suits the character, creates a welcome tone and style to the film, and adds to the intimacy and punch of it all.

It's also beautifully shot, excellently scored, but there are flaws, mostly of the plotting variety. There are a whole bunch of super-powered individuals here that rarely use their powers and some characters with surprising skill sets given their backgrounds. These particular plot holes become increasingly frustrating by the film's end.

These issues aside, Logan is the Wolverine movie fans have longed for, but more importantly it's the Wolverine movie Jackman deserved.

(For the record, I doubt this will be Jackman's last time donning the claws. The rise of Deadpool makes it seem incredibly likely that a Wolverine cameo (or, Stan Lee willing, a team-up movie) will happen. If anyone can get Jackman to strap on the claws once more, it's Ryan Reynolds. Please, someone, anyone, make this happen.)

No comments:

Post a Comment