It’s hard to believe that Hugh Jackman first started playing Wolverine 18 years ago now – his portrayal of the character has been so well-received, it almost feels like he’s been around forever. Alas, all good things must come to an end and, in Logan, we see Jackman finally hang up his claws. He goes out on a massive high note – Logan is moving and adult, well-crafted and focused in a way a lot of superhero movies aren’t and, as a character drama, it’s unlikely to be beaten this year.
In the near future, mutants are on the brink of extinction. A weary Logan (Hugh Jackman) has aged greatly, and now spends his days caring for an ailing Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a hide out on the Mexican border, working as a chauffeur and hustling for prescription drugs. However, Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant called Laura (Dafne Keen) arrives, being pursued by dark forces – the former X-man is forced to help her out, setting out on one last mission across America to help bring her to safety.
Logan takes a different tack to the previous X-Men films, and previous superhero movies. Normally, the end of a franchise goes bigger and badder, roping in tons of special effects and threatening the world – rather than that, Logan is small-scale, a character movie that owes more to the western than anything else. It takes its time, and limits the action – its focus is on its leads and their journeys, and it mostly keeps everything grounded. That’s not to say there is no action, however, but rather than it is gritty in its realism, and that it is earned and integral to what happens.
Its true strength is in the performance of its leads, and both Jackman and Stewart give career-best performances here. This is a Logan who is spent, who is carrying on despite the physical and emotional wear he has suffered. He is worse-for-wear and grizzled more than ever, but Jackman really gets to flex his acting muscles as he explores Logan’s psychological damage and reactions to events. After 18 years, it feels like Jackman really gets to deliver the performance he always wanted to.
He is matched in intensity by his young co-star, Keen, who makes Laura memorable and emotive even though her character is mostly silent. The central trio is rounded out by Stewart, whose Xavier is more frail than in any previous film. Suffering from dementia and the effects the illness has on his abilities, he is more vulnerable than ever before. Stewart gets the chance to be funny, but his performance is often heart-breaking.
A lot of this film is fairly depressing, and it made me cry at several points (and these were tears that felt earned). The tone of the movie is often morose and dark, and this is not a superhero picture for kids (both due to its adult nature, and the level of gore here). Despite that, it feels correct, and the core at the heart of the film is one of hope – for something or somewhere better. It may be worth preparing yourself for it – if you go in expecting a typical superhero film, you’ll probably be caught off-guard by Logan’s maturity and poignancy.
If I had to pick a fault, it would be that the focus on the three leads means that the supporting characters are somewhat underdone. Stephen Merchant appears as Caliban, a cantankerous mutant who is essentially a plot device. Boyd Holbrook brings a touch of bravado to a two-dimensional character, and Richard E. Grant is a touch underserved by a scientist archetype. It’s not too big an issue because the villains are almost inconsequential to the journey at the film’s heart, but it still seems a shame to fall back on generic grunts (although, if you want to be philosophical about it, you could argue that the film’s real villain is time).
I could qualify Logan as a great comic-book movie, but that wouldn’t be fair – it’s a great movie in its own right, and it delivers everything you could ask for. We get the hardcore action and the violence, but we also get the heart. Logan abandons your typical comic book movie shtick to tell a story, treating it and the audience with maturity and respect. It is full of depth, and it is a compelling watch – it excites and delivers on action, but it also frequently breaks your heart.
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan), Patrick Stewart (Charles), Dafne Keen (Laura), Boyd Holbrook (pierce), Stephen Merchant (Caliban), Richard E. Grant (Dr Rice)
Running Time: 137 Mins