Touted as the swansong for Hugh Jackman’s iconic Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier, Logan really was a film that carried a heavy burden. A burden which, in my opinion, it carried beautifully and all the way.
So, to refresh one’s memory, the X-Men franchise has been hoovering up cinemagoers dollars since the year 2000, and it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for our uncanny heroes. The first two entries, X-Men and X2, are impressive and aesthetically-appealing films that capture the spirit of the comics with ample ability. However, the third movie, Last Stand, took an interesting premise of a mutant ‘cure’ and kind of made a hash of it all, delivering something heavy-handed and full of unneeded twists.
X-Men: First Class represented a wonderful return to from for our hated and feared heroes, however, starring James MacAvoy and Michael Fassbender as fresh-faced versions of Charles Xavier and his eventual nemesis Erik Lensherr, aka Magneto. This was everything the franchise needed, a true update and improvement, and 2014’s Days of Future Past continued to impress. Whilst last year’s X-Men: Apocalypse had a rather bland villain and, in comparison, was a bit soulless, it still left us feeling confident for the film franchises’ future.
In addition to these, however, Wolverine, the team’s ferocious and badass main man, has had a trilogy of solo outings, concluding with this year’s Logan. With Origins: Wolverine being a disappointing outing not equal to the sum of its parts (a brilliant cast and excellent action sequences) and The Wolverine being a pretty good film for the first 75% before dropping off in the climax. And so now, concluding the tenure of a superhero who’s popularity and iconic performance are easily comparable to Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, we have Logan.
OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING! HERE BE SPOILERS!
Honestly, I’m of the opinion that, as I’ve stated above, this film is everything it needed to be and more. The trailers showed us a dark, brooding, wounded Wolverine the like of which X-Men Origins: Wolverine tried to deliver, and we got it. Although Jackman performed wonderfully in that film, it isn’t a patch on what he’s like here; this is not your childhood’s Wolverine. Bearded and grim and fittingly vulgar, the ex-X-Man’s healing factor has degenerated to leave him with chronic pain and a painful collection of battle scars. His claws, though as potent as ever, become infected and pain him as well, and so he boozes and medicates his way through an isolated existence as he takes care of an ailing Charles Xavier along with Caliban, a mutant tracker portrayed by a simultaneously earnest and unnerving Stephen Merchant.
Here, more than anywhere else, Hugh Jackman gives us an antihero. In a brilliant, dark and nuanced performance, he shows us somebody who just doesn’t have it in him to be a hero anymore, physically and mentally. From his tender, exhausted conversations with a mentally-failing Professor X to his outbursts of vicious, animalistic rage, Jackman gives us in every instance somebody at the brink of a precipice. Particular props to go to his heart-shredding goodbye to his mentor in the film’s second half, as he sobs and growls a halfhearted farewell before taking a shovel to his van in frustration. Here we have a character that breaks boundaries of the comic-book genre and gives us the deep and troubled Logan that we’ve been wanting.
It isn’t just the titular Wolverine that turns in their most spectacular performance of their X-Men careers; we can’t forget about the ever-brilliant Patrick Stewart. Now a mentally-declining nonagenarian prone to destructive psychic seizures as well as memory loss, Charles Xavier at times near matches his fellow X-Man in terms of bitterness. Stewart takes us to new territories in Logan; never before have we seen the Professor so guilt-stricken, nor so angry, but at the time, so fatherly. He plays perfectly the part of somebody who’s tired, at the end of their rope, but needs to do one last good thing. In the end we get a rather sudden, albeit expected end for Xavier at the hands of X-24, who’s basically a younger, really angry Wolverine. Overall, though, it’s such a fitting farewell to Stewart’s Xavier. He’ll be missed.
And of course, every good movie needs a good supporting cast, and so, Logan’s got it covered. Dafne Keen turns in a superb Laura/X-23 who pulls off, alternatingly, adorable and terrifying with aplomb. Though not the version you’ll be used to if you’re experienced with the X-Men comics, Keen fulfils the role perfectly. Her character bounces off of Jackman throughout, giving Logan a chance to show us his paternal side, which gives us some of the film’s slightly funnier moments in addition to some of its most emotional. Keen gives us some great scenes using only expression and body language, as well as participating in some absolutely brutal scraps. All in all the character was handled way better than I expected, and I for one am pleased.
We’ve also got Stephen Merchant portraying Caliban, Xavier’s other caregiver. Though Merchant plays him very, very well, Caliban is a little bit underused I feel, that being one of the film’s only and miniscule stumbles. He’s kind of there so Logan can talk to someone and get told that he’s going off the rails, then he’s there to allow the villains to find the main trio, and then he just sort of dies, albeit in a very nice way.
On the subject of villains, we have Donald Pierce and Zander Rice. Donald Pierce is portrayed by Boyd Holbrook. He portrays a perfectly relentless, sardonic attack-dog of a man whose goal is to hunt down Laura. His introduction is chillingly intense as he talks smack to our obviously not-to-be-trifled-with hero in the backseat of his car. He does all he needed to do and does it well, and has a darkly cathartic death in the last action scene of the film. Zander Rice, meanwhile, is rendered in perfect mad-scientist fashion by the inimitable Richard E. Grant. A Transigen scientist responsible for the virtual extinction of mutantkind, Zander Rice is suitably morally bankrupt and increasingly dishevelled as the film goes on. He also gets a rather nice monologue before Logan caps him comparing mutants to polio. Richard E. Grant brings all of his gravitas and only as much over-the-top-ness to this role as needed, and really, what more can you ask for?
Setting aside the cast, guys, this film has Woverine in it, and so obviously we need to talk about the action scenes.
Yeah, they’re good. No, in fact, they’re great. None of the CGI-saturated clashes of X-Men: Apocalypse or Doctor Strange will be found here – no, this is us seeing how Wolverine gets his claws bloody. Every confrontation in this scene is raw and visceral, and with the aid of frequent close-cuts and appropriately brutal auditory aspects, you feel the impact of every blow Logan takes. And by God, does the poor man take a few knocks in this show. From having his chest blown opened by a shotgun in the first five minutes to his climatic and tragic death-by-branch at the end of the film, Logan really gets put through the wringer, and with no healing factor to back him up we really get to feel the stakes like we never did in Origins. Of course, it isn’t just violence for it’s own sake in this movie. Logan does what all great movies do; it shows rather than tells. Wolverine is not nearly as spry as he used to be and this is never clearer than when he comes up against the animalistic, primal clone X-24. We see him struggle to keep pace with, effectively, his younger self (also played by Jackman which is kinda awesome) and as he gets positively hacked to pieces in their last confrontation one really feels the overall message of the film; that this is it for our heroes, but boy, will they go down swinging.
If we’re on the subject of fight scenes, as well, I should probably mention again the character of Laura – particularly, her extremely memorable introductory fight scene, filled with gut-stabs and hand-severing and a decapitation. When not angrily staring at people, Laura brings a different sort of spin on the usual fight choreography that’s employed in action sequences with Wolverine. Especially in that final scene in the forest, there’s a lot more dynamic, acrobatic scenes, and it really lends a sense of movement as opposed to the raw, bloody hammering that’s delivered unto Logan throughout the film.
Also standing out in this film was the soundtrack – setting aside First Class, I never really found the score for the X-Men series all that memorable. Here, however, Marco Beltrami gives us some sombre and epic tunes that really go with the film’s funeral tone. Favourites include the tense, abrasive ‘Logan vs. X-24’ and the string-saturated ‘Don’t Be What They Made You’. Proper, evocative stuff.
So, in summary – absolute masterclass-level acting from more or less everybody involved, some of the finest comic-book fight scenes seen onscreen, and a fantastic, emotive score. And honestly, I feel as if I’m rather underselling this film’s virtues having only viewed once at the time of writing – Logan is a show with layers. I’m not a whole today out of the cinema and I already want to see it again.
Yeah, uh, what?
Oh, right. So, I guess Caliban was a bit of a well-portrayed plot device, and I guess Xavier’s death was pretty sudden… but both of them were handled really well and didn’t really suffer any loss of their emotional impact due to the circumstances.
One thing I will say that I would’ve liked to see, but I totally get why we didn’t, is a little more resolution for the fate of the rest of the X-Men. We get a snippet of radio transmission that is actually possible to miss explaining that several X-folks were killed by one of Charles Xavier’s paralysis-inducing mind-seizure things, and we get a really raw scene where he remembers the awful thing he did in Westchester, but that really is all the resolution we get. I mean, I suppose we’re left to assume that all of the X-Men died between that and Zander Rice’s mutant genocide gig, but I would have been positively thrilled to see Sir Ian McKellen make a return as Magneto in this film. With his own haunted past and continual railing against humankind, I think he would have fit in really well here.
Aside from that, though… I mean, this is a really, really good movie. I honestly cannot recommend it enough. This is rather shaking up my listings of Favourite Comic Movies, whereas Avengers Assemble and The Dark Knight had once held a seemingly uncontested advantage. Logan is really a film that goes above and beyond its genre; not just a superhero flick, but a tragedy, a dystopian survival movie, with no small amount of Western thrown in both aesthetically and story-wise.
Top notch, lads. Overall, I’m giving Logan…