Movie review: Logan
When it comes to superhero cinema ‘dark and gritty’ is a phrase often heard when describing sequels, which promise to take things down a more adult and ‘real’ route but the final film ends up being a dark and gritty as a rainbow smoothie. It’s a relative term. Logan, the second Wolverine film from director James Mangold and, including cameos, the eighth appearance of Hugh Jackman as the titular mutant, is perhaps the first film that truly earns the dark and gritty tag and most surprisingly of all provides a moving portrayal of loss, grief and guilt amongst the clawed carnage.
The year is 2029 and only a few mutants remain after an unspecified catastrophe years prior. Logan (Jackman), at the end off his rope and constantly inebriated, is a limo driver, living off the grid with Caliban (Stephen Merchant, superb) and caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who is suffering from a brain condition that has potentially harmful ramifications given his mutant skill set. Into their lives comes a young girl, Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen), with a similar backstory to Wolverine’s and the first new mutant to be born for years, but also a fugitive of sorts. Soon, the Reavers led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) come looking for the girl and our trio are soon off on the run in an attempt to reach a mythical safe haven.
No shared universe, no sequels to set up, freed from the shackles of franchise hell and stripped back to the bare essentials, Logan is a triumph. A fitting R-rated pseudo-Western/road movie swansong to Jackman’s tenure as everyone’s favourite Canadian with claws that is arguably the best of the entire X-Men franchise to date, precisely because it feels only loosely connected to it. Logan – potentially – takes place in a world that sits apart from all of the movies thus far. Another tick in the Pro column, as it removes all continuity quibbles. As many will no doubt comment it’s truly is the Wolverine movie we’ve always wanted, not just in terms of swearing and violence, but as an in depth study of the character we were first introduced to cage fighting seventeen (!) years ago and his wheelchair bound saviour. Although, boy, is there ever a lot of swearing and violence.
Although we (probably) have Deadpool to thank for the more adult rating, Logan couldn’t be further from that film’s juvenile humour. The rating is more for the tone of the piece rather than anything stomach churning or profane. The violence is visceral and meaningful. People die and it hurts. It raises the stakes in a blockbuster landscape where mass destruction and loss of life are usually an afterthought. Compare it to last years woeful X-Men Apocalypse where half the world is destroyed in a swirl of weightless CGI and no-one bats an eyelid. Here, you’ll care for glorified redshirts. The swearing, too, feels like a natural reaction to the situation as opposed to a crowd pleasing tactic. Although hearing Prof X drop F-bombs is never not fun.
Suffice to say it’s easily Jackman’s best performance in the role that has defined his career as much as he himself has defined the character. Freed from the usual end of the world stakes, Jackman is able to play a different side of the character for whom things have reached such a nadir that he carries around an adamantium bullet. He’s always been gruff but he’s never been this low. Along with Stewart, also reaching his franchise peak, their relationship feels earned so that certain moments and line readings have just that extra little oomph that you just wouldn’t get two films into a franchise. This movie could only have come out now, after years of build up, even if that means we’ve had to endure several less than good X-Men/Wolverine movies to get to this point. Dafne Keen rounds out the trio of fantastic performances with a role that’s partly McGuffin but ultimately redeemed by her soulful eyes and ferocious energy.
It’s not perfect; a weak head villain (Richard E. Grant) never really gets out of first gear – although Holbrook gives good menacing sneer throughout – and Logan’s eternal internal struggle is clumsily externalised simply to give him something to hit in the third act which also occasionally threatens to tip into X-Men Origins territory but thankfully never does. But these are minor quibbles that don’t detract from all the sterling work done here. It doesn’t feel like a superhero film at all, but rather a road movie that just happens to star superheroes. You’ll not remember it for the violence, or the swearing, or even Jackman’s outstanding beard but for the poignant relationships between the central characters. You’ll wish a scene in the second act set around a dinner table would go on much longer than it does.
Thanks to MovieHouse, Dublin Road, Belfast