The X-Men franchise of movies has had both glorious highs and some very notorious lows but one of the constants has been the reliable workman like performances of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. His popularity has even meant are series of spin-off films which for the large part have been forgettable. Logan is the latest in these stand-alone movies and was announced as the last time he would play the character. The result is a brutal, both violently and emotionally so. It is also an excellent movie exceeding the super hero movie handler with surprising beauty. Find out more in our review.
In the near future, mutants are persecuted and have been mostly wiped out. Logan (Hugh Jackman) lives in virtual anonymity as he hides a mentally deteriorating Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in Mexico. Logan is approached by a woman seeking passage for her mutant daughter. All is not as it seems and there are a number of hostile forces trying to track her down.
There is a sense in which Logan walks on a different path than traditional super hero movies. This is not a film of spectacle but something more akin to a western. The reluctant old gunslinger riddled with guilt and in no place to be a hero. Yet with just enough of a conscience to forces himself into action.
There is a sense of the tired and old warrior here. So while there is a physical journey here there is also an existential one. What meaning can Logan draw out of a life that has been about killing or about once being a hero for a world that now persecutes him. The answer comes in the form of a child known as X-23 or Laura. She has the same powers as Wolverine and his daughter, although not in a conventional way.
For a child she is savage and almost feral, seemingly mute she bears more than just the mutant abilities he has but much of his disposition. The journey they have to make if you took the super hero side out of it could almost be that of an estranged father taking his daughter cross country. A dinner from a kindly family sees a room filled with laughter, good food and something like normality and you being to see just a glimmer of hope.
Yet hope is an elusive commodity in Logan and this is a dark world that feels all too real. It’s a world with death and consequence. Something that has been lacking in so many super hero movies. There are moments here that will make you have an emotional response. Sadness and beauty are bittersweet friends. A final moment in the film illustrates it perfectly sadness, a wry smile and something beautiful all in a single shot. This film is as much a drama as much as any of the super hero tropes that it finds itself in.
Don’t get me wrong this is also a movie about a guy with claws, his psychic mentor and his genetic and slightly deranged daughter. The action is visceral and up close and it’s not about explosions but guns and blood and sweat. This is a movie that is brutal in its portrayal of action.
It’s also not without a sense of humour. Logan still has poor social skills and the older he gets the less inclined he is to humour people. Laura is also a little firecracker and then way they play off each other is a delight especially this is the first movie for young Dafne Keen.
Old veterans make up the rest of the cast with Hugh Jackman finally given something significant to do with Wolverine’s character and the slowly failing health of Professor X makes the cool exterior of Patrick Stewart begin to fray. Their performances are familiar but deeper than ever before. Both should be congratulated for bringing new life into something they could have phoned in.
There are only a few things that annoy but don’t take a lot away from the experience that Logan offers. The most obvious thing is the new more adult tone. This is essentially done through more bloody violence and adult language. For the most part, it elevates and at the same time grounds the movie. Yet sometimes the violence moves towards visceral violence more akin to a horror movie, the language to something veering on a movie about the mean streets (especially Patrick Stewart constant use of the ‘f’ word’ which is completely out of character). Tonally it just veers for the shortest of times to that perfectly balanced state they achieve for the most of the movie.
Logan also at times seems to take the struggle against oneself a little too far beyond the internal and abstract. The results are pretty dumb.
Logan Review Cheat Sheet:
Logan is arguably the best the X-Men movie series has ever been not because it’s a great super hero movie but because underneath it all is a story filled with weight and meaning. Stellar performances from two veterans inhabiting old characters share the screen with a delightful novice making something special and at times beautiful. Minor quibbles aside Logan is a true must see.
+ Meaningful drama
+ Filled with bittersweet beauty and emotion
+Great peformances old and new.
+Adult tone means a darker exploration of the subject matter…
-but occasionally results in awkard tone shifts.