After 17 years of playing Wolverine of the X-Men , Hugh Jackman is finally ready to hang up his adamantium claws in Logan. Following the runaway success of the over 18’s Deadpool can 20th Century Fox and director James Mangold provide a send off befitting “the best at what he does”?
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From the moment Logan first pops his Adamantium claws in Logan, it’s clear that this is going to be unlike any of the other X-Men films. For the first time since Hugh Jackman took on the role in 2000’s X-Men, the full extent of the damage that his claws can wreak is finally demonstrated. His blades slice into, through, and out of faces, heads and body parts, slicing through limbs like butter. It’s visceral and it’s bloody and it instantly dispels any concerns you may have that making Logan an R rated/over 18’s film after the success of Deadpool, was a cynical decision.
It’s not just the violence that makes Logan stand out. Perhaps with the exception of something like James Gunn’s Super, the tone of the film is wildly different from most superhero films, the most recent X-Men films (Days of Future Past & Apocalypse) and even James Mangold’s previous take on the character.
Old Man Logan
Logan opens with the former Weapon X now a tired and broken, visibly older man. In a 2029 not too different from today, there have been no new mutants in 25 years. The X-Men are no more, with no clue to the fates of their most famous members and protégés. Their exploits banished to the pages of comic books.
Caring for an aged Professor X, Logan, along with mutant tracker Caliban (Stephen Merchant), ekes out a living as a limo driver. Spending his days raising money for medication for Charles, and drowning himself in booze to stave off complications from a failing healing factor. This life, if you can call it that, is turned upside down when a woman and young girl (Dafne Keen) come looking for “The Wolverine”.
Hot on their heels is Donald Pierce (a menacing Boyd Holbrook) and his Reavers, a group of mercenaries with prosthetic limbs, who would really like to get their robotic mitts on the girl.
Who’s that girl?
Fans of the comics, and anyone who’s seen the trailer, will know that the young girl, played ferociously by 11 year old Dafne Keen, is X-23; a mutant with close ties to Wolverine. The story however, plays out in a way that keeps fans guessing which parts of the comics the filmmakers will use and where they add new material. In fact, a large part of the enjoyment of Logan, comes from discovering this world the filmmakers have created and the surprises they have planned in store.
This isn’t a film full of references like Deadpool. The odd reference to the “Westchester incident”, or Caliban’s history hunting mutants are mentioned, but the film never dumps swathes of exposition on the audience. It’s the tale of a man coming to terms with who he was, what he has done with his life, how he’s let that define and trap him and what that means for who he is now and those around him. As the film repeatedly likes to remind the audience , it’s one last ride for the last gunslinger in town.
Grumpy Old Men
Another huge part of the enjoyment of the film comes from the performances, with Jackman and Patrick Stewart bouncing off each other like a mutant Odd Couple. The first time that Professor X unleashes a torrent of curse words that would make a sailor blush at Wolverine, it may be shocking, but it never stops being funny. Stewart also gets to portray the sadness of what happens when the world’s most powerful psychic starts to lose his mind to old age. Jackman is great in the title role, but we’ve come to expect that, outside X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here gets to bring new dark shades to the character he’s played for 17 years. Despite being sandwiched between these two powerhouses Dafne Keen manages to hold her own, a real challenge considering that for the majority of the film she communicates in grunts and feral screams. Her fight choreography is fantastic and will have you wondering how did they do that with an 11 year old!?
Logan is yet more evidence that there are still fresh perspectives to be had on comic book superhero material. The big franchises have blown through most of their most famous, immediately adaptable, story-lines and now is the perfect time to delve into the more “out there” stories that were a result of a few decades retelling the same stories (“What!? Jean Grey dies!!??.. Again!!???).
So Long, Hugh
A great send off for Jackman, unless Fox and Disney team him up with The Avengers, Logan isn’t quite perfect. It drags slightly near the end and the final climax isn’t quite as explosive as audiences might expect. It is far better than the usual climax of our hero squaring off a giant enemy, a trap even Mangold fell into the The Wolverine.
The very end of the film however, has a beautiful small touch that should bring a tear to the eye of the most hardened X-Fan.
NOTE: The screening I attended had no post credits stinger attached but I’ve been told that there will be one showing with the final cut, so don’t forget to stick around after the credits!