It’s 2029 and mutant kind is almost completely extinct. There seem to just be a handful of mutants left in the shape of Wolverine, AKA Logan (Hugh Jackman) who’s powers are on the wane and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who’s mind is on the wane. Logan is eeking out a living as an, alcoholic, chauffeur and trying to keep a low-profile with Charles and fellow mutant Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Of course trouble is never far away and it shows up on Logan’s doorstep in the shape of Laura (Dafne Keen) who is closely followed by a bunch mutant hunters led by Pierce (Boyd Holbrook). Claws, violence and swearing ensue.
It seems that has Deadpool started a bit of a trend for Fox as they seem to be finally realising that you can make a mature superhero film, and it doesn’t have to be a grey-ish brown miserable mess like the current incarnation of the DC cinematic universe. Logan continues the trend started by Deadpool, in the sense that it is a truly mature film both in terms of violence and themes. Where Deadpool had dick jokes and brutal violence Logan still has the brutal violence and bad language but replaces the dick jokes with existential musings about the nature of death.
Despite the fact that this is the ninth cinematic outing for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, director James Mangold has managed to show Logan in an entirely new light. Make no mistakes Logan is not just a new take on Wolverine but it’s a pretty original take on the superhero genre as a whole. This isn’t a film about beautiful people in fancy costumes performing amazing feats, this is about what happens after the glory days. One of the key strands running through the film is about things being broken, whether it’s Logan’s failing body and mutant powers, Charles’ fractured and failing mind or the apparent disintegration of mutant kind and America. So you could say it’s a fairly weighty film.
I can’t really think of another superhero film that has tried to do something similar to this. Sure there are films where a hero is down on their luck or having a crisis of confidence but nothing that really focuses on the latter end of the hero’s tale. This is a film that goes in completely the opposite direction to the recent excesses of X-Men: Apocalypse, this is a film that is completely stripped back and while there are some great action scenes this is a film that is entirely focused on the character. Logan really doesn’t feel the need for CGI heavy set pieces, the action scenes are great but even they are just another way to tell us more about the characters.
The title says it all really, this is very much Logan’s film and Hugh Jackman really does give his finest Wolverine. This is a very different Logan to what we have seen before, gone (well nearly gone) is a lot of the charisma, rage and arrogance and it’s been replaced with a shambolic, tragic figure. I actually found it quite sad at times to see this hero that seems to have been a constant on the screen effectively reduced to an old man. In interviews Hugh Jackman has talked about this film being a western and has compared it to Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven and it really shows.
However, as good as Hugh Jackman is it’s his chemistry with Charles Xavier that really sits at the heart of the film. While on the surface the two of them seem like a couple of grumpy old men, but when the film starts to scratch below the surface you see a really strong relationship and respect. For me, the relationship between Logan and Charles was far more real and interesting than any of the films that focused on Magneto and Charles. Patrick Stewart also puts in his best Professor X to date, it’s charming but at the same time utterly heartbreaking.
It’s not only the old hands that do well in Logan though. Newcomer Defne Keen very nearly steals the show as new mutant Laura, AKA X23. She has a very similar natural charisma and physicality to Hugh Jackman, but instead of the muscular, lumbering frame of Hugh Jackman X23 is almost balletic in her brutality.
This has to rank as not only one of the finest X-Men films but also one of the best superhero films that I have seen. I really hope that Fox (as well as DC and Marvel) looks at this and we start to get some more stand alone genre superhero films. Without the shackles of feeding into a broader shared universe James Mangold has been able to create something unique. It’s staggering to think that this is the ninth time that Hugh Jackman has donned the sideburns and claws since he first took on the role 17 years ago, but yet is still able to show us something new.