Can you believe it’s been 17 years since Hugh Jackman first appeared on our screens, as The Wolverine back in the original live action X-Men film. The superhero landscape has vastly grown since his first appearance, six full length appearances and a couple cameos later Hugh is ready to say goodbye to the character. Thankfully for him and for us, it is a phenomenal send off for one of cinemas greatest comic book character portrayals.
The film follows Logan (Hugh Jackman) in the year 2029, he’s much older and weaker than we are used to seeing him. He spends his days trying to keep a low profile whilst looking after Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who at 90 years old has become a senile old man. Things take a turn for the worse when they cross paths with a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) who they must protect from those who are pursuing her.
I tried to keep that plot synopsis as vague as possible because the trailers do a good job of keeping a handful of shocking surprises hidden, but I’ll delve more into the impact of those surprises later on whilst keeping things free of spoilers.
So as previously mentioned this is supposedly Hugh Jackman’s final performance as Logan/The Wolverine. If it does turn out to be his swan song for the character then he has absolutely saved the best til last. That goes for his performance and the material he is working with. He’s been great in the past, but this right here is without a doubt a performance on a level Hugh Jackman has never reached before. It’s Oscar worthy and I don’t say that lightly at all. Logan is a broken individual in this film, both physically and mentally. We have never seen him this vulnerable before. His mutant powers are starting to deteriorate, he struggles to heal his wounds and even his claws sometimes get stuck half way upon entry out of his skin. From the very beginning of the film, without much exposition we can already tell Logan is worn down, exhausted and practically ready to die within his mind. This is all conveyed brilliantly through Jackman’s nuanced emotionally riveting performance. As he encounters Laura he discovers certain revelations that make even more layers of his character get exposed, and it gives Hugh a plethora of things to work with to shape this character and add more emotional weight to the drama.
Another Oscar worthy performance came from Patrick Stewart, It’s almost heartbreaking to see the condition Charles Xavier is in, he’s suffering from a number of issues that often come with old age such as amneisia and dementia. Because of this, his conversations with Logan draw out a lot of emotion from you as a viewer. We’ve seen these two characters interact with each other over the past 17 years and to now see them conflicting with one another at times heightens those scenes to compelling level. Despite suffering from some illness’ Charles is more of a father figure to Logan than ever before and often shifts between his wise words of wisdom and the words of an old man struggling to control his mind. His dementia makes his power a great danger to anybody around him. Patrick effortlessly manages to showcase the severity of his condition in a manner which is completely believable and his chemistry with Hugh on screen is some of the best on screen chemistry I’ve seen in quite some time.
To my knowledge this is Dafne Keen’s first feature film role and boy does she leave a lasting impression on you. She’s a key element of the films story so her performance had to be great or else it could’ve disrupted the quality of the film overall. Thankfully she is excellent. She never drops the ball, from her first moment on screen to her very last she is totally believable as the character she is playing. There’s a stern level of coldness to her and she uses those mannerisms to great effect in moments of intense drama, and even in the brief moments of comic relief. For a young girl of her age she is also superb at her actions sequences.
Boyd Holbrook’s portrayal as Donald Pierce is a very memorable one. He chews up the scenery during his lengthy dialogue scenes, I could easily sit and listen to him have a conversation with Logan for half an hour and I would be drawn in with the same level of interest and excitement that I get when I listen to Tarantino’s characters communicate. I love the character due to his accent, personality and visual look (his robot hand). I don’t think another actor could have played him quite like Boyd did. The only aspect of his character that I was let down by was the fact that during the half way point of the film we begin to see less and less of him. I feel like he was maybe one or two dialogue scenes away from being a truly iconic villain.
Now I’ve touched upon a majority of things that really make the characters in this film work and a great deal of that has to be credited to the script. James Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green have written a solid character piece for the character of Logan. There’s not a lot of action through out this films long run time but they keep you fully engaged with dialogue that explores the Wolverine in depth and detail. Some of the conversations alone have you gripped and fully engrossed, the writers also handle the timeline of this film very well. We know It’s set during 2029 but as for the rest of the information we may want to know, such as what happened to the other mutants? Well they keep the exposition to a bare minimum. In some cases they even feed you with little tidbits of informations just so that you can form your own personal understanding of what may have occurred in the past. There’s no straight answer It’s mainly left for your interpretation and I think doing that was a great choice, because that kept the film focused on the story it was trying to tell without getting distracted and bogged down with exposition heavy scenes about what happened before.
What director James Mangold has created here is quite remarkable. Remember when The Dark Knight released in cinemas back in 2008. Everyone was amazed with how it was superhero film that was grounded in reality as if it were real. The Dark Knight is a crime thriller disguised as a superhero film. Well Logan is western disguised as a superhero film. This film just like The Dark Knight doesn’t even sound right when you describe it as a superhero film, because it’s much more than that term “superhero” would suggest. It’s a detailed character study of a man struggling to find a purpose in a world that he is now so out of touch with. It’s a grounded story that just happens to have superheroes in it. Mangold’s direction is near flawless. He get us so invested in these characters and their journey so when the scenes of peril and action occur we are left holding our breath as we view them. They become quite unpredictable too as the film goes on, that’s due to something I spoke about earlier, Logan’s vunerablity. He is so weak in this film that during every action scene you truly feel on edge because you believe that at any given moment he could be defeated.
Earlier on I briefly touched upon how there are a number of surprises throughout the film, mainly towards it’s second half. I will not spoil them but let me say this, half way through the film there is an impeccably executed scene which put me in a state of total shock. I was frozen with my eyes wide and transfixed on the screen. I don’t even think I was breathing at the time. In amongst this scene there is a shot of Wolverine confronting something for the first time, the shot itself is superb and I certainly echoed the same expression of shock that Wolverine has on his face during the scene. I can’t wait for audiences to witness this scene.
As for the action, as you’ve probably already heard and as the image above showcases, it’s brutal. One thing I have always wanted to see is Wolverine enter berserker rage and trust me when I say, hearing him growl in rage from a distance before slaughtering some of his enimies lit my face up with a giant smile. This is definitely a film not for smaller children. F-Bombs get dropped, Limbs get lost, Blood gets spilled and blades impale flesh. It never once becomes excessive or over the top either. The filmmakers have taken full advantage of the R-Rating they have been given and the results are very rewarding.
I will also state that no prior knowledge of the X-Men franchise is needed to watch this film. It works effectively on its own as a standalone film, but if you happen to have seen the other films then you may get a little bit more from the overall experience.
In terms of negatives, I don’t really have any and the things I can think of are very small things that fall into the realm of nitpicking. Some of the characters introduced in the second half of the film are a little underdeveloped, but with that being said I don’t think more time could’ve adequately been spent developing them, without the film losing It’s firm grip and focus on Logan’s personal story and development.
Logan is a remarkable film that shatters all the typical conventions of the genre. It’s further proof that so called ‘superhero’ films can be so much more than just that. This film is an engrossing, compelling and deeply emotional western. It is truly phenomenal and has now instantly become my second favourite superhero film of all time.
(5 Stars out of 5)
Logan; Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant.
Directed by James Mangold. Now showing in UK Cinemas & opening in US Cinemas on March 3rd.