“So that’s what it feels like.”
If, like me, you have grown up with Hugh Jackman’s version of Wolverine then the excitement of watching Logan comes hand in hand with a feeling of melancholy. I was sat in the cinema and I couldn’t wait to see the character again, but then it crossed my mind that this might be the last time we see him on screen, which is a very sad thought. But, if this has to be his final outing, at least he goes out on a high. More than that in fact, Logan is probably the best film in the franchise.
The film sets itself apart from the other films straight away. A groggy, tired, beat-up looking Logan wakes up on the front seat of his limo. A couple of thugs are taking his car apart, unaware he is in it. He confronts them and you very quickly realise that this Logan is very different. On a basic level he just can’t be bothered to deal with this sort of thing, he’s tired. Gone are the quips and the threats. This Logan is a world away from the cage fighting beast we met 17 years ago. When he eventually does get his claws out there isn’t a snikt, there is a slow groan as one of the claws doesn’t even extend all the way. This scene perfectly encapsulates the Logan of 2029, a man who does his best to avoid a fight. He does beat them but only barely, taking a buckshot to the chest in the process.
There is another X-Men alum in this film, the one and only Charles Xavier. He’s a bit worse for wear too, over ninety years old with a serious degenerative brain disease. The disease is causing seizures which, because of Professor X’s powers, puts everyone in about a mile radius in danger. Logan is keeping him doped up in a rotting silo in the middle of the desert, bickering and arguing with each other. It’s sad seeing him like this. He rolls around in his chair rambling, saying he doesn’t want to stay there anymore and it does remind you of people in the real world who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. This all sounds a bit grim, and it is. But there are moments of levity without. Charles gets a few very sad moments but also some funny lines.
The little world of Logan and Charles is shattered with the arrival of Laura, a little girl on the run from some bad people. Logan is reluctant to help her at first which shows just how much he has changed from the Wolverine of old. But as the movie progresses his relationship with this girl is the highlight. They begin begrudgingly accepting one another and eventually learn to love one another. It helps that Dafne Keen is absolutely excellent as Laura. She is little girl at heart but on the outside she is purely feral. It’s like someone collected the essence of Wolverine, what makes him a killing machine, and bundled it up in a 10 year old girl. She flips, spins, stabs, and takes her fair share of violence from the villains of the film; the Reavers.
The Reavers are a product of the world we see in Logan, or rather the world is a product of them. Led by Boyd Holbrook’s Donald Pierce this half robotic militia capture mutants on the run. They’re like a posse of bandits in a Western, rounding up and scalping Indians. This Western motif runs through the film too. From the more obvious moments in which Laura picks out the outfits with the Stetsons for her and Logan, or when her and Charles watch Shane on television, to the more subtle moments like the twangy soundtrack. Gone are the huge operatic scores from previous films, replaced with a much more intimate and brooding score. This is not to say the other one is bad however. In fact the music from the previous films (The Last Stand especially) are top notch. That sort of thing just isn’t right for Logan. ‘The Man Comes Around’ by Johnny Cash in the end credits is a lovely touch too.
The violence in Logan is brutal. Logan and Laura take chunks out of thugs left, right, and centre. People are shot and stabbed and blown up, and it’s all shown very realistically. Logan isn’t healing as well as he used to, so he isn’t shrugging off injuries like he used to either. But it serves a purpose too. A running theme throughout Logan is the question of how killers like Laura and Logan can live with the things they have done, what legacy they leave behind. For Logan, he is pushing 200 years old and he more or less wants to die. He’s done horrible things and he doesn’t want Laura to become him. The climatic scene in the woods at the end is quintessential Wolverine, as he takes down a battalion of Reavers in a berserker rage. After the struggling Logan we’ve seen up to that point, it feels like we’ve earned this scene. The old Wolverine was in there, he just needed a reason to be unleashed.
A lot of people have said Logan is the most true portrayal of the character we have ever had. But I don’t think that’s fair to Hugh Jackman’s performances in the other films. For the vast majority of fans he is Wolverine. He may be different from the comics but he is absolutely excellent in the role. It’s true that we get to see the berserker rage here (and it’s amazing) but we shouldn’t forget the other excellent moments. The scenes of pure Wolverine anger in Logan is on par with the mansion rampage in X2 and the bullet train scene in The Wolverine.
Like a lot of the fans I have grown up with the X-Men films, so it’s nice to have a real 15-rated film that makes it feel like this series has grown up with me. It’s not just the violence and swearing that make this more adult, it’s just paced differently. There are longer scenes of talking and less of a feel that they need to get to the next set piece. Not to sell the other films short however. Superhero films (the X-Men franchise in particular) has always been an excellent platform for ideas on discrimination and fitting in. Logan is just more brutal and honest about it. On that note, it seems that Logan isn’t for kids. But I’d take that 15 rating with a pinch of salt. If you have an older kid I think they’d love this film. Certainly if they weren’t affected by the surprisingly graphic X-Men Apocalypse then I think they’d be fine. Plus there are still a lot of important messages that I think would resonate with a younger audience too.
I don’t think you have to be an X-Men fan or a superhero fan to enjoy Logan, in fact you might appreciate the move away from comic book campiness even more if you’re not. It’s a simple film with complicated ideas. Age, mortality and what we leave behind. Will it be a string of corpses and blood or some good deeds that changed things for the better? There is also enough action for the more genre orientated watchers, it might be distancing itself from the comic book pack but it is still a film about superhuman people.
As a huge X-Men fan I have to say it was very emotional to see this character one last time. I have spent the majority of my life with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine as one of my absolute favourite character’s in cinema. For myself and others this character has brought a huge amount of enjoyment. I think I’ve seen Hugh Jackman running around stabbing people in his trademark wife beater more than I’ve seen my own reflection over the past 17 years. It’s been a long (and narratively confusing) ride since we first met him fighting in a cage. If he has to go, I can’t possibly think of a higher note to go out on than with the superb Logan.
Thanks for the good memories, bub.
Reviewed by Jack.
Read the story that inspired Logan, with the excellent Old Man Logan by Mark Millar.