Reviews

Review: Logan

James Mangold / 20th Century Fox

If you’re anything like me, your first response to hearing they were making another Wolverine film would’ve been some sort of resigned, strangled concoction of vowels and despair. After X-Men: Apocalypse took home the lifetime achievement award for services to blandness and coming off the back of two solo Wolverine duds, expectations were not high for Logan. Which is why it’s such a welcome surprise that Logan is actually really damn good, a darkly personal tale of redemption that seems to have no right coming out of a blockbuster superhero franchise as devoid of recent creativity as the X-Men. For once, this seems like a story that the filmmakers wanted to tell, rather than one that a budget sheet demanded they did.

The set-up sees an ageing Logan (aka Wolverine aka Hugh Jackman rocking a top class beard) living out the last of his days on the Texas-Mexico border in a post-mutant future, rotting in anonymity as a limo driver for rich scumbags and caring for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Interrupting their quiet resignation is an 11 year old girl called Laura, supposedly the first mutant born in 30 years, and a bunch of (fairly generic) villainous military types pursuing her, setting in motion a road trip across America to try and find safety, and perhaps some sort of personal redemption.

In an alternate world I’d love to see a wacky odd couple comedy about psychic Patrick Stewart and StabbyHands McGee trying to raise a kid and getting into a bunch of hilarious jams, but Logan is a decidedly more serious affair. It makes the most of its 15 rating for plenty of fruity language (Shakespearean legend Stewart swearing like a sailor is always a delight) and a level of violence that’s genuinely brutal. For a character with such inherently violent powers, Wolverine’s always felt a bit at odds with the more kid friendly bloodless action of the X-Men films, but here we get to see him stab, chop and slash his way through bad guys to bloody effect. There’s some genuinely icky stuff throughout, and it lends the fight scenes a sense of viscerality that can border on the uncomfortable and, in one harrowing scene in particular, the horrific.

It’s closer in tone to a sort of quasi-western than any overblown superheroics, with Wolverine in the role of the tired old gunslinger brought out for one last showdown and a chance for redemption.

Rather than the empty CGI destruction of something like Apocalypse, this is very much a film about the consequences and impacts of violence, and for the most part it succeeds. It’s closer in tone to a sort of quasi-western than any overblown superheroics, with Wolverine in the role of the tired old gunslinger brought out for one last showdown and a chance for redemption. Hugh Jackman’s always thrown everything into playing this character (even in the series’ low points) and he excels in this picture, creating a version of Wolverine recognisable to fans of the previous entries but recognisably scarred and changed. Patrick Stewart puts in sterling work as always as Charles and 11 year old Dafne Keen makes a terrific cinematic debut, but the film is perhaps not quite so strong in setting up its antagonists. Boyd Holbrook makes a decent fist of a one dimensional bad guy, which I guess is kind of in keeping with the archetypal western influences, but there’s a few points where we just seem to be tearing through waves of anonymous goons, which can detract from the atmosphere occasionally. It’s a film consciously trying to avoid being a ‘superhero movie’, but there’s a couple of times throughout where the trappings of the genre can seep through and feel at odds with the rest of the film.

It’s feels weird to say this, but I kind of wish a superhero movie about an angry Edward Scissorhands was less focused on its action at times, because the film’s best moments are its quieter, languid sections. The dialogue itself may not necessarily be the greatest you’ve ever heard, but director James Mangold has a terrific hold on tone, his camera lingering on the desolate beauty of rural and desert America. Watching it, I was reminded most not of a movie but a game, namely Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece The Last of Us. Also following a surrogate father-daughter team venturing through a dystopic America, the game found beauty in silence and emotionality out of the simplest of encounters too, contributing to an ambience of melancholia and artistry that Logan mirrors in its best moments.

There’s a real sense of finality to Logan, and it feels more like a coda to the franchise than any sort of continuation, in the best possible way.

Overall, Logan is a hell of a ride and probably the best X-Men movie ever made, but having watched it, I never really want to watch another X-Men film again. There’s a real sense of finality to Logan, and it feels more like a coda to the franchise than any sort of continuation, in the best possible way. Although the film leaves a gap in the timeline of the franchise to get to this point and leaves the events that created its world a mystery, I have no desire to see them. The film works perfectly on its own, and the uncertainties of its past and its relative detachment from the rest of the X-Men universe serve to help it achieve that western-inspired malaise that makes it stand out from the pack. By eschewing the bombastically meaningless world-ending stakes that often drag these movies down, Logan achieves a surprisingly effective power that defies genre in unexpected ways. In short, the apocalypse of the soul is far more effective than Oscar Isaac in blue facepaint.

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