Reviews and entertainment articles by Dave Simpson
Having grown up engrossed by the nineties X-Men cartoon, I remember being a bit disappointed by the trailer for the team’s big screen debut back in 2000. There was no Gambit, no Beast, no colourful costumes and, worst of all, no epic recreation of the show’s rifftastic theme tune! But, there was Hugh Jackman and oh boy, did he ever end up blowing my mind with his portrayal of Wolverine!
From his demeanour and mannerisms to his hair and mutton chops, I was in genuine awe of how perfectly this relatively obscure Australian actor embodied the character. And after seventeen years, two trilogies and three spinoffs, Jackman’s Wolverine remains my favourite cinematic superhero of all time.
Suffice it to say then, I was disheartened when it was announced that his latest outing as the character would be his last. However, I had fate that director James Mangold would deliver the denouement that Jackman deserved and now that I’ve seen it for myself and had some time to mull it over, I can confirm that, despite having a few flaws, Logan does indeed serve as a satisfying sendoff for its eponymous protagonist.
Picking up several years after the epilogue of Days of Future Past, the film follows a world weary Wolverine and his ailing mentor, Charles Xavier, as they attempt to protect an enigmatic child named Laura from a sinister genetics company that’s hell-bent on bringing about the end of mutantkind.
It’s obvious from the onset that this is no ordinary X-Men movie. Starting with a stunningly savage showdown between the title character and a group of gormless gangsters during which blood and dismemberments abound, Logan wastes no time demonstrating that it deserves its R-rating. The action continues to increase in intensity throughout the fantastically ferocious first act as we’re treated to a brilliantly brutal reveal of Laura’s abilities before the setting shifts to Oklahoma City for a jaw-droppingly vicious psychedelic slaughter.
However, despite sailing smoothly from set-piece to set-piece while adeptly developing the dynamic between Wolverine, Xavier and Laura for the first hour or so, the movie begins to meander a bit in the middle when the central trio are left to linger a little too long in the same location. This adds a lot of unnecessary padding to the proceedings, but thankfully there are enough touching character moments during this period to prevent the reduction in pace from being too detrimental.
Things take a thrilling turn again in the third act as Mangold manages to up the ante for an adrenaline-fuelled finale that sees Logan unleash the full extent of his berserker rage in what is undoubtedly the most emotional melee of any X-Men movie to date. But what really makes Logan so exceptional isn’t the intensity of its action or its R-rating, it’s the amount of depth and symbolism with which it’s endowed.
While it’s difficult to discuss the intricacies of the story without divulging significant spoilers, at its core, Logan is a deeply philosophical film that presents its protagonist with the opportunity to nurture a purer part of himself so that he can conquer his inner demons and build a brighter future for what’s left of mutantkind in the process. The result is an extremely thought-provoking and poignant resolution to the conflict that’s been raging within Wolverine from the moment he manifested his claws and drove them through the torso of his birth father back in 1845.
I’m sure there are those who will raise an eyebrow at the Origins reference in the last sentence, but when you consider all that Logan’s been through over the course of the previous films from fighting wars with men and machines to losing his loved ones several times over and transcending the timeline just to end up downtrodden again, it only makes this movie’s events seem all the more meaningful and I can’t commend Hugh Jackman enough for how very effectively he conveys the toll that two hundred years of tragedy have taken on the character.
As irreproachable as the Australian actor’s performance is though, it’s fellow franchise veteran Patrick Stewart who really outdoes himself here. His portrayal of an indisposed Professor X is affecting to the point that it would be reprehensible were he not to receive a nomination for best supporting actor at next year’s Academy Awards.
It’s not just the X-Men mainstays who manage to make an impact either. Newcomer Dafne Keen succeeds in being both sympathetic and intimidating as Laura without having to rely on an abundance of dialogue to express the complexities of her character.
Renowned comedian Stephen Merchant is also likable as Logan’s unlikely aid, Caliban. The albino mutant may not be as integral to the plot as the above three characters, but he injects some welcome levity into the story early on before facilitating one of the most badass moments of the entire movie.
As far as the antagonists go, Boyd Holbrook is captivatingly cunning as Donald Pierce, while Richard E. Grand does little more than spout exposition as clichéd corporate director Zander Rice. There’s one other villainous element at play too, the outlandish nature of which borders on being too silly considering the seriousness of the story’s tone, but it just about works due to what it represents during the film’s climactic confrontation.
Hit and miss malefactors aside though, Logan is a true triumph of both the comic book genre and movie making in general. Its multi-layered narrative combined with its compelling character development and electrifying action ensures that Hugh Jackman’s tremendous tenure as Marvel’s most revered mutant ends on the highest note possible. If you’re a fan of the franchise and haven’t seen it yet, drop what you’re doing and get down to your local cinema to check it out now!
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