Running Time: 137 minutes
Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant and Dafne Keen.
(Movie House Cinemas Press Screening)
In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
LAST week thanks to Movie House Cinemas I got the chance to see Logan, Hugh Jackman’s supposed last outing as the Wolverine. After playing the character for almost twenty years the Australian actor has said he wanted to go out on a high and finally give the fans the definitive Wolverine movie they’ve been waiting for: by god he’s delivered!
After watching the film my initial reaction at the time was to say that Logan was a flawless masterpiece: a week on from that screening I’ll begrudgingly accept that whilst the film might have some minor niggles I think it’s a fantastic piece of filmmaking. Much like what Chris Nolan did with the Dark Knight films James Mangold has served up a film that wants to be more than just another generic action movie, improving upon the glimmers of hope we saw within The Wolverine back in 2013 Mangold essentially delivers a character driven road movie that’s loosely inspired by Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan graphic novel.
Jackman’s portrayal of the central character is very different from what we’ve seen onscreen before, no longer considering himself a hero, let alone an anti-hero, Logan tries to keep his past a secret as he spends his days working as a chauffeur in Texas. In a world where mutants have seemingly vanished he’s been left to care for an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) in an old abandoned farm just across the border in Mexico. Aided by Stephen Merchant’s character Caliban, a fellow mutant in hiding, Logan is a character filled with anger and regret over past events: no longer able to heal himself as quickly as before he seems like a shadow of his former self and his only solace comes from the bottom of a whiskey bottle.
When a mysterious young girl called Laura appears on the scene displaying similar abilities to Logan, Jackman’s character unwillingly finds himself thrown into the middle of a lethal manhunt headed by Richard E. Grant’s character Zander Rice and begrudgingly accepts to chaperone and protect the young mutant to North Dakota in the hope that she might find safety there in a place called Eden.
Now I know I’m someone who in the past has claimed he’s suffering from comic book fatigue, the novelty factor of Marvel or DC’s latest film has long been lost on me and I’ve grown increasingly weary of the expanded universe concept and the post-credit sting. Thankfully Logan is the perfect antidote for this growing sense of apathy, it reminded me that with a little ambition and a strong narrative just what can be achieved within the genre.
First and foremost it feels like a film aimed towards someone my age (Sadly 34) rather than most of these movies which target younger viewers for box-office revenue and that’s the first time I’ve said that about a comic book movie since Dredd back in 2012. Yes I know Deadpool marketed itself as an R rated movie (a 15 certificate to us here in the UK), but for all its onscreen violence, sweary sweariness and numerous Wham references Deadpool still felt like a film targeting a 12A audience.
I can’t say the same about Logan, yes there’s onscreen violence aplenty, it’s visceral, nasty and a tad gratuitous, but it suits the grungy nature of the film’s story. The narrative itself dabbles with more adult orientated subject matter, dealing with issues like alcoholism, dementia and even terminal illness throughout its two-hour runtime. More importantly Mangold allows his actors space to perform, particularly Patrick Stewart, who in my opinion stole the show.
Stewart’s portrayal of Charles is that of a man slowly losing his mind, succumbing to the ravages of mental illness and heavily reliant on medication to keep his abilities in check. Much like in the first two X-Men movies he’s cast as a pseudo father figure to Logan. Only now the burden of responsibly has passed to Jackman’s character as he does his best to protect Charles, not only from any future deterioration of his ailing mind but from also remembering painful memories from their past.
This fantastic double-act effortlessly becomes a trio with the addition of Dafne Keen’s character Laura. She reminded me of Chloe Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl in Kick Ass, she’s a feisty strong- willed character much like Logan himself and much like with Hit Girl it’s hard not to be shocked by the level of violence she dishes out onscreen throughout the movie.The young actress holds her own against her two seasoned co-stars and hopefully this won’t be the last time we see her within the X-Men universe.
Logan worked so well for me because it felt so wonderfully self-contained and restrained. Yes there are nods to events that have happened in movies before, but they’re subtle and don’t make previous viewing an essential requirement, this film will work just as well for the uninitiated as it will for hardcore fans. The action sequences are fantastic, the R rating really brings some much needed weight to proceedings, especially when you’ve a central protagonist with metal claws coming out of his hands; but Mangold displays tremendous self-discipline throughout the film and never allows these set-pieces to over-shadow the film’s unfolding drama.
When was the last time a comic book movie had the confidence to just sit back and let the cameras roll and give actors some space to perform and tell the story themselves? All too often these big-budget movies rely on the spectacle of a CGI laden set-piece to move the plot along and it’s so refreshing for that not to be the case here.
There’s a scene within this film (don’t worry it’s not a spoiler) where Patrick Stewart just talks, he literally just talks to Logan whilst gazing out of a window from his bed and his character has a moment of clarity, recalling a painful event from their past together as the fogginess of his deteriorating mental health lifts for a brief moment of time. It’s a powerful scene that I openly admit reduced me to floods of tears, but I think that scene’s impact is amplified because Mangold doesn’t feel the need to show us this event in a flashback sequence, instead he just lets viewers conjure up their own images based on Stewart’s performance and the effect is so much more effective than anything any visual effects guru ever could conjure up.
That’s why I like this film so much: it’s the characters themselves that are always driving the drama forward from scene to scene. As Marvel Studios continue to dominate most of Marvel Comics’ back-catalogue with their Avengers franchise my hope is that Fox takes this opportunity to carve up their own little cinematic niche, forget the expanded cinematic universe concept lets have more adult-oriented comic book movies. Films like Deadpool and hopefully Logan will show there’s a market for them for them at the box-office, so hopefully this will be the first of many R rated comic book Movies.
It’s terribly naive to assume we’ll never see the Wolverine on the big-screen ever again, roles can be recast and silly money could be offered to Jackman to persuade him to play the role ‘one more time’, but if this is the Australian actor’s swansong within the role then I think it’s a fitting way to go out on.
I’ve waited for seventeen years for this movie and it didn’t disappoint, maybe a younger critic or someone less invested in the character might be more critical about this film, but for me it was simply perfect.As those closing credits began to roll with Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around blaring out I was left sitting in my cinema seat fully satisfied, an emotional wreck, but fully satisfied.