| 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.
The action genre is a fickle beast, prone to producing some of the worst tripe Hollywood has to offer. These misfires often include $100M+ tentpoles, ghost-written by studio heads who operate on the misguided assumption that bigger is indeed better. Where Logan succeeds is in how small scale it feels and looks – and yet how large its stakes actually are. Its hero is vulnerable (both emotionally and physically), and seemingly always in peril at any given moment. The mere thought that any one of these protagonists could get hurt (or worse) fills you with more dread than conventional city-wide destruction. There’s no end of the world scenario here. No giant blue beam pointed at the sky. Just good ol’ fashioned brawls and skirmishes, decorated with loose limbs and painted in a lovely deep crimson shade of red.
Logan is the first to follow Deadpool’s wake, and like its predecessor, it wears its R rating like a badge of honour. The curiously bloodless stabbings of Wolverine in his previous PG 13 outings are out – now we are treated to spectacularly gory Adamantium-fuelled fight scenes that are utterly thrilling and cathartic. Importantly, the violence isn’t just cheap thrills – it actually serves to contribute a real sense of stakes to the plot, making you really feel and understand the mortality of these mutants, that violence is ugly, brutal and most importantly painful. We are also treated to profanity, which once again is not exploited, merely a reflection of Logan’s age and weariness, as he approaches the latter stages of life. Aside from some uncharacteristic swearing from Professor Xavier (which felt gratuitous) and a scene with totally arbitrary bare breasts, Logan’s R rating is effectively utilised for the service of its story, which is far darker, meaner and more mature than other X Men related films.
The difference in quality between The Wolverine, which Mangold also directed, and Logan is quite staggering really and you can certainly tell Mangold was in full control of the story this time round. The former descended into a typically over-the-top CGI-fest of a finale whereas Logan takes its time to build a study of this beaten down hero before climaxing with a heartfelt and personal finale that makes it much more of an involving film for the audience. The theme of parenthood has been explored a little with this character before, his relationship with Rogue in the first two X-Men films however, none of them have been quite like this, Mangold’s homage to the old school Westerns playing out fascinatingly well as Logan plays out. The real dirt and grit of a Western etched with Logan’s past is felt through John Mathieson’s quite wonderful cinematography while the adventure of it all is encapsulated in Marco Beltrami’s score.
“Nature made me a freak. Man made me a weapon. And God made it last too long.”
Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart showed an incredible performance. They manage to mix superhero nonsense with genuine heart, warmth, tragedy and even comedy at times. It’s all so bittersweet, but it works. They’re joined by a star making turn from Dafne Keen as ‘Laura’ a near mute clone of Logan who is on the run from a military group. While barely saying anything, Keen brings so much to the role, delivering a really touching relationship Logan had been unable to have throughout his whole tragic life. What’s even more impressive is the fact this is only Keen’s second role in her entire career and she nearly stole the show from Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. The rest of the supporting cast, most notably Boyd Holbrook as Donald Pierce and Stephen Merchant as Caliban, make the most of their screen time, even if Holbrook does fall foul to the comic-book movie villain curse. This is Jackman’s film though so focusing more on his last outing was always going to happen.
In the first act villainous characters are effective, because they appear only as hired guns led by a menacing Boyd Holbrook. This simplicity feels appropriate for James Mangold’s pared back, realistic vision of the X Men-populated world, a factor achieved through the grounded nature of characters, and very cleverly through the existence of X Men comics, almost implying that the films that preceded are an airbrushed, more idyllic, fictionalised version of the truth of the X Men. Critics have called the film like a Modern Western, considering its setting, its brutality, and a particular scene that directly references Shane (1953). On these bases, the film proceeds with gusto, yet falters again when far more melodramatic, far-reaching elements to the films antagonists are introduced. As followed through by a wasted Richard E Grant, the villains, and their back story, while interesting, feels incongruous with the gritty, realistic main narrative and its effectively more concentrated scope. It also adds more fat to the already bulging story, which feels bloated and not entirely coherent.
Overall, Logan certainly does justice to both the character and Hugh Jackman himself with a film that steps away from the superhero norm and offers a personal and emotionally fuelled outing that certainly brings the violence and delivers one of the best comic-book films I’ve seen. I really think it’s my second favourite after Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’.
‘Logan’ gets an 8.5/10.
Shot on 35's Rating Sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!
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