By Thomas Simpson
It’s difficult to think of now, but there was a time Hugh Jackman was considered unsuitable to play Wolverine in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. At over 6-feet-tall, the actor was around a foot taller than the comic book character.
Seventeen years later, Jackman has portrayed Wolverine on the big screen 9 times including three Wolverine spin-off stories – X-Men Origins: Wolverine; The Wolverine; and now Logan.
The first two promised much and delivered little as both films fell short of expectations. Thankfully for audiences, the third time’s the charm.
For audiences concerned about superhero fatigue, Logan offers a fresh take on the genre. James Mangold presents a more grounded Wolverine film with a vulnerable Logan unlike we’ve seen before. It’s 2029 and his healing powers are failing him. He has aged considerable and is visibly ill.
There are few mutants left with Logan living in Mexico, with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) and a mentally deteriorated Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). His simple plan to escape to safety with Charles is threatened by the appearance of Laura (Dafne Keen), an 11-year-old mutant with similar powers and features to Logan. Retirement is not an option for the former X-Man as he must protect Laura from her militant pursuers.
After Deadpool showed 20th Century Fox that an R-rated comic book film has appeal there was a lot of buzz around Logan aiming for the same rating. As the rating allows more room for violence and darker themes, it opened the door for more adult content which Logan revels in. At first, the script appears to be trying too hard as it forces in cursing, nudity and blood. Once the film settles though, the rating begins to complement the film as opposed to acting as gimmick.
This is a hardened world Logan now inhabits and as such he’s hardened with it, more so than usual. The X-Men are gone and he finds himself struggling with mortality. He’s the last gunslinger forced into one more showdown and he doesn’t disappoint.
The fight scenes are brutal and vicious slaughters that are surprisingly restrained in terms of gratuity even if they are more graphic than previous instalments. The action set pieces are remarkably fresh, gone are the disaster porn CGI fests that often plague superhero films. The fights are hard hitting and wonderfully choreographed to channel the rage of our heroes, including a standout performance by Keen, and have that translate to us. You’ll wince more than once as adamantium cuts through bone.
Logan delivers a final chapter for the Wolverine character but for all its brilliance, it feels detached from the X-Men franchise. There are a few comments to previous films but for the most part this could be a standalone tale that exists outside the canon of the series. It’s more an observation than a criticism as it doesn’t hinder the film, but if you’re expecting many old and familiar faces to make cameos then don’t hold your breath.
With Jackman and Stewart both announcing that Logan will be the last hurrah for both their portrayals of the characters, it’s a fitting swansong. It doesn’t present a conclusion to the X-Men series or attempt to tie up any loose ends, but it is the final chapter for one hero’s journey that’s poignant, moving and with enough rage to remind you who you’re dealing with.
Thomas is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter: @Simmy41.