Hugh Jackman has been a terrific servant for the X-Men movies – appearing in nine of the ten films in the series and played the role of Wolverine for 17 years. He now has his swan song with Logan, a loose adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline and it is a no holds barred, daring entry in the franchise.
The year is 2029 and an aging Logan AKA James Howlett’s powers are fading and he works as a chauffeur on the American/Mexican border. No mutant has been born for 25-years and most have mysteriously died out. Yet Logan is called into action for one final mission when a Mexican nurse (Elizabeth Rodriguez) ask for his help to escort a young girl to across America.
The reluctant hero is focused on a journey across America with Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Laura (Dafne Keen) while being chased by an amoral pharmaceutical company, led by Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his ruthless head of security, Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
The Wolverine character has had a rocky journey when it comes to his solo films: X-Men Origins: Wolverine was such a disaster that it was retconned before X-Men: Days Of Future Past re-wrote the series timeline while 2013’s The Wolverine was a huge improvement – it was hampered by a PG-13 rating (not an issue for the Blu-ray release) and having a last minute director change. The Wolverine director, James Mangold, returns to the series and he has more of a role in the development and screenwriting process: this was the film he truly wanted to make.
One of the big selling points of Logan is it’s the first Wolverine film to receive an R-rating and it lets you know this fact in the few minutes after seeing a drunken Logan swearing like a sailor and then detach a Latino gang from their limbs when they try to steal his limo. The film does bludgeon you with the F word like it was saying “we got an R-rating!” but it does temper the swearing as it progresses.
The R-Rating was used to great effect with the action sequences – from showing Laura (AKA X-23) showing off her powers and abilities when fighting off a group of mercenaries to the final chase in the forest.
Logan has shades of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns – a story about an aging hero who has lost all those who are close to him living in a dystopian world. While The Dark Knight Returns Bruce Wayne saw it was his duty to don the cowl once again to protect Gotham, Logan is incredibly reluctant to become a hero again and only protects Laura because he has no other option. It’s a standard story writing but it was done well.
Logan also plays like an X-Men version of films like Children Of Men, The Road and The Girl With All The Gifts where a hero has to protect a child who could be the key to saving the world. Like Children Of Men it is set in a world where a certain section of the population has disappeared and a jaded man ends up being the protector of a special person.
Like The Road, Logan tells of a journey where a man and his child meet the various characters and dangers on the way. Logan and The Road also share the trait that both their main adult characters are dying yet they have to complete their journey to protect their ward.
Mangold stated that he was influenced by westerns with some obvious references to the 1953 classic, Shane. Like a Western it shares some of the same settings – from the American-Mexican border to North Dakota and Logan shares some tropes. When Logan, Xavier and X-23 stop at a farm in the Plain States it does turn into a mini-remake of Shane.
Mangold also uses Children Of Men and 2012’s Looper as influences on the art-direction – making the world of Logan have a grounded futuristic look. The phones and cars aren’t radically different to what we have now and other technologies are not that far out of the realms of possibility, like the screens within cars and the self-driving trucks on the highway.
Having played Wolverine over 17 years in nine movies, Hugh Jackman can do the role in his sleep. He improved in the role, growing into it as he got older and, as the old version of Logan, he plays a man with physical and mental torment and simply just surviving. His berserker rage is also evident and despite his weaken state still incredibly deadly.
Logan also marks Patrick Stewart’s final performance as Charles Xavier and like Wolverine he is also in a weakened state – unable to control his powers and drugged up to the eyeballs. If James McAvoy’s version of Xavier in Days Of Future Past was a man who became disillusioned and needs to find his belief, then the version in Logan was one seeing a great man who is a husk of his former self.
Yet the Xavier in this still had moments of lucidity and still harboured hope despite his deterioration.
Dafne Keen was an excellent find as X-23, being ruthless in the action scenes and because of her small stature she had an agile, flexible fighting style. She only communicated in roars and grunts and she a bit like the kid in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior – a mute feral child in a desolate land.
She was brought up in captivity to be a soldier, making her wild and uncontrollable yet everything in the outside world is new and feels her with wonder and she forms a bond with Xavier.
On the villain front Holbrook was the more memorable, the Texan accented cyborg Donald Pierce who relishes the chance to face Wolverine and Xavier. He is essentially a futuristic gunslinger and gun-for-hire. Richard E. Grant is a terrific actor but he basically had the standard British villain role, being ruthless yet sophisticated – and his orange complexion seemed like Grant went to the tanning salon and asked for the Donald Trump.
Fans of the X-Men movies know that the timelines are screwed up and difficult to follow and different filmmakers have played fast-and-loose with the universe. Logan is no different because it seems to respect continuity and disregard it at the same time.
There are references to the original X-Men movies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: Apocalypse yet contradicts it. An example is Wolverine has an adamantium bullet which he considers using to kill himself with, yet the character Caliban, played by Stephen Merchant, appears and is different to the version of the character in Apocalypse – one film prior.
It is best to come into Logan as an Elseworld story or set in an alternative timeline – a way for the franchise to tell different stories without disrupting established continuity.
As Jackman’s last appearance in the role that made him a star it delivers. It is a great last hurrah for the character and Jackman was able to flex his acting and action muscles and Logan does what the best X-Men movies do – be a well-done character driven sci-fi.