Here’s my spoiler-free review of the film Logan, which I was lucky enough to go to the NZ premiere to watch.
Firstly, I think we need to thank Deadpool. Because if Deadpool didn’t succeed in the way that it did, 20th Century Fox wouldn’t have taken the risk of creating a Logan/Wolverine film the way it should be. James Mangold (director) and Hugh Jackman pulled no stops as we progressed through decapitated heads, punctured limbs, sliced off body parts, and buckets full of fake blood that give Wolverine an animalistic savagery his comicbook counter-part has, but just couldn’t deliver in the previous PG X-Men films.
We’re in the dirty, dystopian, Western-like world of 2029. A world where mutants are all but gone, Logan is not the fierce warrior we’ve come to know, but an alcoholic driver-for-hire, whose Adamantium is slowly killing him from the inside, caring for 90-year-old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who suffers from a brain disease that causes people within a mile or so to paralyze every time he suffers a seizure.
Their quiet life is quickly turned upside down with the introduction of Laura (Dafne Keen), who takes our characters on a journey running from evil scientist Dr. Rice (Richard E. Grant), cyborg-arm guy (Boyd Holbrook) and his Reavers. Special mention to Stephen Merchant as Kaliban who adds to the story, and not just comedically.
This is a contained X-Men film, building on the previous 7 films mythology, but more concerned with the story at hand. There’s no world to save, no city to clean-up, not even a damsel in distress to turn into a love interest, this is a family tale, told in the most Adamantium way possible. It’s a film about a passive, sorrowful, broken hero at the end of a long adventure trying to find peace. And the film is smart in creating unpredictability, we’re unsure of what this road will cost Logan.
The biggest strength of this film, is its focus on the man, not the superhero. It’s in the title of the film, named after James Howlett’s human alter-ego: Logan, rather than Wolverine, his superhero alias. The previous X-Men films have been about showboating their superhero powers, it’s what audiences expect going into a X-Men film, and I would argue most if not all superhero films. Here, we dive in Logan’s reluctance to be a hero, a complexity he’s been struggling with for a couple movies now, and Mangold explores these personal themes, such as Logan’s reluctance but also his feelings of guilt and isolation.
The character relationships here are unparalleled in superhero flicks. All the relationships add depth, emotion and a heartbeat to the film. The mentor-student/father-son dynamic between Jackman and Stewart is heart-warming. Seeing a broken, beaten and old(er) Xavier being cared for by an aging and ailing Logan is nothing short of heart-breaking. In previous films Logan uses the term ‘professor’ to show Xavier’s standing over Logan. Here, Logan doesn’t mention it once. They are now close, and we explore their bond and the mutual feelings of guilt which incredibly engaging. Also, Logan’s relationship with Kaliban is a great. The relationships aren’t just about emotional depth, but they help bring out our hero’s humanity. Also, these characters don’t just make a team, but a family. Unlike previous X-Men films, where they tried to make us think it was family, this film takes the time to tell a story of a family.
The standout is Dafne Keen, playing Logan’s daughter Laura. Keen holds her own with the 2 veterans, skilfully adding to the trio’s family dynamic. Keen presents a young Wolverine-like Laura whose walk between innocence and intensity is spectacular.
If this is Jackman’s swansong, he’s exiting stage left at the top of his game, to a thunderous applause by an audience demanding an encore. This is indeed an end-of-an-era, Jackman has donned the Adamantium claws a whopping 9 times in 17 years, and never has he been more nuanced in his delivery than here. His performance can be both exhilarating and tear-inducing in equal measure. Jackman’s legacy is the fact that his Logan/Wolverine has survived a Brett Ratner sequel, one bad Ryan Reynolds Deadpool, and a couple bad movies only to still be as loved and cherished by not only the comic book geeks (you), but also the general movie-going audience (you).
Logan is a sincerely moving and gritty human story, which enthusiastically abandons superhero formulaic traditions and templates, translating the antithesis of what we have come to expect superhero films to be. It has set the standard for genre defining films, and to lock it into a genre will only do it a disservice, it’s not just the best Wolverine film, or one of the best superhero films, it can confidently stand alone as a cinematic experience worthy of multiple viewings, which I intend to do.
Logan comes out March 2nd. Make sure you go watch it! and come back for my spoiler Review where I’ll share my grade.