A defining figure in the generation of the superhero Hollywood blockbuster, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine has been one of the best portrayals of a superhero ever. So it seems fitting that Jackman’s final outing as Logan should be Wolverine’s best film.
It is 2029 and the world is not what it was. Mutants are all but extinct, and Logan earns a living as an Uber driver, scrounging enough money to buy drugs to suppress the deadly psychic seizures of the now-mad Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). But what seemed to be the crazy ramblings of the once mighty Professor X soon brings Laura (Dafne Keen) into Logan’s life; a young mutant with a mysterious past, on the run from the Alkali-Transigen corporation.
Director James Mangold shows us these once mighty superheroes as mere shadows of their former selves, and adds a new dimension to the superhero franchise; what is the true cost of their extraordinary abilities? Logan’s adamantium skeleton is slowly killing him, poisoning his body and slowing his regenerative powers. Xavier has succumbed to a degenerative brain disease, leaving him without control over his incredibly powerful psychic powers.
This humanises two beloved characters and gives us a gritty, dark film; pitching our heroes against themselves as well as their enemies. Both Jackman and Stewart give everything to their roles, giving us raw emotions like anger and helplessness, showing their characters as truly vulnerable and worn down after everything they’ve been through.
Xavier mentions the ‘Westchester Incident’, indicating something terrible. But it is never explained, and that’s a good thing, because we are drawn more into Logan and Xavier’s struggle without knowledge that could otherwise demean their emotional battles.
Mangold delivers a beautifully bleak film. Harsh desert landscapes and gritty, run-down sets with grimy, washed tones enhance the melancholy feel of the film. The cinematography is excellent, and there is a refreshing lack of obvious CGI. In many ways, Logan feels more like a western than a superhero film. Following the R-rated superhero movie trend started by 2016’s Deadpool, Logan is incredibly violent. But unlike Deadpool, the violence isn’t too gratuitous and doesn’t overwhelm the core of the film.
Logan does have a couple of flaws though. The villains are largely textbook, a common criticism of almost every comic book film. Their motive and the antagonistic base of the movie follows the tired trope of shadowy scientists seeking to eradicate or control mutants, as in virtually every X-Men film. And the ‘shock’ reveals were far too obvious after certain scenes, and lose their impact.
These flaws don’t ruin Logan completely though. The entire cast does an excellent job. Alongside Jackman and Stewart’s legendary characters, Stephen Merchant gives us a surprisingly serious turn as their ally Caliban. Boyd Holbrook is good as villainous muscle Donald Pierce. And Dafne Keen gives a great debut performance as the mysterious Laura.
Mangold’s script is laced with smart, dark humour, as we see how Logan deals with caring for the senile Xavier whilst also protecting Laura. Marco Beltrami also gives us a melancholic music score; perfect for the tone of the film.
Logan marks the end of an era for the superhero genre. Stewart’s Xavier and Jackman’s Wolverine have long defined the genre that began with 2000’s X-Men. In an increasingly formulaic and stale genre, Logan shows us that the superhero film can still be truly unique. It’s fitting that Jackman’s swansong should be the best X-Men film to date.