Sunday, 12 March 2017


"An excellent farewell to Jackman's long run as Wolverine."

Batman has been played by eight actors in live action films since 1943. Superman by five, Spider-Man by four. Most of the X-Men, in spite of the seventeen years of continual film production in a (broadly) consistent universe, have been played by two or more actors. But it's hard to imagine anyone else playing the Wolverine.

Some day, of course, someone else will play Logan. Fox won't let the character lie forever, and if they ever let the X-Men rights slip, Marvel would snap them back up and make a Wolverine film like a shot. Whoever takes on the role is going to have a very tough time winning over Hugh Jackman's fans. On paper, he is totally, notoriously wrong for the part. A short, stocky, beaten-up little bruiser being played by a strapping, handsome actor, who was best known for musicals prior to getting the part. Nonetheless, Jackman has been note perfect throughout his appearances in the X-Men franchise, from starring roles to cheeky cameos. He's the only actor to appear in all of the X-Men and Wolverine films - you can even include Deadpool in that, if you want to count the paper face mask Wade sports at the end. 

Logan is to be Jackman's final time as the Wolverine. This is probably for the best; there's only so long anyone can play an ageless mutant. Taking inspiration from the Old Man Logan storyline is something that Jackman himself campaigned for for some time, although seemingly he was mostly interested in the "old man" part of that than anything else. Indeed, very little from that questionable comics series has survived, beyond the future setting, the aged Logan and the road trip format. It's 2029, and no mutant has been born for over a decade. Logan is working as a chauffeur, of all things, trying to earn enough money to get out of the States. He is, along with the vampire-like mutant Caliban, caring for Professor Xavier, who is having psychic seizures that are devastating to everyone in the vicinity.

It's not a jolly setting, and it doesn't appear to be either future shown in Logan and Xavier's last mission together, Days of Future Past. But then, the writers X-Men franchise has never worried too much about continuity. Logan exists in relation to the previous X-Men films, but set apart as its own story. Nonetheless, the script assumes a certain knowledge of the basic set-up of the X-Men's world, and the nature of both Logan and Xavier's characters. It would be possible to come in cold and pick this all up, but it's not intended to be watched like that. It's a reflection on Wolverine's character, how he's developed through the films, and how he can be expected to deal with the decades of horror and violence he's experienced.

Logan is an extremely violent film, with decapitations, gunshots to the head, brutal beatings and murders aplenty. While I might sound like a scratched record, I am amazed that it has been released with a 15 certificate in the UK (an R-rating in the States, which isn't quite the same but still more permissive than I'd expect). Not too long ago, Logan would definitely have been rated 18. I don't think it's too violent, though. Indeed, it's honestly violent, in the way that, say, Tarantino films usually are. Violence is horrific and should be treated as such, and a less visceral version of Logan would blunt the message of what violence can do to someone.

The film hinges on Logan's two core relationships: with Xavier and Laura Kinney. Both call back to the first X-Men film in 2000. While X-Men saw Xavier take Logan in and bring him back to some semblance of civilised behaviour, here we have Logan caring for the decrepit Xavier, looking after him both for his sake and the sake of anyone else in the local area. The second relationship, with his genetic daughter, Laura, mirrors his paternal relationship with Anna Paquin's Rogue in X-Men. However, there's no element that calls back to the Logan-Jean Grey relationship, although a line referring to Jean was reportedly cut from the final edit. It's hard to see how such a relationship would have worked in this film, and it works better focusing on a relatively small core group of character. Nonetheless, it's a pity that there was no room for Liev Schrieber's Sabretooth in the film - the one good addition to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and a character who is inextricably tied up with Wolverine's story.

Both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart give exceptionally good performances as aged, sick versions of their now familiar characters. With Logan slowly dying from the adamantium that has been poisoning his system for decades, and Xavier dying from straightforward old age, there's an sense of impending death throughout the film. The Logan-Xavier relationship is one of exhausted commitment and responsibility, tempered by genuine fondness and good humour. Hearing Stewart swearing his tits off throughout the film is worth the ticket price alone. Surprisingly good is Stephen Marchant's performance as the ghoulish Caliban, bald and albino and sickly, an outsider to the pairing but one who helps hold it together.

Really, though, it's Dafne Keen's performance as Laura that makes the most impression. In spite of having no dialogue for much of the film, the Anglo-Spanish actress, at only eleven years old, gives the most remarkable performance of the film. She easily holds her own alongside Jackman and Stewart, no easy feat at all. She possesses both raw, terrifying instinct and heart-rending vulnerability. Laura Kinney has been a huge success in the comics, first as X-23 and now as the new Wolverine, and it's easy to see a great future for Keen as both an actor in general, and as an ongoing star of further X-Men films.

Logan's journey is at once both cynical and hopeful, giving up his less realisable hopes of escaping with Xavier to his adoption of Laura's own dreams, finally helping her achieve her freedom. It's also, as the X-Men films have always been at their best, about family.


There's an extended period in the film in which Logan, Xavier and Laura finally get time to rest and recuperate, thanks to the hospitality of the Munson family. It's an understandable but exceptionally stupid move by Xavier to insist on staying with them, and it leads to them all being very violently killed. However, it does provide some respite from the relentless chase by the villainous Pierce and Rice. Logan papers over the cracks in his story by referring to Xavier as his father, and along with his technical daughter, Laura, forms his own family that reflects the situation of the Munsons. It makes the eventual tragedy so much more painful.

Richard E. Grant does his usual cold, arch villain thing well as Zander Rice, the genetic tinkerer who takes credit for both removing mutation from the human genepool and creating his own army of genetically enhanced warriors. While I understand completely the decision to change his character from Mr. Sinister to the more believable Rice, I do hope we finally get to see my favourite X-Men villain in  a future film. Boyd Holbrook is probably a better villain as Donald Pierce, a completely amoral killer, leading his own army of cyborgs as they hunt down Laura and the rest of her kind. Half way through the film, a new villain is introduced: X-24, a clone of Logan who acts as the major threat for much of the remaining runtime. Truthfully, he's less a villain, more a monster, a silent, relentless killer who cannot be reasoned with and barely even slowed down. Utilising the same de-aging techniques we've seen in films like Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War, the dual role allows Jackman to portray the feral Weapon-X version of his character once more. The CGI makeover doesn't look wholly convincing, but the slight off-ness of X-24's appearance only adds to his terrifying presence.

This is a film with a horrendous death toll, with no one but Laura and her "siblings" surviving, and this feels entirely fitting. The X-23 kids make for a potential new team of X-Men in the future, but for now, they provide Logan with a reason to keep fighting, and Logan with a mission and story. While Stewart hasn't ruled out another appearance as Xavier, I hope he takes Jackman's lead and allows this to be the farewell for his character, because I can't see either of them topping Logan for either story or performance. The very last scene gives us an actual funeral for Logan, with Laura quoting from the classic movie Shane as she lays her father to rest. It lays it on really thick, but it works, and the final moment, flipping the makeshift grave marker on its side to become an X, is perfect. In all, Logan is an excellent farewell to both Jackman's long run as Wolverine, and perhaps Stewart's equally long role as Xavier. Quite different to any other superhero film, this is a superior comicbook movie.

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