Since ‘Logan’ was released last week, there’s been a vast amount of praise for it. Some have proclaimed it to be the greatest comic book film ever. Of course, I watched it as soon as it came out, but wanted time for the hype to die down and for my own thoughts to percolate through the critical acclaim. Often, when a film is given endless praise, it sets alarm bells off in my head. I always think: “can it be that good?” The hype train soon runs off course and the critically acclaimed film enters a phase of harsh criticism (the latest example I can think of is ‘La La Land’). However, after a week of thinking long and hard about ‘Logan,’ I can almost agree that it’s one of the greatest comic book films ever (whether or not it’s the greatest one is something I’ll have to think about further). It’s dark, gritty and reaches a level of maturity that few comic book films have done.‘Logan’ takes place in the near future. An aging and aching Logan, Professor X and Caliban are the only mutants left alive. Professor X has dementia, causing his brain to be labelled a WMD. Logan and Caliban keep Xavier heavily medicated to prevent his psychic powers from being unleashed to devastating effect. Logan finds a young girl with the same mutant powers and claws as him. Chased by Donald Pierce and his Reavers, Logan and company plan to escape America.
“Seeing you like this just breaks my damn heart”
Right from the beginning, you can tell the film has embraced the R rating. Blood and swear words splash the screen in the first few minutes. If you’ve ever felt that the character of Wolverine has been trapped by a kid friendly rating, you’ll get more than you bargained for here. Every fight scene in bloody, brutal and vicious. I’m surprised it was only rated a 15 certificate over here in the UK. Not just for the content, but the prevalence of bloody violence. In some aspects, it’s almost on the level of a horror film. It’s just a shame that we’ve only just got to see this side of Wolverine. The violence in ‘The Wolverine’ looks tame in comparison.
The ultraviolence is only part of the maturity that ‘Logan’ reaches. It’s a story about the torture of aging, even to a character who hasn’t felt the sadness of aging in his own body. In the opening minutes, we see a vulnerable, broken ‘Logan.’ His healing abilities are not what they used to be. He has difficulty dispatching a group of thugs who are vandalising his limo (yes, Logan drives a limo to fund Xavier’s expensive medication). One adamantium claw doesn’t extend properly. He’s scarred, bruised and broken. Life has finally caught up with the formally ageless Wolverine. ‘The Wolverine’ examined Logan’s grief about Jean Grey, but ‘Logan’ examines Logan’s grief about his entire life. Is he a bad man? Is he a good man? What has he achieved? For once, an X-Men film seems character-driven rather than plot-driven.
Laura, the mutant with the same powers and claws as Logan, is a way of redemption. In a narrative analogous to modern day US politics, the chase takes us from the borders of Mexico to Canada. Mutants have been wiped out and Laura’s backstory adds to that narrative (without spoiling too much). The picture painted is that of a bleak and dusty future that’s not too different from our own. Yes, there may be driverless trucks on the road (which are more of a danger than a help), but petrol stations are still around and people waste their lives in casinos. It’s more grounded and relatable than the typical X-Men film. There are X-Men comic books in this reality, and Logan calls them “ice cream for children who wet their beds.” ‘Logan’ harkens back to Westerns such as the specifically referenced ‘Shane,’ but also road chase movies such as ‘Terminator 2.’
“I’m so sorry”
What helps the feeling of “realism” is the astounding performances of Hugh Jackman (Logan), Patrick Stewart (Xavier) and Dafne Keen (Laura). Jackman, from a continuous limp to a growl to an eye roll, exhibits the pain and torture of a character coming to terms with his waning mutant ability and possible death. It’s his best performance, ever. Stewart, from rambling in a medicated haze to joking with Logan, is on top form. His transitions from dementia-riddled nonsense to serious talk are highly believable. But, possibly even more impressive than the two headliners is the newcomer, Dafne Keen. She spends most of the film silent, and even when she talks she speaks in Spanish. But every facial move is a hint to her own inner torture and pain. It’s a standout performance for a girl who’s performing in her first film.
Of course, as with most comic book films, the villains are short-changed. Donald Pierce has a vague background, defined by his metal hand rather than any characteristic. Richard E. Grant as Xander Rice is little more than an extended cameo (but, in a way, the main villains of the piece aren’t characters, but time itself). ‘Logan’ doesn’t need a compelling antagonist to succeed. This fact makes the addition of a third act villain unnecessary and steers the film into comic book territory. It threatens to derail the grit and realism built up throughout. The last set-piece also lacks the tension and small-scale feel of the set-pieces of the first two acts. While the villain does make thematic sense, it also feels very heavy handed.
“So this is what it feels like”
But like I said, it doesn’t derail the film. By the times the credits rolled, I simply wanted to applau. Whether or not it’s the greatest comic book film of all time is under debate, but what can’t be under debate is the brilliance of the latest X-Men film. If you’ve wanted to see Wolverine slash and claw people in blood-drenched action scenes, then you won’t be disappointed here. But that’s not the only adult aspect of it. Thematically, visually and narratively it’s a very adult film. It deals with aging, grief and redemption in remarkably grown up ways. It’s just irritating that the other two Wolverine spin-offs couldn’t reach this level of quality. If this is Hugh Jackman’s final rodeo, it’s a fitting one, but also a mournful one. Why do we only get one great Wolverine spin-off?
VERDICT: 9/10. ‘Logan’ is not just a great comic book film, it’s a great film full stop. It’s character-driven story is bolstered by three great performances. The third act may reduce the tense realism of the film, but it still fits in with the narrative and thematic aspects of the film.
What did you think of ‘Logan’? Leave your thoughts/comments below!