“Logan. What have you done?”
Synopsis: “The year is 2029 and no mutant children have been born in twenty-five years. James “Logan” Howlett is charged with helping a mutant child named Laura reach Eden, a refuge for mutants in North Dakota, along with an ageing and severely ill Charles Xavier. Logan, Laura and Charles must escape their pursuers before it is too late”
Brilliant. Logan is probably one of the best of its genre. Certainly one of the best of its franchise. This film is exactly what was advertised, not a film driven solely by its action or spectacle but by its characters and the relationships that they build with one another along the course of their journey from start to finish.
Logan (as I’m sure you’ve heard) is not your typical superhero fare and that works tremendously to its credit, I would even hesitate to call it a superhero film, it feels like it owes a lot thematically speaking to the Western genre. Logan at it’s core is about a man who must take care of his family and protect them from invaders, they just so happen to have superpowers. That’s where this films strength lies, the action serves as a backdrop to the character drama, which itself is very well executed.
At the heart of the drama is of course Logan himself, played masterfully as always by Hugh Jackman. Here we see Logan at his lowest point, in a world without mutants or the X-Men Logan has become sick due to the adamantium in his body, which is slowly poisoning him and slowing down his healing factor, to the point where injuries that he would have shaken off in previous films cause him immense pain during the time his body heals, he is older, tougher and so much more vulnerable then we’ve ever seen him. Vulnerable to the point where, everything that has happened to him is a very visible weight on his shoulders. Which adds to the weight that he has been given in this film, that of caretaker to both Laura and Charles Xavier. Throughout the film we don’t see Wolverine get up a moment after being shot in the head, we see Logan suffer to keep himself and his dysfunctional family unit together even though he is barely keeping himself together as it is.
But when someone is looking like they might fall apart at any moment, they need support. For that Logan has Charles Xavier, played for the last time by Patrick Stewart, who is easily on par with Jackman in how broken these people are. Xavier here is suffering from a neurodegenerative disease which causes him to experience awful seizures and thus lose control of his telepathic abilities. So Charles himself is in need of support as well as Logan during their journey, both their bodies are failing them at the same time they are being pursued by heavily armed thugs with the aim of capturing Laura. Xavier during the film also carries a tremendous burden on his slowly weakening shoulders, but it’s not something he remembers until midway through the film, the scene where Charles partially remembers what he has done is a confession of that burden and the guilt that it entails, it’s heartbreaking. What you see on screen is an old man confessing his guilt after he experiences some semblance of normality in the previous scene. Stewart gave it his all in this film as a frail, terribly ill old man trying to bring some kindness back into a world that is vastly more unforgiving than the one that was seen in previous X-Men films.
Rounding off the surrogate family trio is Dafne Keen and Keen is easily on par with Jackman here, portraying a huge range of emotions from innocence, rage, confusion, nonchalance and deep rooted sorrow throughout the run time. It would not surprise me in the slightest if she was an Oscar winner in later life, Keen is that much of a powerhouse here. In regards to the aforementioned surrogate family, Laura (or X-23) is naturally, a child who knows no other life than the one her creators attempted to force upon her. Now with the help of Logan (albeit unwillingly) and Xavier, Laura finally has a chance at a normal life, or normal for a mutant. Aside from Keens absolutely stellar performance here Laura is more than likely meant to draw a parallel between herself and Logan or rather how Logan was before he met Xavier. He too, was an animal, confused and would lash out at any potential threat. Laura is Logans chance to step into the shoes of a father and have a shot at redemption. Laura is vulnerable, strong-willed and even at times a little funny and her strength of will could not be more apparent than in the following exchange;
“You are dying, you want to die”
“How did you know?”
“Charles told me”
“What else did he tell you?”
“To not let you”
That is a tremendous weight to put on a childs shoulders but Laura as a character is as stubborn as Logan himself and more than rises to the challenge and Dafne Keen at the same time equally rises to the challenge or portraying that burden.
I mentioned a clear Western influence earlier and it isn’t just visual although that is very clear as well. The first quarter of the film takes place in El Paso, Texas and the surrounding landscapes scream that visual flair. Unforgiving and rocky with scorched red earth serving as the exclamation point that this land will not suffer you if you’re not tough enough. But the stylings don’t stop there, particularly in regards to this films chief Western influence, the 1953 film Shane. In which a young boy befriends an ageing gun slinger. I’m sure you can already make the connection between Logan and Shane already, themes of age, loneliness and violence are all prevalent in both films as well as the relationship between a young innocent and the older mentor/father figure. But it goes further than that. Xavier in this film recalls to Laura the first time he saw the film as they both view it during a pit stop at a casino hotel and the scene that’s playing is after the climax of the film has taken place.
Shane is explaining to Joey that killing is an inescapable weight, a brand, whilst the settlers he has helped defend have accepted him, there is no way he can live with himself and the life he has led;
“Joey, there’s no living with… with a killing. There’s no going back from one. Right or wrong, it’s a brand. A brand sticks. There’s no going back. Now you run on home to your mother, and tell her… tell her everything’s all right. And there aren’t any more guns in the valley.”
That, is Logan in a nutshell. An emotional, visceral and very close to tear jerking nutshell. Hugh Jackman has said that this is his final time as Wolverine on screen and given the end of the film and the role itself, I can think of no better end for the character. So there you have it. Great performances, wonderful relationships between the main cast, a brilliant new actress on the scene and a truly emotional ending to a character. Any fan of comic books, Wolverine, the X-Men or just film in general owes it to themselves to see this. A great character piece of an old man finally finding peace.
Final Rating: 9/10
Summation: Damn near perfect.
Director: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Elizabeth Rodriguez
Running Time: 137 Minutes