“The film we need now” has become a familiar refrain since the start of the year: anything romantic, feelgood or uplifting gets the label. Rays of sunshine amid all the current uncertainty. But what about films that come closer to capturing the current tone, our worries about the changes surrounding us? They’ve been noticeably in the minority, but now we have a mutant – and a hero – to redress the balance. Logan.
The third and, so it seems, final outing for Wolverine, aka Logan (Hugh Jackman), finds him in New Mexico in 2029, looking after an increasingly ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). But his own powers are on the wane, his body is falling apart and he knows it’s little to do with age. Thinking he’s one of the only mutants left, he finds himself entrusted to a young, near-silent girl Laura (Dafne Keen), who turns out to be something of a chip off the old blade. The possibility of a new generation starts to become a reality again.
The tenth movie (yes, really!) in the X-Men franchise draws its inspiration from comic books, but don’t go expecting a Marvel film. In fact, don’t go expecting a comic book movie full stop. It really doesn’t feel like one, not just because Logan’s powers are diminishing, but because there’s less emphasis placed on the super powers of the new generation of mutants. And the action sequences don’t have the same fantasy element. They’re unusually and unapologetically bloody, with decapitation coming as standard, and Logan’s ravaged body having to spit out the bullets it’s absorbed, rather than simply deflecting them.
And he really is in a bad way, apart from those all-too-evident outward scars. Those talons don’t work as well as before, he has a stumbling walk, a hacking cough and constantly draws from a bottle in his pocket. His admantium enhancements are slowly poisoning him and, while there’s an antidote, it’s temporary and doesn’t reverse the inevitable.
Director James Mangold’s approach becomes clear early on. He views Logan as a good, old fashioned western hero, the strong, almost silent type, there to protect the vulnerable, in other words women and children. Clips from classic weepy western Shane, about the stranger who protects a vulnerable family, spell it out for us, with the camera lingering on the final scene from the film when Shane rides off into the sunset, probably mortally wounded, with the young Brandon De Wilde calling after him to come back. While Logan doesn’t exactly ride off into the sunset, he does have a final showdown, this time against X-24, a new and especially ruthless version of himself (also played by Jackman) but who, with his shorter hair and more familiar mutton chops, looks more like his Sabretooth, his adversary from X-Men Origins:Wolverine. He’s relentlessly unstoppable, even when a military vehicle is dropped directly on top of him from a great height.
Sensing that the end is nigh for him, this is an even darker, more brooding Logan than we’ve seen before. But the signs are that, even without him and the joyously cantankerous Xavier, the mutants will go on, this time in the shape of a group of children. Logan’s young charge, Laura, is just one of them, a ferocious child who, for most part of the film, lets her steely attributes do her talking with utter savagery. She is Little Miss Angry, although her lack of knowledge about the ordinary world causes some amusement. In her first major film role, Dafne Keen lets rip and just goes for it.
Yet, beneath all the darkness, the brooding and the gore, Logan is also a film with a beating heart and it belongs to Logan himself. There are some powerfully moving moments, some involving Stewart and others the children, especially the bond that develops between Logan and Laura. Even though you know that this is meant to be the end of an era, you still wish it wasn’t – and you hope that the new generation will not only pick up the torch but carry it as well.
Logan doesn’t have that feelgood factor, it isn’t inspirational but it still hits the emotional spot, showing us a world with almost as many uncertainties as our own. It’s Wolverine’s last stand. And he goes out with a very loud bang.
Logan surges in UK cinemas in IMAX on Wednesday, 1st March.