After the initial success of Deadpool, 20th Century Fox spearheaded another franchise in their rights that fans of X-Men have been pining for; the long-awaited R-rated outing into Wolverine. I was hesitant to see what Fox, and the very underrated director James Mangold, were capable of in the realm of R-rated comic book films. My first reactions were mixed, as I thought a grittier, more violent Wolverine would surely appeal to my inner fanboy but could fall victim to a glorification of the violence without much purpose – or at least for the sake of making everything R-rated because it’s a tried and tested formula that works now. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Logan. Apart from the outbursts of graphic violence that felt more in-tune with the gritty nature of the Weapon X comics, what we also got was an emotional, heartfelt look into a characters world on the brink of collapsing.
Set in the year 2029, Logan takes place a while after the alternate timeline events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. A beaten, sick Logan spends his days as a limousine driver, trying to scrap together enough money to liberate himself and a dementia-stricken Charles Xavier, who rests in his care. After a basic escort mission for a child with a mysterious past goes wrong, Logan finds himself on the run once again and must ensure the safety of the young girl while taking one of the most blood-soaked road trips ever put on film.
What immediately grabbed my attention about Logan was its setting and characters. The world is vastly different from the more upbeat, hopeful world we’ve seen in previous X-Men films in which heroes rise to the occasion. Here, there’s a severe lack of hope and heroes, and it cuts through the film like a knife through butter. It’s a brooding, dark film with characters truly down on their luck. Logan is not the wise-cracking anti-hero we know from the past anymore. He’s a bruised, aging man with a dire illness that’s slowly eating away at his psyche and powers. This world and characters feel soul-crushingly hopeless, painting a quite grim picture of a time gone very wrong for superheroes. It’s a bold step in the X-Men universe that explores the darker themes of what the series ultimately felt like it was building up to – an inescapable dose of reality.
Logan tells a more contained, personal story as opposed to the bigger blockbuster spectacles like the previous standalone Wolverine movies. There’s a great emphasis on the personal plights of the characters, especially given the rough circumstances they find themselves in. Once again, Hugh Jackman is fantastic as Logan and this time gives a multi-dimensional, grounded performance that’s, dare I say it, almost worthy of an Oscar. Patrick Stewart gives the best performance of Charles Xavier in the series, dwindling the once powerful Professor X down to a highly emotional, human level filled with regret and despair. Dafne Keen’s breakout role is a scene-stealer as Laura, the mysterious mutant child gifted with some familiar special abilities. In terms of acting, everyone is firing on all cylinders in Logan and its spectacular – but that’s not to detract from the meat of the action either.
James Mangold injects the action scenes with a ferocious visceral impact, unchained from a PG-13 rating to bring out the gratuitous violence that we’ve all been waiting for in a Wolverine movie. There’s a handful of downright incredible action sequences that complement each characters’ abilities, from Wolverine’s animalistic rage digging his claws into skulls to Professor X’s omnipotent seizure-induced fits that make for some of the most visually interesting and disturbing moments of the film. Everything blends together seamlessly and the emotional punch of each action piece is backed by solid character development and genuine empathy – a rare treat in a superhero film that hasn’t been this perfectly balanced and humanized since Christopher Nolan’s crime epic, The Dark Knight.
Verdict: Logan is 2017’s first truly great film. It’s a mesmerizing, unapologetically violent character study that deconstructs these beloved X-Men characters, putting them in unexpected and challenging places that feel more at home in a high-budget drama. While the action sequences are among the best in the entire X-Men series, and pack plenty of fast-paced, gory satisfaction in their meticulous execution, it’s the characters that draw you into Logan’s greatest aspect as a fulfilling superhero film that hits all the right emotional marks. Bravo.