When fans were first treated to the announcement that we were going to get a final standalone Wolverine film, we were excited. But when that incredible first trailer was released, well, everybody was chomping at the bit to see Mangold’s second Wolverine film.
The year is 2029. Pushing the overly complicated X-Men timeline aside (save yourself the headache), it’s easy to notice that Hugh Jackman’s Logan is a changed man. Mangold’s film opens with a thrilling sequence initiated by a handful of thugs awaking Logan from his drunken slumber, followed by a few dismembered limbs. The scene sets viewers up with what to expect from here on out, and Mangold does not disappoint.
After the supposed demise of the mutant species and all those close to our favourite X-Man, Logan, played finally by the exceptional and fitting Hugh Jackman, is not the man he once was. He’s a drunken limo-driver, using his birth name to get by unnoticed, but yet he maintains his infamous short-fused demeanour. But most noticeably…he’s dying.
Now a care-holder over his former mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) with the help of ‘mutant tracker’ Caliban (Stephen Merchant), our beloved Wolverine, sporting a beard and a pair of specs (“I like those, it makes you look younger”), is facing the inevitability of mortality and old age, a story arc derived from its ‘Old Man Logan’ source material.
With his past life seemingly behind him and with the world oblivious to his existence, Logan is both surprised and furious to realise that he wasn’t as invisible as he initially thought. With a young mutant with similar powers being bestowed upon him for protection and save passage to ‘Eden’, a safe-haven for surviving mutants, Logan is forced to reengage in a life he thought was left behind him.
The young mutant in question, played terrifically through a muted and subliminal performance by Dafne Keen, is Laura; or if you’re more familiar with the film’s source material, you’ll draw the conclusion that she is, in fact, X-23 – a product of Logan’s unique DNA. Whilst Jackman’s rage and aggression is perfectly displayed, it’s Keen’s subtle yet resonating performance that steals the show. That being said, however, the dysfunctional father and daughter relationship that the pair share is wonderful to endure. The two characters compliment one another perfectly, and are wholly responsible for allowing the film be as enjoyable, and as poignant, as it is.
Whilst Logan is propelled back into a world dominated by destruction and the will to survive, eagerly waiting fans finally get to see the damage his adamantium claws can do. Unlike past films, Logan benefits from its R rating – we see first hand the complete power that is within him, and it’s fair to say that witnessing Jackman tear his adversaries to shreds with great gore and spectacle is something that adds to the aesthetic that Mangold has hoped to achieve. But it’s not just blood, guts and brains that fans are treated to, as it’s equally as fun to hear Patrick Stewart tell Logan to “fuck off” from time to time. Make no mistake; Logan is not a film that you should be bringing your children to see.
But what separates Logan from the rest of the wheat is its almost unprecedented storytelling. This is by far a Marvel comic book movie that we have never experienced before, a film that can be compared to DC’s masterpiece The Dark Knight. Mangold places an emphasis on the story and the characters on offer, delving deep into the physical and psychological state of the protagonists. This is by far the most human depiction of Jackman’s Wolverine yet and Laura’s origins are presented in a compelling manner, allowing the chaotic events that unravel on the screen seem completely justified. Who knew that mass murder looked so damn cute?
As the film progresses on its road movie-esque narrative, it’s clear that Mangold and co. have provided their viewers with a film that isn’t afraid to toy with various genres and aesthetics. Juggling with its dramatic Western tone, with comedic elements scattered here and there, Logan throws all ‘comic book movie’ expectations out the window and brings forth a visually stunning and intricate aesthetic that runs throughout. If this film doesn’t make you want to hit the open road, barring the tendency to stick a knife in someone, I’m not sure what will.
But, with the appraisals aside, Logan is not a film that refuses to deny clichés. As much as the film distances itself from the genre it’s in, it also suffers to the same problems that many other comic book movies face – its lack of a compelling and dynamic antagonist. Interestingly, the choice of villain (no spoilers here) is not one that is derived from the film’s source material, and is ‘created’ (nudge nudge) for the sole purpose of being in the movie. The problem is that he’s just not that interesting and contradicts the complex characterisation that the rest of the characters have to offer, and as he plays a vital role in the film’s denouement, the finale that is intended to be deeply moving will just piss you off.
What is most frustrating, however, is the film’s necessity to ‘tell’, rather than ‘show’, especially channelled through Boyd Holbrook’s performance as Donald Pierce. Too often is expositional dialogue used to explain certain plot points that could easily have been avoided. This is a shame, as Mangold and co.’s script is bulletproof up until the final act where the exposition becomes far too visible.
“So…this is what it feels like.” As the end credits roll and the tears stream down the faces of many, Logan is undoubtedly a perfect send-off to characters that have blessed our screens for over 17 years, but an exciting way to kick-start a new phase of the X-Men franchise. If anybody can drive the story onwards and upwards, it’s definitely Dafne Keen and James Mangold.
A send-off as sharp as Adamantium claws!