an older wolverine

A bloody and poignant send off for a beloved character.

How do you stage an elegy for one of cinema’s most beloved comic-book characters? Hugh Jackman has played Wolverine on screen for seventeen years and stated that Logan will be his last turn as the cigar-chewing, claw-fisted mutant. Jackman and writer-director James Mangold break convention with the finale, crafting a meditative drama on the nature of mortality set inside a comic book universe. It’s a film that benefits from these innovations, while occasionally getting bogged-down by franchise movie tropes.

As Logan, Jackman is markedly different from previous X-Men films. He’s sporting a thick, greying beard, his movements are sluggish and he’s a bit of a guttermouth. Working as a limo driver in the year 2029, Logan lives with an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who suffers Alzheimer’s and shockwave-producing seizures. Working as Charles’s personal assistant is Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a sun-sensitive mutant.

Things kick off with the introduction of Laura (Dafne Keen, in an astonishing feature debut) a young mutant with powers remarkably similar to Wolverine’s. Her mother offers Logan $50,000 to take Laura to a place called Eden and Dr Xavier insists they go and ensure her safety. This commitment is put to the test when villains Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and Dr Rice (Richard E Grant) show up with a battalion of soldiers looking for Laura.

logan and wolverine
Image from denofgeek.com

Filmed in the sun-bleached deserts of New Mexico, the film has a kind of washed-out aesthetic. Cinematographer John Mathieson (X-Men: First Class) emphasises the desolation felt by the characters with wide shots of hot, open planes. Contrasting these with the interiors of the car in which Laura, Charles and Logan are travelling interstate makes Logan a cinematic experience. It also focuses a lot on character development, relying on banter between Charles and Logan, while a paternalistic relationship grows between Logan and Laura. All of these elements set Logan apart from the ensemble-driven, franchise-dependent Marvel and X-Men movies past.

Logan suffers only when it falls into familiar territory. While the central performances of Jackman, Stewart and Keen are all excellent, the villains come across as thinner, less three-dimensional characters than the film’s heroes. There are also a few problem-solving plot contrivances throughout that belong in a less sophisticated film. These things result in a tension between Logan’s genre-breaking elements and its restrictions as a comic book franchise movie.

Minor problems aside, Logan is an immensely entertaining movie and a fitting curtain call for Jackman.

Cover from 20th Century Fox

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