Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman; Patrick Stewart; Dafne Keen; Boyd Holbrook; Stephen Merchant
Synopsis: The year is 2029, mutants are all but extinct, and Logan has aged dramatically after his healing factor begins to fail him. Working as a private limousine driver, he cares for a deteriorating Professor Xavier on the Texas-Mexico border and has undoubtedly reached the end of his tether. Things change, however, when a young mutant girl is thrust into his care, forcing the three to journey across the country in a bid to find some form of sanctuary.
Run Time: 2hr 17min
This movie was certainly an experience, more evidently when taken into consideration alongside the other X-Men films. It is entirely different in tone. Indeed, this is a superhero movie quite unlike any that I have yet seen; and it absolutely works. If I said that The Wolverine (2013) was the film that X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) could have been, then this is the definitive experience of Wolverine/Logan and a fitting end to Hugh Jackman’s stretch as the character.
This is certainly not a sugar-coated, tights and spandex superhero film – a fact made clear as early as the opening scene. Indeed, the movie pokes fun at this lighter side of the genre several times, alluding to past adventures of the X-Men which have been embellished in comic books – “Maybe a quarter of it happened, and not like this.” Logan is a broken man. He limps, he swears, he drinks excessively and is covered in the scars of his old battles. His healing abilities are spent to the extent that he even needs reading glasses. Similarly, Patrick Stewart’s Charles Xavier is a far cry from his calm and collected portrayals from the past. He is senile, cantankerous and dangerous, following his diagnosis with a degenerative brain disease. This is more gritty, more dirty and, dare I say, more real. This is a world that is entirely believable, and it seems as though mutants no longer have their place within it. It is also understated. This is not a ‘save the world’ plot. It is far more intimate, personal and relatable. Bad things do happen, and we can’t outrun them.
Mangold’s vision for this film is clear, taking (occasionally obvious) inspiration from a host of films, including Little Miss Sunshine (2006), The Wrestler (2008) and perhaps most obviously, Shane (1953), which plays at one point in the film. Many critics have slated this moment as something of a negative, forcing the comparison upon us, but having seen it, it works. Yes, it’s an obvious nod, but what they failed to mention is the reaction of the characters to the film – Dafne Keen’s Laura supposedly never having seen a movie before in her life. We can understand why she might be enthralled by it. And this film is indeed a combination of classic Western and a road-trip that see the relationships between our characters really grow over the course of the film to end with a satisfying emotional payoff – something we rarely see done successfully in a superhero film. In any film, in fact. I, for one, am a tough nut to crack when it comes to caring about characters, and even I may have shed a tear come the close of Logan.
Something that needed to happen with these films was a more realistic approach to the action, and thankfully that’s exactly what we get here. When the claws come out, shit goes down, more so here than at any time before. Limbs and heads come off, bullets rip holes in flesh and people die. Lots of people die. This isn’t mindless action though. It is impactful and there is a real sense that every act of violence has a consequence. Technically speaking, aside from a few moments of the dreaded shaky cam, it is filmed very well, getting up close and personal, adding to the suspense. Visual effects are also relatively few and far between and, when present, are believably integrated into the world. These include Logan’s trademark claws and other features such as Donald Pierce’s (Boyd Holbrook) prosthetic hand. The world-building is also very neat. Despite being set in the near-future, it’s not a glossy interpretation – far from it. In fact, the only noticeable features that set the futuristic scene are the prosthetic implants worn by the Reavers and a scene involving self-driving trucks that tear along the roads – something we may indeed see in the not too distant future. This is a believable future, for sure. The score by Marco Beltrami must also be mentioned for its effectiveness. It is understated and melancholy when required and truly animalistic during the action scenes – a fitting accompaniment to the Wolverine’s vicious tendencies.
I couldn’t review this movie without touching on the performances, because these are pretty outstanding from the three leads in particular. This is definitely Jackman’s best turn as Logan as he brings such a world weary presence to the screen. Although he jokes about it, this is a character who has contemplated suicide, and you can absolutely believe it. Patrick Stewart is as fantastic as ever, perhaps bringing a slice of his own zany personality to Xavier, who fluctuates between moments of lucidity and relative hysteria as a result of his condition. Finally, Dafne Keen was a standout performance for me and some of the most perfect casting I think I’ve ever seen. Child actors can be frustrating (there are a few others in this film who aren’t terrible, but aren’t great either) but Keen handles this perfectly. She is largely mute, therefore communicates mainly through expressions, which are directed brilliantly. There is also a great chemistry between the three on the road and they seem like they could in fact be a real family unit, which is precisely what the film was going for. Stephen Merchant was also surprisingly good as Caliban – a character who I thought going in might be either obsolete or annoying, but he is neither, and shows that Merchant can indeed act with gravitas.
There was not a lot that I disliked here. The only things that spring to mind are the use of Richard E. Grant as perhaps the principal villain and the villainous faction as a whole. Grant’s performance is good, despite some critics slating it for playing on all the classic villain tropes (he does and doesn’t – I feel like that was a sweeping statement), but he does not get a lot of screen time or development. He sort of shows up a couple of times and does bad things then goes away again. Holbrook’s Pierce is the one who gets the most screen time, though similarly doesn’t get a lot of development, but I did like this character. I suppose, beyond the main driving force of the plot, the motivations of the villains aren’t very well realised – but this film isn’t about them is it? Therefore, this oversight can be forgiven.
This is exactly what I expected and wanted this film to be. It was a realistic and poignant look at what it’s like to experience deterioration, hardship and ultimately redemption in a changing world. It closes off Logan’s story on a strong note that makes you pause and think. It was exciting, serious, quite depressing, but also knew when to have fun – all quips and visual jokes got a good chuckle and were integrated naturally. I’m going to miss Hugh Jackman, as he truly is the definitive Wolverine, but if he had to walk away, I’m glad that this was the note he ended on. If you’re a fan, I couldn’t recommend it more.
The wait is finally over! I definitely had a good time with this one, although I’m sad that neither Jackman or Stewart will be reprising their roles, but you never know… Have you seen it yet? Let me know what you thought! As always, any constructive criticism or comments are very much appreciated. Follow me on Twitter @snakeintheplane for updates on whatever prosthetic robotics I might be writing about and I’ll see you guys when we take a look at the next Snake in the Plane!