Warning: minor spoilers ahead.
Logan is a brutal film. Brutal in tone, brutal in the uncompromising nature of the violence it presents, brutal even in its dark (some might say realistic) message. However, it’s arguably for this reason that Hugh Jackman’s last outing as the titular Wolverine is such a fresh take on the superhero genre of films that has saturated cinemas over the past few years. Crucially, Logan is a film that doesn’t shy away from what it is, and to magnificent if sombre effect.
Undoubtedly inspired by their critical success with the brave and equally gore-laden black comedy Deadpool, Fox Studios pulled no punches in their vision for a dark, graphic finale to the saga of recurrent X-man Wolverine. Equally certain is that the maturity of tone, which prevails throughout this send-off to series cornerstones Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman, would have been impossible to replicate 17 years ago with the very first X-men film, a testament of just how far the superhero genre has come since then. Logan is so much more than a mere send-off to these stars of the X-men cinematic universe, however.
“Seeing the mentor-turned-patient Xavier in such a vulnerable state was at times heartbreaking to watch and serves incredibly well as the film’s emotional outlet”
Opening to a group of Mexican thugs jacking the tyres off of Wolverine’s Chrysler-turned-taxi, it isn’t long before viewers are shown the bloody nature of the film to come. Impalings, nonchalant shotgun shootings and outright decapitations in the film’s opening three minutes alone are immediately followed by chronic alcoholism and language which certainly warrants Logan’s 15-rating.
Importantly, though, such radical creative decisions were not made for their own sake. The new direction does an excellent job of both building the depressing atmosphere of the now mutant-desolate world and developing the characters of said world, many of whom won’t have been on-screen since at least twenty-years prior to the film’s 2029 setting.
Jackman himself was unsurprisingly superb in the role he’s had nine films to master, making real the sense of desolate emptiness present in the dying Wolverine’s life. Equally fantastic, despite remaining silent for half of the film’s duration, was child actress Dafne Keen in her role as Laura, the genetic daughter of Wolverine following corporate attempts at breeding super soldiers. Ultimately, especially in the film’s final act, it is the development of the relationship between these two characters which both drives Logan’s plot forward and maintains a sense of purpose within the sustained conflict and violence which permeates the film from start to finish.
“A bold and exciting farewell to one of cinemas most beloved characters of the past decade”
Moreover, the sense of necessity and believability of this relationship is fully realised thanks to Stewart’s performance of Charles Xavier like he has never been seen before. Suffering from a debilitating degenerative brain illness, and dealing with an enormous sense of guilt for actions I won’t spoil here, seeing the mentor-turned-patient Xavier in such a vulnerable state was at times heartbreaking to watch and serves incredibly well as the film’s emotional outlet, whilst also offering an honest commentary upon care for the elderly and infirm in today’s society.
Amidst the film’s depressing tone and ultra-violence, however, is an incredibly effective use of dry and often dark instances of humour which keeps Logan from being an overly crushing work of pessimism. Again, the titular Logan’s relationship with his genetic daughter is at the centre of this, truly cementing the heart and sense of redemption which works in tandem with the film’s more morbid elements.
However, despite being largely exceptional in terms of a consistent tone, breath-taking action sequences and captivating character development, to be caught up in praise for Logan would be to disregard that the film is by no means perfect in its delivery. In particular, certain character deaths near the end of the film’s second act felt somewhat rushed and ineffectively utilised considering the build-up that the film invested into said characters.
Although some might argue this keeps in line with the film’s pervading sense of realism, it is difficult to challenge the notion that a means of reaping a more emotional response from the audience was missed in these instances. Furthermore, despite an admirable effort from the cyborg bounty-hunter sent to retrieve Laura (played by Boyd Holbrook), the sense of threat or gravitas from the film’s main villain, a Dr. Zander Rice, was never truly realised, especially hampering the tension of the film’s final act.
Additional pettier criticisms could be levelled towards Logan, such as a poor choice of end credit music and the occasional glaringly bad use of CGI which stands out from the incredible practical effects deployed throughout the majority of the action. However, none of the above points truly lessen the experience of what ultimately is a bold and exciting farewell to one of cinemas most beloved characters of the past decade.
Logan is a film well worth the watch not just for fans of action flicks but also those simply in want of a solid story which puts its characters at its heart, and is a definite contender for the best film of 2017 thus far.
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Media Courtesy of Donners’ Company, Kinberg Genre.