Logan

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

James Mangold

Starring

Dafne Keen Hugh Jackman Patrick Stewart

Anticipation.

Surely they’ve had enough chances to get Wolverine right?

Enjoyment.

Finally, they nailed it.

In Retrospect.

Come for the ultraviolence, stay for the low-slung, deeply felt and highly engrossing B-movie antics.

As Wolverine, Hugh Jackman bows out in real style in this soulful revisionist comic book yarn.

A car riddled with bullet holes and filled with mutants barrels towards a compound boarder fence decked out with razor wire. It’s being chased by burly dudes with facial tattoos, heavy artillery and no lines. The driver informs the passengers, with an understandable sense of urgency, that they should ready themselves for impact. We anticipate the superficial pleasure of seeing the lumbering vehicle smash through the wire and off into the desert, to freedom. The baddie henchman stands there, shaking his head, pondering where it all went wrong.

In James Mangold’s Logan, the car has already taken a heavy pounding, When it makes contact with the fence, it’s catapulted back into the compound for some more doughnutting and gunfire dodging. The heroes in the car don’t display confusion at the fact that one of the most iron-clad moves in the entire action cinema playbook didn’t land for them. They grudgingly accept their situation and battle on regardless.

The film is built on these little bait-and-switches. Logan attempts to kill off the comic book movie not with one triple-pronged claw to the solar plexus, but inflict death by a thousand tiny cuts.

The success of the so-called “revisionist” comic book movie roll-out has allowed a movie like Logan the solid financial underpinning to exist. But where Deadpool was ‘regular comic book movie with swears’, Ant-Man ‘regular comic book movie with LOLs’, and Doctor Strange ‘regular comic book movie with Tilda Swinton’, this one has cantered even further off the reservation. It dares, appropriately, to mingle with the DNA.

Logan inverts the hackneyed and crushingly familiar creation myth template by teaming up new blood with old, charting the place where one cycle of violence begins and the other ends. While discussing the forthcoming Spider-Man re-re-reboot, a colleague mentioned that if he had to watch Uncle Ben get slotted one more time he was going to seriously lose it. This story, on the late-life travails of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, replays the Uncle Ben murder, but uses every tool in its arsenal to make the concept of the prideful, noble demise fashionable again.

It’s hardly what you’d call revolutionary, but it at least announces out its robust gameplan early on. Wolverine’s first line of dialogue is “fuck”. Later, watching as Patrick Stewart’s nonagenarian mentor, Professor Charles Xavier, peppers his metaphysical proclamations with F-bombs, you really know something’s up. And as early trailers for the film have (sadly) revealed, this is where we get to see the grisly human reality of having your face perforated on one of Wolvie’s adamantium bone-claws.

There are no invisible edits or carefully choreographed cheats whereby the kills occur just outside the frame. There’s no craven attempt made to secure a kiddie-friendly rating. And yet, this is absolutely a film that 12 year olds would (and should) absolutely kill to see.

As is hammered home a little too forcefully, Mangold has chosen not to water himself at the mineral-rich, eerily clear fount of Marvel, but instead sup urgently from the browning dirt puddle of classic-era westerns.

The team, which includes knee-high stowaway Laura (the excellent, perma-scowling Dafne Keen) who has some curious blood-letting capabilities of her own, all take refuge in a casino-hotel in Oklahoma City while George Stevens’ tearjerking 1953 oater, Shane, plays out on the flat screen. It acts as handy thematic foreshadowing, though its not entirely clear who will be the Christ-like saviour to rid the valley of the gun-toting scourge (Richard E Grant as a bastard scientist, and Boyd Holbrook as his mercenary wingman, Donald).

Otherwise, Logan plays like a lean, dust-parched B-movie, that channels its focus towards the fact that Wolverine is now a hobbling mess, bundling down the home straight, discount reading glasses propped inelegantly on the end of his red nose, with the sweet release of death as his desired end game. And by “lean”, that doesn’t infer the film is in any kind of big hurry.

It’s more detailed and soulful than your conventional comic book blockbuster, which obviously isn’t saying much. Yet there’s a satisfying core of self-loathing that infiltrates the film – as Wolverine increasingly despises what he has become, Mangold directs the same festering ire towards the conventions of a tired genre.

It’s also packed with death and destruction, though time has been taken to ensure the murders don’t all happen for the sake of empty visual kicks. There’s gore, but it’s not a leery, screwball brand of violence. There are no sick laughs. The violence is swift and brutal. And the film is noticeably bereft of cool kiss-off lines or metatexual quips. It toys with the mutant mythology by having the original comic books used as a literal reference point, with Logan even dismissing the gaudily inked pages as romanticised horseshit.

Mangold doesn’t dispense with the legacy entirely, but he doesn’t use it for quick-fix fan service either. He tracks back to emotions more than events, and the fact that Wolverine has seen so many of his friends perish in extreme close-up is what powers his own suicidal urges.

Jackman clearly adores the character, and he embraces the chance to essentially reinvent the mutton-chopped slayer for one final hurrah. It’s strange to think that this might stand as one of his greatest performances, but so it goes. It has its sneaky little moves and convenient plot expedients, but you allow them because it’s otherwise so committed to maintaining a serious and guilelessly emotional front.

As long as the numbers add up, it’s highly likely that this speeding, dilapidated juggernaut might not quite make it though the fence into freedom just yet, even if a brilliant closing shot suggests otherwise.

Published 17 Feb 2017

Tags: Hugh Jackman Patrick Stewart Wolverine X-Men

Anticipation.

Surely they’ve had enough chances to get Wolverine right?

Enjoyment.

Finally, they nailed it.

In Retrospect.

Come for the ultraviolence, stay for the low-slung, deeply felt and highly engrossing B-movie antics.

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