While many will undoubtedly talk about the number of times star Hugh Jackman has appeared as Wolverine (it’s now nine), few of us manage to capture what’s that meant to the genre. When he first took on the mantle, in only his third theatrical outing, X-Men had nothing resembling contemporaries. Jackman defined what it was to be a superhero lead in the twenty-first century. Seventeen years later, he and director James Mangold bring that legacy to an end in the grandest style possible.
In a futuristic dystopia that’s not entirely unlike our own world, mutantkind is all but extinct. An aged Logan is eking out a living as a limo driver near the Mexican border. Delivering medication to the slowly fading Professor X (Patrick Stewart), now suffering from Alzheimer’s and secreted away with albino caregiver Caliban (Stephen Merchant), Logan too is also “sick on the inside.” However, when young mutant Laura (Dafne Keen) offers hope of a promised land, Logan is forced to saddle up one last time.
LOGAN, although inspired by by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan, is both a self-contained narrative and a fitting final chapter to a saga. With Charles Xavier’s evolutionary dream dead, it’s Shane by way of Lone Wolf and Cub, the ultimate apocalyptic western that never pulls its adamantium punches. From the coarse language to the bloody eviscerations, director Mangold’s film literally rips apart the often camp aesthetic of Bryan Singer’s X-Men films and replaces it with the bleak nihilism of John Hillcoat’s Cormac McCarthy adaptation, The Road.
Gorgeously shot in high dynamic range by John Mathieson, and underscored by Marco Beltrami’s haunting music, seeing limbs go flying and skulls penetrated by a trio of claws never gets tiring. This is probably because the once ‘immortal’ Wolverine is now the underdog, and in Jackman’s calculated performance, you can almost feel every ache and cheer each minor victory the character achieves. Mangold, Scott Frank and James Michael Green’s screenplay has crafted a conscious rejection of expected tropes, but still given us a wholly familiar figure at the centre to engage in a self-aware dialogue with the fanbase.
Patrick Stewart almost steals the show out from underneath the lead with all the best lines and a fair whack of the profanity. Apart from the sheer joy in hearing an aged Professor X swearing with tactical precision, the powerful symbolism of the world’s most powerful mind crippled by an uncaring disease leads to some amazing set-pieces of the ultimate psychic ‘brain freeze.’ Newcomer Keen is a flurry of motion, wordlessly conveying badassery in sparkly sunglasses. Supporting cast Stephen Merchant and Richard E. Grant are underused, but each have impactful moments on screen.
LOGAN would have been impossible to create in isolation of the rest of the series, but expertly crafts an entire world of its own. It’s up to the audience to fill in the gaps of what comes before and after, but is left with no doubt that this is the perfect and only ending that a hero of this standing should receive. This is the comic book adaptation all others will be judged against for some time to come.