Around this time last year, Fox presented a unique take on the superhero film genre with the over the top and massively successful R rated Deadpool. The movie’s success opened the doors for other superhero films to once again risk stepping over the rating line, with Logan quickly getting announced afterwards that it too would get the R rating. With Hugh Jackman confirming that Logan would be the last time his lets the claws out as one of the most iconic comic book characters to ever grace the big screen, there was a lot of hope that he’d go out with a bang. But the X-Men franchise has been hit and miss at best, so the question is: Is Logan a worthy send off?
From the very first word of this movie – and I mean that literally – you know this isn’t going to be the kind of X-Men movie you’ve grown accustomed to. Gone are the restrictions of previous films, and director James Mangold makes the most of this newfound freedom. This is a brutal movie to watch, and potentially pushes the borders of what is even allowed in an R (MA15+ in Australia) film can show. Gone are the bloodless and clean swipes from previous Wolverine fights, you see the full effect on display, and there is plenty of gruesome aftermath for the visceral action to sink in. This effect is doubled when you consider that the co-lead in this movie is a little girl.
The R rating was no doubt implemented to allow a more ‘real’ vision of Wolverine on the big screen, but the restrictive rating is arguably more beneficial in the narrative freedom it allows, and not just the obvious swearing and violence. The story in Logan is a far more mature one than what you typically see in mainstream comic book movies, and because it doesn’t need to appeal to the younger demographic, it opened Logan up to tell a slower and more nuanced story. It’s not the most original premise – the whole story is basically Logan being forced to help a little girl even though he doesn’t want to – but the premise opens the door for a lot of character development that shows noticeable steps as the narrative unfolds. It’s a small and personal story, which is in contrast to the typical ‘world is at stake’ angle most superhero movies lean on. The second act maybe slows down a little too much, but it’s worth it in order to add little bits to the relationships between the main characters.
As expected, Jackman nails it in his swansong as Wolverine. This is undoubtedly his best performance in the role, and this take on Logan carries the kind of depth to make the key moments sink in. We also get a very different take on Charles Xavier from Patrick Stewart here, and it’s a little confronting at first but it only gets better as we delve further into Professor X’s state of mind at this point in his life. There was also a huge weight on the diminutive shoulders of Daffney Keen, who plays X-23. Child actors can be very hit or miss, but she is tremendous in a role that relied heavily on presence and visual storytelling. If she hadn’t have done as well as she did, many heavy moments in the film would have fell short, but she more than held her own alongside veterans like Stewart and Jackman.
The antagonists are pretty good for the most part. Donald Pierce, who we see in most of the trailers, is enjoyably evil when he’s given a chance to shine. His manner and look makes him very punchable, so it’s fun to root for Logan to go face to face with him. He’s not alone though, and when we delve further into the group he’s involved with is perhaps where this film slips a bit. A few characters are just kind of introduced with little real fanfare, and while it’s fun to see where the story goes as a result, it never doesn’t carry the weight it perhaps could have, outside of one scene in particular that is handled really well.
There has been talk that Hugh Jackman might don the claws one more time for the Deadpool sequel, and while I’d be lying if I said that though doesn’t sound amazing, it’d be a shame if this wasn’t his final movie as Wolverine. Because it’s hard to picture a better farewell to Jackman’s Wolverine than Logan. Even in the slower moments, and in a two and a half hour film there’s plenty of them, this movie is raw and unrelenting. When you’re not being hit with some hardcore action, you’re being attacked by the movie’s emotional side. This is not the same Wolverine you’ve become accustomed to for seventeen years, but it is the Wolverine many fans have been clamoring for.