Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Logan - Film Review

Ever since the X-Men film franchise began in 2000 one of the continuous guiding lights has been Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. The then unknown Australian actor was so perfectly able to catch the animalistic rage of the adamantium clawed superhero whilst also being able to portray his more human side. As such, he became the face of the series, appearing in almost every film (Deadpool was the only exception) and bringing his all to the character in even the clunkers like Origins: Wolverine. His reign as the character has been excellent, but all reigns must come to an end and Jackman announced that he would be retiring as Wolverine in one more standalone film. Later developments revealed that the film would also be the final outing for Patrick Stewart as Professor Xavier, another key anchor in the X-Men series who was able to bring dignity and stoicism to the role as the teacher and leader of the X-Men. With revelations that the film would be based upon the comic Old Man Logan it was clear that the film was going to be a sombre finale for Jackman and Stewart.

Indeed, Logan has perhaps the darkest and most emotional tone of any X-Men film up to this point – picking up in the near future, nearly all the mutants have died. Logan’s healing powers are degenerating and he spends his time as a limo driver whilst taking care of Professor X, who has become senile following the death of the mutants. Their lives take a change when they encounter Laura (Dafne Keen), a young girl who has similar powers to Wolverine. With the sinister Transigen on her tail, led by Doctor Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his head of security Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), Logan is reluctantly pulled into a mission to escort Laura to a safe place where other young mutants supposedly reside.

The grim tone of Logan gives it a definite sense of identity amongst the crowded slate of superhero films in recent years; James Mangold directs the film with an almost washed up feel, making it feel like a western in places. Given the bleaker subject matter of the film the filming style here works wonders and gives the film a more natural serious feel to it than many other superhero blockbusters. This is further accentuated by the action in the film; following Deadpool’s runaway success Logan was able to secure an R rating. Like Deadpool the violence is extremely bloody, but unlike Deadpool, which balanced its gore with the wackiness of its title character which helped to make the violence more palatable, the violence in Logan is far more brutal to sit through, which works brilliantly for the character. With Wolverine hacking, slashing and clawing his opponents in such a bloody fashion throughout, Logan establishes the true nature of a Wolverine movie and shows that it can be done properly.

As for the performances, it’s certainly a real shame to see both Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart depart from their roles as Wolverine and Xavier – both men could play the roles in their sleep and were pivotal to the overall success of the X-Men franchise. Their swan song performances are their most emotional and effective that they’ve been. Jackman captures the reluctance, weariness and jaded cynicism of a character who’s getting old and losing his powers whilst still being able to attain the animalistic rage that the character is known and loved for. Stewart meanwhile does well as a man faced by guilt from actions he committed in the past and who is stricken by mental disorders but at the same time still retains some measure of optimism in the world and the future of mutantkind, as seen with his interactions with Laura. As for the newcomers, both Richard E. Grant and Boyd Holbrook gleefully ham it up as their love to hate antagonists, whilst Stephen Merchant’s role as Caliban, a tracker mutant who helps Logan take care of Xavier, helps demonstrate his more dramatic side whilst still allowing him to provide some enjoyably deadpan comic relief. However, the most interesting of the new characters is Dafne Keen’s Laura. A girl of few words but many actions (she doesn’t speak until at least 100 minutes into the film), Keen is able to match the animalistic rage of Wolverine and can keep a surly attitude throughout the film without grinding on the nerves of the audience whilst also hiding a more emotional core. This shows how Keen is a worthy child actress who could very easily guide the X-Men franchise in further instalments.

Overall, whilst it is a shame that Jackman is hanging up his claws after seventeen years it is excellent that his departure from the series would allow him to finally have a Wolverine solo movie worthy of his skill in the role. X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Appalling. The Wolverine? Decent but still not great. Logan? Third time’s the charm. With the highest emotional stakes of any X-Men film to date (a number of scenes are genuine tearjerkers), violence that’s brutal yet exciting and excellent acting from both the old hands and the newcomers, it’s harder to think of a better send off to Jackman and Stewart, two of the most perfect casting decisions in a superhero franchise. This ranks right near the top of the X-Men films (only the frenetic fun of Deadpool beats it out) and it’s clear from this film that whoever replaces Jackman as Wolverine has enormous shoes to fill.

Logan – Directed by James Mangold, screenplay by Mangold, Scott Frank and Michael Green, produced by Laura Shuler Donner, Hutch Parker and Simon Kinberg, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant and Dafne Keen. A Marvel Entertainment/TSG Entertainment production, a 20th Century Fox film

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