March 5, 2017 by bck1402
Outside of horror films, I can’t think of any actor who’s been so committed to a single role through a series of films (Robert England as Freddy Krueger comes to mind). Hugh Jackman has essayed the role of Logan or Wolverine across nine cinematic appearances since the first X-Men movie in 2000, and after 17 years, Logan marks his swan-song to the role that made Jackman an international star.
For this final outing, the tone is remarkably different from the other movies in the X-Men franchise thus far. While we still have Wolverine (Jackman), Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and a small smattering of mutants, this is far removed from a superhero movie. Sure, the action set pieces are unique to the characters and their abilities, but they punctuate the drama at moments, serving to highlight the dangers our heroes face and the adversity they need to confront as the movie takes it’s rather languid trek to the end.
There are several ways to approach this. It could be seen as a western where an aged gunslinger is called back into service. The western motif is highlighted several times, either through Laura (Dafne Keen) eyeing a cowboy outfit, riding a toy horse, the openness of the locales, or even when the characters are watching the 1953 classic Western, Shane. It’s also a road movie as Logan, Xavier and Laura go cross-country in search of a possible mutant haven called Eden, while being pursued by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) and his band of Reavers.
The core of the drama is the mystery of Laura, her origins and ties to Logan himself, bringing his story almost full circle with links to the Weapon-X program or references to Alkali Lake. Even then, Laura is a catalyst to the drama between Logan and Xavier, and it is in their intimate or quiet moments where the drama soars. Both Jackman and Stewart bring gravitas to their performances in their scenes together, even under some considerable make-up to age their characters to the near future setting. Xavier is supposedly 90, so Logan would be well over 120-140 (perhaps?) his healing factor not only slowing his ageing but also working overtime against the poisoning in his system by the adamantium on his bones. This is a very world-weary warrior indeed, beaten down by life, numerous losses, and so many deaths that haunt him. And Jackman delivers indeed.
Director James Mangold handles the drama with aplomb and the necessary deftness without getting too heavy-handed, relying a lot more on the physical effects and stunts. Securing the R-rating also allows Wolverine to fully express the rage and showcase how dangerous the man really is. While limbs are hacked, and body parts perforated, our cinematic presentation was somewhat sanitised, with reframed, enlarged or blown up close-ups of scenes as a way to cut away from the (supposedly?) gruesome violence, and an occasional phrase is silenced out (not the numerous f-bombs tho). Otherwise, there were no physical cuts or jumps in the overall presentation.
Given the nature of the plot and story, the pace is a little on the slow side at times, pushed along by the performances of the main stars. Even with Jackman and Stewart on screen, their co-stars hold their own remarkably well. Boyd Holbrook is dangerously menacing as Pierce, obviously relishing the role of bad guy. Stephen Merchant brings a very different, quite sympathetic Caliban from the one we saw last year in X-Men: Apocalypse. However, it is the young Dafne Keen who impresses sharing a majority of her scenes with the two grumpy heavyweights, bringing a light to their darkness.
Overall, this is a rather heavy drama with occasional and brutal bouts of violence and action, it it is action with a purpose in service to the rather long story. As a farewell to not just Logan but Xavier as well (Stewart has gone on record with his retirement from the role), it is ultimately a touching departure with gravitas and pathos. Some will say it is the best of the franchise, a cut above. Yes, it can be, but it is a very different beast from the rest, unique in its own way, best viewed with some knowledge of what’s come before, but also able to stand alone, even if you don’t in who Wolverine or the X-Men are. The information is there to help it stand alone, but having the background helps a lot. Otherwise, it’s a leap of faith to take things as they come along.
But what a ride.
Stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Boyd Holbrook, Stephen Merchant, Dafne Keen with Richard E Grant and Eric La Salle
Directed by James Mangold