Saturday 25 February 2017

Film Review: Logan

Hugh Jackman dons the mutton chops and adamantium claws for one last time in James Mangold's Logan. Question is, does he send old Wolverine off in style?

Logan thrusts the X-Men series into the near future, presumably following the events of 2014's Days of Future Past. In the year 2028, mutants are all but extinct and no mutant babies have been born in years; Logan (Hugh Jackman) is living in a dusty town north of the Mexican border, caring for Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and making ends meet as a limousine driver.

When a mysterious young girl (Dafne Keen) falls into his life, Logan must up sticks and help escort her to safety, away from the clutches of dark forces led by a mercenary named Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).

The trailers for Logan have made a big song and dance about this being Jackman's final outing as Wolverine. It's a very fitting finale for the character, one that is emotional, stirring, explosive and conclusive. Don't worry about lack of finality; Mangold (who both wrote and directed) brings Wolverine's story to a close with panache, visual flair and lashings of gore and visceral action. This is an adult Wolverine movie if ever there was one, filled with swearing, lots of blood and even the occasional boob. Sorry kiddywinks, maybe wait a few years, eh?

Of course, we've all seen Wolvie drop a fuck and slash someone across the chest in the past; it's sort of his thing. However, the shift in tone here does startle for a minute or two. It's like watching your nan casually dropping C-bombs during Sunday mass. Each curse word is said in anger, not jest. Each kill is bloody and vicious. Logan really gets to unleash this time around, chopping limbs, heads and more limbs like there's no tomorrow.

The first scene perfectly sets the stage for what is to follow; a car park brawl descends into a bloodbath, with Logan carving through thugs like a hot knife through butter. Only this time things get ugly; blood spurts across the screen, arms distance themselves from torsos.

Even our hero gets a good kicking, just to emphasise how hard as nails this film is going to be. This ain't the kind of Wolverine movie your grandpa used to watch, but it works. Much like Deadpool last year, you really couldn't make this movie without the R-rating. A fitting goodbye to Wolverine deserves the harder edge and I'm over the moon that they went that route.

The best part about Logan is that it focuses heavily on character and steers away from the kind of tired stuff hindering most comic-book films nowadays, namely madcap third acts with a giant sky beams and reams of CGI monsters. On the first page of the script he penned, Mangold stated plainly that Logan wouldn't be a “hyper choreographed, gravity defying, city-block destroying, CG fuckathon” - and he has delivered on that promise. It's stripped back and rugged, a deft mixture of Western, post-apocalyptic sci-fi and a comedy road movie, with a couple of slasher horror bits thrown in for good measure.

Jackman gives his best performance as Wolverine to date, no question. It's incredible, in both an emotional and a physical sense. Getting on in years, Logan is slow and sickly and Jackman sells this added threat with ease. Similarly, Stewart is fantastic in what I assume is also his last outing as Charles Xavier. I don't want to spoil too much here as Xavier's role is very different to what I expected; just know that Stewart nails it (again).

Completing the terrific lead trifecta, newcomer Keen is superb as Laura, the lonely girl Logan takes under his wing. Without spoiling too much, she is certain to become an overnight fan favourite. Logan and Laura's joint arc in this film is some of the best writing seen in the comic-book genre to date and very reminiscent of a similar road trip narrative in The Last of Us.

The only real flaw with Logan is its villains; Holbrook plays a nasty hired gun with a bionic arm. He's the brawn. Richard E Grant plays a nefarious wrongdoer who commands Holbrook's character - he's the brain in this equation. They aren't hugely fleshed out but that's a fairly common complaint across superhero films. The real character work here is afforded to Logan, Laura and Xavier. In this arena, Mangold has knocked it out of the park.

It's also a touch slow in the second act, but that's purely because the first 45-60 minutes are close to perfect. A detour around the midpoint isn't as perfect but still works in the broader picture of the film.

Logan is such a good film with such a clear vision that it makes you retroactively sour momentarily on the rest of the series; you almost want every X-Men film to be as adult and unflinching as this one. Alas, that feeling does pass - First Class, X2 and Days of Future Past are all excellent for their own unique set of reasons. But Logan is definitely up there, in the top two or three.

Visually it's a treat too; the direction, editing and cinematography are great. Across the board, this is the best Wolverine movie by far. It's hard not to get emotional about Jackman's departure and it's handled excellently.

The Verdict: 9/10

This is the Wolverine movie we've been waiting for. I wouldn't go as far as to say its the best X-Men movie to date (X2 and Days of Future Past are hard to beat) but it's certainly the best send-off that old Wolvie could've hoped for. On top of that, it's a great film outside of the superhero tag. Like the best it has to offer (The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier), Logan does more than enough to transcend the limitations of the genre. Pack your pockets full of Kleenex; you're going to need them as Jackman rides off into the sunset in style.

Logan is in cinemas across Australia on Thursday March 2

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