“You should take a moment, feel it.”
We’ve come a long way since a fresh-faced, devil-haired Wolverine first popped his claws in an Alberta biker’s bar back in the original X-Men.
Now, seventeen years and nine films later, Hugh Jackman is heading down south of the border for Logan; a farewell letter to the role that took him from a London production of Oklahoma!, for which he was nominated for an Olivier, to being a household name.
That Jackman’s decision to leave the franchise coincided with the success of Deadpool has given director James Mangold and Co. more latitude with this final installment – not least in the source material. The film takes its inspiration from Old Man Logan, which itself took inspiration from Unforgiven; from the star of which, Clint Eastwood, Jackman initially took inspiration for his portrayal of Wolverine.
Logan takes place in 2029; half a lifetime after the events of X-Men: Apocalypse, which reintroduced us to Weapon X-era Logan – newly imbued with adamantium skeleton and, for the moment, utterly feral – after the seemingly happy ending of X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
Exactly how Logan fits into these timelines is left ambiguous. Indeed, the film feels disconnected from the rest of the franchise. Far from the life-affirmed rōnin from the end of The Wolverine, Logan himself is notably older; his tiredness equal to his rage.
When he fights, as fight he occasionally must, Logan seems uncoordinated; punch-drunk even. The beatings are worse for it and the consequences longer-lasting now that he’s no longer healing as once he did. Logan’s beard is grey and bristly; his body scarred, running down; he even needs reading glasses. Three lifetimes on from the opening of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, time has finally caught up with him.
Holed up in an abandoned smelting plant down Mexico way, all he wants to do is drink, drive his limo, earn enough money to buy a yacht, and sail out to sea. Then again, that single adamantium bullet he carries with him is starting to look increasingly tempting.
Even in a world almost devoid of mutants – the X-Men are long gone – Logan is not quite alone. There’s Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a gangly, frog-eyed albino Brit, who acts as a reluctant carer to the much-diminished Professor Charlies Xavier (Patrick Stewart).
Feeble and rambling, cursing – as befits the film’s 15 rating – and no longer in control of his abilities, the once-patrician head of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster’s seems apt to spend the rest of his days locked in a converted water tower, heavily sedated.
That is till, in classic noir style, a desperate woman enters Logan’s life and with her an eleven-year-old girl, Laura (Dafne Keen). Men are looking for them, however, dangerous men – a team of mercenaries led by the smarmy, robo-handed Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) – and Logan reluctantly finds himself on a road trip north.
Little Miss Sunshine meets No Country For Old Men, the film also puts in hard graft towards earning its emotional currency. Logan is surly and uncommunicative, as is Laura. Xavier is, in his own words, “fucking ninety”. Even so, we come to care for them – however different they might be from the characters we grew up with – and, like Logan, almost against his will, take heart in their respite along the way.
Logan puts the superhero genre in service of a character study that just so happens to grisly violence. The previous X-Men films were always, for all the claw-related action, relatively bloodless – flesh wounds only. Here it’s visceral: Logan’s claws slice through limbs, puncture skulls; sharp as ever, even if they don’t always retract as they should. It’s nothing we haven’t quite seen before, but it impresses, nevertheless, in its sheer mindfulness.
As with most great films, Logan is defined not by some grand sweep, as some of its other less successful brethren have been, but by its moments. As such, it’s difficult to describe in detail, other than in terms of mood and setup, without giving anything away. As a review, that’s frustrating. As a film-goer, it makes for a moving experience.
With a career-defining performance from Jackman, a matching one from Stewart, and a remarkable turn from newcomer Keen as the strange, hostile Laura, it’s arguably the best superhero film we’ve had since The Dark Knight back in 2008 – certainly the best acted.
Add in Marco Beltrami’s mournful, minimalist score and John Mathieson’s sun-bleached and shadowy cinematography and what we have in Logan is not only a superb sendoff for the erstwhile Wolverine but a superhero movie for the ages.