When Hugh Jackman first pitched the idea of Wolverine to his wife, her reaction to a character who can heal and has metal claws wasn’t exactly the most positive. Essentially she thought the character was ridiculous and wouldn’t be particularly successful. At that point neither he or his wife or anyone else would have thought that this would be his most iconic character ever. He’s played Wolverine for 17 years, with the first X-Men film being released in 2000 to huge success. It’s with his final outing as the adamantium clawed animal that he’s made the best X-Men film that there has ever been.
He and James Mangold (director) have teamed up again to create a different look at the comic book genre. Jackman stars as Wolverine in Logan, a film which has a title that’s thought to be a first for a superhero movie: naming it after the main character’s first name. I can’t see us getting a Spider-Man or Batman film being name Peter or Bruce any time soon. With just the name, it felt more personally connected to the title character. It’s who he was before he ever became the Wolverine. The story takes place in 2029, Logan is driving a limousine to make enough money for himself, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who are all living by the border. Charles is suffering from seizures in the world’s most powerful brain, which is what Logan is treating with black market medication. Caliban is a mutant GPS tracking system in that he can locate any mutant wherever they are. During an encounter with a mother and her young daughter Laura (aka X23, played by Dafne Keen) Logan is dragged into a situation which leads to Caliban being taken hostage, the mother being killed and he, Charles and the girl going on the run together. They are being hunted down by Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant) and his team which includes Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a man who appears to know an awful lot about mutants.
Whilst the villains are never fully fleshed out, this ultimately doesn’t matter as it’s about Logan who is worn out, beaten down, weary, he’s drinking a lot more, a shell of the man he used to be. He is no longer healing as quickly as he used to, his claws have become rusty and difficult to use, he is prone to injury a lot easier now. Logan is an old man. He’s got a look as if the weight of the world has come down on him a few times and that there’s not shaking it off. Getting into altercations with those who have special abilities and even those who do not is a tough challenge which he can barely take on. In the opening sequence, which immediately earns it’s 15 rated certificate, he initially struggles to take on a few guys trying to steal from him. He’s shot a few times when finally his rage kicks in and he’s back to his ass kicking former self, with a few swear words thrown in. From here the violence gets ramped up throughout the film but it never feels over the top or unnecessary, it’s what the film needs to be. Wolverine has always been a brutal character so it’s nice to see him get his claws dirty!
Jackman has repeatedly said that this is his final film as Wolverine which he wanted to be the perfect end. On his ninth time around, you could almost forgive him for phoning it in, but this is far from what he does. He has never been better, the raw and visceral performance on display is that of someone who has been through too much to bear. Logan is a man who has been wounded by life time and time again, it’s something you can see in his eyes, the way he shuffles around and at times can hardly even move. Both the emotional and physical side to Jackman’s performance is astonishingly good, how anyone can pull this off after doing it for so many years is just staggering to comprehend. On his seventh time around, Stewart has the perfect balance between sweet old man and going almost senile with his occasional rambling speeches. He brings a heartbreaking performance to someone who has the most powerful brain in the world and can no longer control it, he’s become the dangerous weapon Logan once was, but worse. The trio is completed with Keen, the kick ass young girl Laura with claws in her hands and feet. She’s a feral and precocious character, who’s as vicious as she is angry. Her natural portrayal of a girl who is lost and has no sense of who she is comes across as the most real and genuine performances you would have seen in a long time.
Mangold has created a world which is a very grounded portrayal of superheroes who are struggling to deal with the normality of life. When we see that Logan is looking after an ailing Charles in a few everyday situations it’s in these moments that you realise it’s different to all of the glamorised version we’re use to seeing. The director’s choice of having the western and family themes running throughout, and it being more about its protagonist than the typical good vs. evil story, means that it’s Wolverine as you’ve never seen him.
Dealing with friends becoming family, ageing, not getting what you want in life and having to deal with things as they come at you, no matter what they are. Hugh Jackman has never been better in anything and it’s such a compliment to the respect he has for Wolverine that not only did he take a pay cut this time, he (politely) refused to do this film in any other way. Pushing it forward with Mangold was a stroke of genius, as they clearly wanted to end it on an emotional high. Jackman’s honest performance feels like the perfect way to say goodbye to his most beloved character.
5 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.