What have I become, my sweetest friend, everyone I love goes away... in the end.
Logan, James Mangold's ferociously feral follow-up to 2013's flawed but still impressive The Wolverine, proves that old tigers, sensing their end, are indeed at their most fierce.Stepping outside of the X-Men movie line proper initially resulted in something of a stumbling block with X-Men: Origins, but Mangold's The Wolverine largely redressed that, hinting at what Jackman's wonderfully realised beast could do out of the comfort zone of the franchise that both formed him and made him famous in the first place. Logan largely makes good on the promises afforded by that film, painting a vicious, near-dystopic future (at least for mutants), and an ageing, broken human weapon who will never be able to clean all the blood from his blades.As the man who was once The Wolverine makes his way driving a limo, putting away cash to make his dream of escaping on a yacht come true, enhanced mercenaries close in on his position. But they're not after him, they're after the young girl who escaped their clutches, and who they know is going to run to him, one of the only mutants left on the planet. Now the ageing, possibly dying warrior - who has lost just about everybody he ever loved - must decide whether there is anything left in this godforsaken world worth fighting, and possibly dying, for.
With the same R-rating as last year's Deadpool, the UK 15-certificate Logan is every bit as violent - if not more so - making you actually wonder just how many swear words need to be uttered; just how many limbs (and heads!) need to be lopped off; and just how much slashing, stabbing and head-shotting needs to be committed to film before somebody slaps a film with an 18 rating these days. So don't worry if you were expecting a higher rating, Logan couldn't be much more vicious and violent than it is, with the opening scene immediately setting the tone for this dark and nasty affair, seeing the bitter, angry old Wolverine putting his claws through somebody's skull and lopping off limbs without a second thought. Yes, this is what really happens when a guy with blades in his hands fights a bunch of street punks.
Mangold's dirty future is an unpleasant vision, cleverly playing out as a tweak on the present rather than a massive cyber-evolution, with slightly newer cars, slightly advanced tech, and a few nice additions that aren't really highlighted but round out the futurescape well, like the unmanned trucks and farming vehicles. Even the enhanced soldiers make for a nice touch - you initially think robot limbs equal supervillain/henchman, but they're actually just a new combat toy for soldiers/mercs. Logan himself looks like he's on his last legs right from the outset, finding it increasingly hard to heal from wounds, walking with a limp, and wheezing and coughing like death is beckoning him. But you know that, deep inside, he's still got one fight left in him.
Jackman, who has stayed true to a character that started off a long way away from his comic book origins, has evolved into something more true to that (it's clever how they use old X-Men comic books almost as a nod to the X-Men movies being more fantastical, and unreliable, than what actually happened in 'real life') and has never been better than here. Stewart's Charles Xavier is unlike any version seen before, at once grumpy old man, and at once the most powerful man on the planet. His presence often gives the films it's most resonant scenes, and, in action terms, certainly its most innovative one.
Deadpool may have got it's foot in the door in terms of violent superhero antics, but Logan kicks it wide open
It's arguably the best you could ever expect from a Wolverine movie, with a dark western-infused vibe of small-scale finality that pervades the piece. There's nothing about this that marks the 'end of the world' in a Marvel blockbuster ending kind-of way, yet there is still significance to the fate of these individuals who desperately need the help of a violent outcast to survive. It harks back more to something like Mad Max 2 (or even the bluntly alluded to Shane) as opposed to anything we've seen from the X-Men, or comic book movies in general. And the action sequences are unreservedly brutal, each one taking a chunk out of Logan's wounded warrior (there's also a definite Universal Soldier vibe too, in a good way, as weaponised enhanced humans clash, take dangerous serums to keep going at optimum efficiency, and wrestle with / discard their humanity).
Indeed the flaws in Mangold's creation are few and far between. Despite being a hefty 135 minutes long, it doesn't feel it, although that doesn't prevent the middle act from lagging and losing the excellent momentum and sense of desperation established in the opening. And, again, despite the runtime, it sometimes doesn't feel like it has enough time to tell the tale it wants to tell. Sure, the fate of the past mutants, whatever happened to Professor X etc. etc. are cleverly hinted at but not fleshed out in any detail, adding to the allure, but these characters still needed more time.
If, for example, the first X-Men: Origins film actually been done right (perhaps in Mangold's hands?), this X-Men spin-off franchise may have been afforded the time to develop the central character further, in a way that this final bookend still only hints at. Mangold teases us with a tortured soul who is prepared to finally admit that, even though the people he's killed were all ostensibly 'bad', the killing still takes a mental toll; with a man who actually wants to be free of the burden of his pained existence. But is it too little, too late? It's something Logan dips it's fingers into - between ferocious action setpieces, narrative necessities, and darkly comic asides - but doesn't afford the time to really get to the bottom of. And perhaps there simply wasn't the opportunity with only one movie to tell such a tale, but the more familiar beats of the relationship between Logan and the young girl, whilst handled surprisingly well, could have amounted to so much more.
Still, Logan is undoubtedly one of the best Fox-Marvel productions, as game-changing (and oddly reminiscent of, at least in terms of oppressive future tone) as X-Men: Days of Future Past, and certainly the best thing that they've ever done with, or likely ever will do with, the headlining character. Deadpool may have got it's foot in the door in terms of violent - but funny - R-rated superhero antics, but Logan kicks it wide open for adults only. And for all the more general-audience-friendly blockbusters that the superhero studios have to deliver, let's hope that, with the success of these two Marvel characters alone, we see more like this in the future - showing that mature, adult stories can finally deliver not only the right Box Office returns, but also more satisfying, rewarding and memorable movies. Recommended.
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