Action/ Thriller/ Drama
Directed By: James Mangold
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen
My Rating: 7 out of 10
I've never been the biggest fan of the X-MEN franchise. Both in comic and movie form. I could never see past the ridiculous infinite powers mutants could have. Yes, the whole idea behind these people living amongst us raises questions about race, politics and ethics. However, I always felt that the differences and powers of all these characters was too much and often overshadowed the story that the film and comics were trying to convey to me.
That's not to say I'm completely anti-mutant. I adored the cartoon as a child and in more recent times I have developed a real soft spot for the comics. But regardless of how I felt subjectively about the topic of the X-MEN, there has always been a universal fact. Hugh Jackman is Wolverine. Just like Alex Ferguson being the manager of Manchester Utd, for as long as some people have been on this earth, Hugh wears that crown and no matter what the highs (X-2, Days of Future Past) or the lows (Origins) Hugh has carried that torch through the wind and the rain. A bad X-MEN film has nothing to do with Wolverine. Wolverine is solid.
So what happens when it's time for Alex Ferguson to retire?
Logan is the tale of one final mission. A mission that our hero does not want to take. In fact our hero doesn't want to do ANYTHING really. He and Charles are both at the end of their rope, alone and without any aspiration to continue. Just slowly trying to run away from the world. That is until a child is thrust into their lives. I don't want to say any more than that as this journey should be one that you take with these characters.
This is a very different X-MEN film than any we have seen before. There are no battles in the sky. No rogues gallery of enemies. No misfit bunch of kids learning to get along. And we have gore. A LOT of gore.
From the first scenes the audience is just thrown in at the deep end. There is going to be swearing. Limbs are going to be coming off. Disturbing visuals and upsetting scenarios involving characters that we have grown up watching. This film removes the polish and clean cut nature of the previous films. Something that director, James Mangold has tried to do before.
The second Wolverine solo film was done by him, and whereas that was much more dramatic and dark, you can still see where the studio put up red tape and got involved to try and keep it as a "Superhero Movie" rather than descend into the madness that this film dares to go. For me, nothing gives a superhero film more quality than seeing our heroes having to deal with normal, realistic situations. The looming shadow of reality hangs over our characters and the situations they find themselves in, whilst still keeping the same action and thrills as Terminator 2 or MAD MAX: Fury Road.
The action scenes in these films are some of the best I've seen since big budget films from the late 80's. The stunt work and direction to some of these scenes was akin to DIE HARD and Robocop. If you don't like blood...tough. You got it. This film puts a lot of other films to shame with its incredible choreography, linework and visuals. The kills are up close and personal. The CGI is not noticeable. And with there being no giant blue beam in the sky enveloping the earth, but a very real threat to Logan and company, the stakes feel higher. Each leap and bound leaves you breathless. If there is one thing you can take from this film, it's that you'll be buzzing off every fight scene.
Hugh Jackman gives the performance of his life. Claws down. I feel this is the Wolverine he has wanted to be his entire career. Again without giving anything away, Hugh shows how hard it is to find your direction in life when you've lost faith in yourself. How apathy is self resentment can be a stronger adversary than any adamantium skeleton. Patrick Stewart goes full 'Empire Strikes Back' Yoda by playing the crazy old sage. Don't expect too much of the soft, warm teacher that we have been raised on. He's just as much of a mess as Logan. Stewart tugs on the strings, telling you so much about what has happened in the X-MEN universe since Days of Future Past without exposition. More so through subtle sentences, cryptic exchanges with Logan and a defeated, Shakespearean mannerism that will leave you teary eyed. Also Dafne Keen, who plays the young girl, is a show stealer. Giving 11 from Stranger Things a run for her money. Silent but totally captivating, she is probably who you will end up fixated on throughout the entire film.
If I had to have any quibbles with this film, the villains are not the most memorable and the second act takes its foot off the gas for a little bit but I think that was inevitability of a chemical reaction that has been in the making for the past 17 years. Our heroes and their journey is going to take more attention away from the bad guys, especially when we have so much invested in them and are hanging on their every word. In fact an argument could be made that the villains aren't the real villains, but the mindset that our heroes have allowed themselves to be boxed into. And a slower second act helps us learn about Charles, Logan and the girl a lot more than constant action scenes and battles. I also think it benefits highly from not dealing all its cards at once in any part of the film.
This is without a doubt one of the best X-MEN films, it's a VERY high 7 that I am branding it with, and to be honest, I imagine if I liked X-MEN a lot more, this could be a 9 or a 10. If this was Hugh's last performance then it was the perfect way for him to hang up his claws. It's a blessing and a shame it took us so long to get here.