LOGAN is the tenth movie in the X-MEN film franchise, and also the third solo big screen outing for the Wolverine. By now, we’re all pretty familiar with Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of James Howlett (Logan’s real name). The character is a favourite amongst comic book fans, but many feel that the cinematic version of this hero has failed to hit the mark. The success and critical reception to the X-MEN movies has also varied considerably – from the high point of Bryan Singer’s original X-MEN, to the low of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Where does LOGAN fall on that scale?
Set in 2029, LOGAN opens with an aging Wolverine fighting off an attempt to cut the wheels off his limo. Wolverine is living in Mexico, caring for an aged Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), along with mutant Caliban (played with domestic grace by Stephen Merchant). Professor X – referred to at one point as a “weapon of mass destruction” – is no longer leader of the X-Men. His abilities have gone out of control, as a result of possible brain disease (Alzheimer’s is mentioned as a contender). They have the decidedly unheroic dream of retiring to a boat and living out the remainder of their lives out of the spotlight. In his soft-apocalyptic world, there are no more mutants. It has been 25 years since the last was born, and the X-Men have passed into myth. All of that changes, though, with the arrival of Gabriela Lopez, a former nurse who worked for the Transgen corporation. She wants to pay Logan to take her daughter cross America. And Laura (Dafne Keen) has some very unusual abilities….
The opening immediately reinforces that we’re dealing with a very different X-MEN film, and a very different Wolverine. There’s blood, there’s gore, there’s dismemberment. This is the way that Logan was supposed to be! It always irked me that the movie representation of Wolverine felt so tame. Although there have been efforts to bring the character more in line with the comics version, even THE WOLVERINE (which I thought was quite successful) played down Logan’s claws. The lack of any injury caused by his huge adamantium-coated talons was never really addressed. LOGAN meets this head on, and I think many fans of the character will find this a much better version.
Meanwhile, the tone of the film is also worthy of note. In some ways, it’s surprising that the film got made. There are some really hopeful, sentimental and heart-warming scenes, but on the whole it is a dark, nihilistic and anti-heroic film. Logan initially doesn’t want to help Laura; his intention is to go into hiding, rather than put his head above the parapet. It almost feels like a Dark Knight version of the X-Men myth: with every character long past their prime, their super powers fading, their histories becoming too painful to bear.
Logan himself is not healing, and his eyesight is failing. It’s suggested, although never confirmed, that the adamantium in his system is actually poisoning him. This in itself is an interesting idea, which many superhero series just plain ignore. With the exception of perhaps Tobey Maguire’s SPIDER-MAN 3, I can’t think of many hero movies that deal head on with this aspect (and it has to be said that SPIDER-MAN 3 did a very bad job of this…). How does a hero know that his or her powers will last, and that they won’t cause some lasting damage? Logan is a far darker, more hesitant, and less headstrong character in this film, and he’s all the more powerful for it.
Patrick Stewart’s reprise of Professor X is almost painful and poignant. Prof X’s heyday as the premier psychic of all Earth is long gone. He’s dangerous, and he knows it. There are references to the fate of the X-Men in the film (it’s suggested that Prof X had a psychic seizure and killed them), which really plays up the heartbreak of this character. Again, this sort of real-world tragedy (brain disorder) just isn’t explored in many superhero films, and it thoroughly grounds LOGAN. Stewart’s interplay with Logan is also very powerful; this is probably his best ever portrayal of the character.
It wasn’t very clear to me where LOGAN fits in the overall X-MEN continuity, or whether it is even supposed to. The director’s commentary suggests that it is a standalone film, but there are references to the original X-MEN and X-MEN 2. How it would fit with X-MEN 3 (which sees Professor X was effectively body-less) isn’t explained. However, this wasn’t really an issue for me. The X-MEN continuity (on film, at least) is a complete mess right now. We have the original trilogy, which is inconsistent with ORIGINS, and then the DAYS OF FUTURE PAST chronology which appears to have altered the timeline in a TERMINATOR-style debacle… Overall, it just doesn’t matter. This is a great film, wherever it fits.
LOGAN is a very different superhero movie, breaking the mould. It proves that you don’t have to follow the same path to make a successful big screen hero film. On blu ray, you’ll also get the “film noir” version. We recently saw this was the “shiny and chrome” edition of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. It makes an already impressive film look even better. Even if you’ve become disenchanted with the cinematic version of the X-Men, I’d highly recommend LOGAN.