Monday, 17 July 2017


Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, and Richard E. Grant

Director: James Mangold

137 minutes (15) 2017
Widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2

Rating: 8/10
Review by J.C. Hartley

What we are told is to be Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as Wolverine is easily the best of the stand-alone films featuring the grizzled, conflicted, mutant, and one only wishes that the earlier outings had been stronger, in order to provide a more satisfying narrative arc to the trilogy. The desire to tinker with simple ideas, resulting in over-complication, bedevils every other superhero film you see, in the same way that it currently plagues the source material. Logan is a simple story, simply told, with strong central performances and that’s the difference.

I hail from a more innocent era where comic-book storylines evolved from who-will-save-the-girl/city/world/cosmos, and it was enough to establish the threat and then depict the hero coming back from an initial defeat to ultimately triumph. Those storylines passed muster for a few decades so it was inevitable that something had to be done to refresh the mix, but reading about parallel earths, life model decoys, Skrull impostors, death and resurrection, implanted false memories, and the remorseless juggernaut-like onslaught of retrofitting and rebooting that goes on in the Marvel Universe, hardly inspires one to pick up a new comic-book. There doesn’t appear to have been any need to infect the movie versions of comic-book superherodom with this rash of over-complication but it’s happened anyway.

It’s hard to say why some superhero films work and others don’t, and any assessment has to be purely subjective. The films produced under the auspices of the MCU have a coherent vision but that hasn’t meant they are an unqualified success, and the films produced by other studios are a bit of a mixed bag. The first two X-Men movies, and X-Men: First Class, the first Iron Man, Captain America, the original Spider-Man, and Thor all worked for me, sequels, and other entrants, less so. Simple stories and strong characters work, overlong battles with CGI villains don’t.

The first two Wolverine movies weren’t all bad but they seemed hampered by a desire to cram too much stuff in. The only bit I truly enjoyed in the first film was the final battle with Deadpool, perhaps because of its comic-book silliness, The Wolverine would have been better if it had adhered more closely to the simple outline of its source material.  The Old Man Logan comic is the inspiration for Logan but happily the film strips away the excessive trappings of that particular corner of the Marvel universe, and presents a simple road movie with a pursuing threat.

In a future where mutants have largely been eradicated and no more are being born, James ‘Logan’ Howlett (Hugh Jackman), tends an increasingly infirm Charles Xavier, Professor ‘X’ (Patrick Stewart), with the help of Caliban, the former mutant ‘Hound’ (Stephen Merchant). Xavier is prone to devastating psychic seizures, and there is a suggestion that just such a seizure has resulted in the deaths of mutants at the Professor’s former Westchester Academy. Logan’s health is failing too, his mutant healing factor no longer functions efficiently and the adamantium lacing his bones is poisoning him. Logan works as a limousine driver in El Paso to buy the drugs that control Xavier’s condition and to raise the money that will buy them a boat to get away from the mainland. In a nice touch, Xavier is housed in a downed water tower which, with its riddled interior letting in specks of light, resembles Cerebro, the Professor’s mutant-detecting machine. Xavier insists, against Logan’s arguments, that he can sense a new mutant presence.

Logan is approached by a former nurse Gabriela (Elizabeth Rodriguez) who recognises him as the Wolverine. She is prepared to pay him to transport her and a young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to a safe haven in North Dakota known as ‘Eden’. Despite initial misgivings, Logan agrees, but the nurse is murdered by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), a cybernetically enhanced employee of the Transigen biotech corporation who is tracking Laura aided by his private army of Reavers. Laura stows away with Logan and when Pierce and the Reavers come for her she is revealed to be a deadly mutant weapon with claws like Logan’s. Xavier claims that Laura is the mutant that he has detected. 

Gabriela’s cell-phone diary reveals that Laura is part of a programme run by Dr Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), to create mutant children from existing DNA samples, Laura has been bred from Logan’s DNA. Superseded by the creation of X-24, a violent adult mutant, the children were to be terminated, but Gabriela and other members of the nursing staff released as many as they could. Xavier insists that he and Logan take Laura to Eden, but Logan discovers that the notion of the safe haven is from an old X-Men comic-book and, as he says, only a third of the things in the comics ever happened and they didn’t happen like that. Pursued by the Reavers and the murderous X-24, Logan and Laura gradually bond on the road until the violent climax.

With a relatively small cast, and a simple story, Logan can concentrate on character and performances, Jackman and Stewart’s tetchy sparring and trading of f-bombs is a particular highlight, as is Stephen Merchant’s west-country Caliban. The film is very violent, perhaps unnecessarily so, one recalls a correspondent complaining to the X-Men comic’s letter page about the juvenile appeal of the Wolverine character, ‘he drinks, he smokes, he slices and dices’. There is some humour, Logan overseeing Xavier’s toilet visits, and later launching a Basil Fawlty style attack on his recalcitrant vehicle. Dafne Keen is impressive in a largely mute role, and just about makes you believe a genetically enhanced feral 11-year-old with claws could carve up burly thugs twice her size.

There are extras as usual, with a director’s commentary and deleted scenes.

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