On the day I saw Logan, I had only just become aware of how whenever I get out of a chair I make an “enghhhugh” noise. Or how whenever I walk up the stairs I make the same “enghhhugh” noise, but it’s slightly drowned out by the cricking on my knees. I can blame this on the lack of exercise and sleepless nights associated with recent parenthood, but deep down I know that my almost four decades of watching movies, reading comics and avoiding anything approaching a lunge or a team sport is catching up to me.
Then later that evening I went to see Logan and felt even more pathetic.
The final outing for everyone’s favourite wild-haired, razor-clawed grump, finds Mr James “Logan” “Wolverine” “Weapon X” Howlett long past his usefulness as a superhero and barely clinging to his mutant-reinforced humanity. It’s 2029, the mutant gene has become extinct, and Logan now works as a part-time limo driver on the Mexican border. This is where Logan spends his nights ploughing through miniature bottles of whiskey and being flashed by hen-do parties, and his days sharing full-time care-giving duties to an “imprisoned for his own benefit” Professor Charles Xavier. While also ploughing through miniature bottles of whiskey.
This Logan of the near-future is a functional alcoholic plagued by illness, pain and is marked with scar tissue that no longer appears to be healing. These are the penalties for devoting a life-time to protecting the people you love and saving the world from giant purple mutant-crushing robots on countless occasions. Not from, say, playing football every Sunday for the last few years, whenever you can be arsed or are not too hungover.
Professor X is triumphantly reconfigured by a returning Patrick Stewart; confined to a crappy old wheelchair far away from the advanced technology of his Westchester days, Charles Xavier cannot leave a lead-lined water tower for fear that his seizures (possibly caused by increasing dementia) will lead to massive casualties in the outside world.
The relationship between Logan and Charles is essentially that of caregiver and loved one. Although it often strays into mercifully humorous bickering territory, the beating heart of Logan is ‘the responsibility of care’. How it’s received, how it’s given and how it’s transferred between generations. If you have an older relative, or a loved one who you’ve had to look after – or if you work in care yourself – Logan will speak profoundly to you. A scene where Logan places Charles on the toilet is particularly affecting — and rather than being exploitative, it shows you how far this world is from the bright costumes and the swirling world-ending chaos of X-Men Apocalypse, released only last year.
Logan’s (and indeed the whole of mutant-kind’s) last chance at redemption comes in the form of X-23. An 11 year-old child named Laura, created in a genetic engineering lab from the stolen DNA of… well it seems ridiculous to say ‘spoiler warning’ here, as the snikty claws and the unrestrained feral nature of Laura should clue you into her parentage right from the first decapitated head. Dafne Keen’s performance as the ferocious and precocious Laura is extraordinary. As her piercing scream ushers in a berserker rage, Keen’s snarling energy is a perfect counterpoint to the older men’s world-weariness. It also means you have three exceptional performances at the core of Logan – all career-best and worthy of every drop of praise you’ll hear between now and next year’s Oscars.
Thankfully Logan doesn’t rely on the sentimentality typically derived from the ‘irascible old man has to look after feisty young child’ trope. Yes there are sad moments, as expected; the whole film is shot through with a powerful sense of mourning and regret, but when the tears eventually come, they are thoroughly earned. And although you’ve been warned about the tears, you may not expect the eye-watering number of face stabbings, heads being lopped off and torso eviscerations.
Logan is a defiantly ‘adult film’ – the violence is shockingly intense; fittingly animalistic and much like the Sam Peckinpah films it emulates, cuts through the melancholy like a gatling gun. Logan is also an impressively coarse film. As puerile as it may be, it’s still hilarious to hear Professor X tell Wolverine to fuck off. It’s also funny to then hear Professor X tick Wolverine off for saying motherfucker in front of Laura. I’m all for peppering swearing unnecessarily in everyday speech, but in Logan it reaches ‘Midnight Run’ levels of profane-artistry. It’s hard to believe this is the same cinematic universe that brought us Vinnie Jones running around in a gladiator costume and the Toad.
But despite the violence, the melancholy and the meditations on mortality, Logan isn’t quite the misery-fest of Iñárritu’s Biutiful. I found myself frequently chuckling along to the dialogue, particularly the interplay between Charles and Logan, and Logan’s sheer frustration at Laura’s temperament and naivety (“fine, let’s go to fucking fantasy land”). Logan going full-on Basil Fawlty on a 4×4 is a particularly satisfying moment.
There are some minor complaints – the baddies in pursuit of our heroes aren’t particularly interesting. Richard E Grant is a forgettable evil scientist; equally unimaginative is the robot-armed bounty-hunter played by Narcos’ Boyd Holbrook. Both rank average on the baddie scale – but you’re not here for them. You’re here for the ‘heroes’ who are flawed, complex and damaged enough thanks to their own destructive actions.
Is this really the end of Wolverine? Well in this incarnation, with Hugh Jackman in the role, certainly. And Logan is a fitting tribute to both Jackman and the character he’s built over the last 17 years. But it’s more than that. It’s a hugely rewarding, brave piece of filmmaking that would act as a fitting coda for any and all superhero legacies. 4/5
For another violent walk on the wild-side, check out our Kong: Skull Island review.