Logan movie review: Hugh Jackman delivers brutal, touching swansong to Wolverine
Director - James Mangold
Cast - Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Stephen Merchant
Rating - 4.5/5
“Guys, you don’t want to do this.” We’ve been in this situation before. Logan is surrounded by half a dozen goons. They’re usually armed. Depending on where he is at that moment, he could be attacked by katanas, revolvers, or like this time, with monkey wrenches. But he warns them. It’s only fair. They don’t know who he is, what he’s capable of.
This is how Logan begins. But this time, events don’t pan out like they used to. Wolverine doesn’t have a wry smile on his face as he hacks and slashes his way out. This time, he gets beaten to a pulp, the blows break his bones, rip out his flesh. The wounds that once used to heal immediately are left gaping. There’s blood everywhere. And lot of swearing. This time, unlike the countless times before, Logan almost dies.
From the first moment Johnny Cash’s mournful voice graced that terrific trailer, there was a sense that Hugh Jackman and director James Mangold were not going to play by the rules anymore. For Jackman, it was his ninth time playing Wolverine, and for Mangold, it is another shot to perfect what he almost achieved in 2013, when he sent Logan to Japan.
For both of them however, it was now or never. Jackman’s missed no opportunity to tell everyone that this would be his last time playing the Wolverine, the character that defined his career, and would probably continue to define him for the rest of his life. Perhaps it was this pressure to do well, to erase bad memories (hopefully, after this, X-Men Origins will be forgotten), or perhaps it was the freedom afforded to it by the success of Deadpool, but Logan is unlike any superhero film you have seen. Like that Cash song, it is minimalistic, meditative, melancholy, and has nothing to lose anymore. We’ve seen him go through hell, we’ve seen him watch on as everyone he loves dies, and all he can do is keep living. All Wolverine can do is keep fighting. But what for?
The reason comes in the form of a girl, no older than 10.
When we catch up with Logan, grizzled, visibly older, the scars on his body like haunting memories of the past, it is 2029. No mutants have been born in the last 20 years. They’ve become folktales, legends passed on in comic books, and perhaps even movies. Logan scrapes a living driving a limo near the US-Mexico border. The little money he makes goes into buying medicine for his friend Charles, Professor X. They live in the desert, away from everyone else, together, like they have been for so many years. They’re all they have in this world.
And then, Laura arrives. She’s a lot like him, Charles tells Logan. She’s a mutant. The first one to come along in decades. And she’s the only hope they have. It is rumoured that thousands of miles away, in North Dakota, there is a safe haven for others like her, like them. That is where they must take her, away from the bad men.They do the only thing they can. In a subtle homage to the first X-Men movie, Logan takes the girl under his wing. They steal a car, grab some snacks, and take to the road.
It is said that the superhero movie will soon go the way of the movie Western (not by me, but by better minds, like Spielberg and Lucas), how it has arrived at a saturation point, how the six-shooters and cowboy hats made way for spandex and force fields as they journeyed towards their final destination. For an uncommonly grim film which would much rather contemplate mortality than gleefully demolish a city, the idea of Logan reviving a dying genre – two dying genres – is almost poetic.
There is only one way to push this genre forward, to prevent it from becoming obsolete. And that is to deconstruct it, to rip off all the excess CGI, all the capes and cowls, and exhume the essence of what makes these movies so great. Logan does that. And then it does it again.
It takes cues from classics like Children of Men, The Wrestler, and even the great video game The Last of Us. It is uncompromising in its brutality and fearless in its reverence of these iconic characters. It’s a testament to the power of storytelling, and what creative freedom can produce.
Logan’s cinematic journey began 17 years ago in a forest. He was making money fighting in cages. A young girl saved him then, she showed him what it was like to have a family, what it felt like to be good. In Logan, it takes another girl to show him who he really is, to remind him that his life was worth something.
It is the perfect swansong he could’ve got.