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The X-men series has definitely had its ups and downs hasn’t it? I actually really admire it, of all superhero cinematic universes it is easily the most diverse of them all. Not one film in this series feels like the other. The only problem there is that some of them are great, and others really suck. I think no X-men chapter demonstrates that better than the Wolverine trilogy. X-men Origins: Wolverine was a truly awful film; calling it bad would be like saying Jack the Ripper wasn’t a nice guy. Everything in that film failed, with the possible exception of Hugh Jackman and Levi Schreiber’s performances. The Wolverine, on the other hand, was a good, fun, solid depiction of the Wolverine character with an interesting story that did sadly fall apart at the end, but was a good film none-the-less. And now we have our final chapter, and Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine in Logan. And true to form, this one was even better than the last.
The story: Logan (aka Wolverine) is one of only three mutants remaining in this part of the world. He is a broken man, caring for Charles Xavier (Professor X) with help from Caliban, both of who are just as broken as he is. Then a girl, Laura comes into their lives. She has the exact same powers as Logan, from the metal skeleton to the incredible healing. But she is being chased by some people, people with sinister motives. The gang are on the run and Logan must learn to care again or all is lost for the group. This basically all translates to this being a character study. No big world ending villain, no mutant trying to destroy the X-men, no big battles of varying levels of CGI; just characters being characters and the adventure at hand.
I guess I’d better address the elephant in the room. After the release of Deadpool last year Logan was granted the adult rating; R rated in the USA, 15 here in the UK. So yes, the violence has been ramped up. The thing is, Deadpool was tame with its violence; I always figured that it was only 15 because of the swearing and sex really. Logan is definitely 15 for violence! That bit in the trailer, where the guy gets stabbed in the head by Logan? Yeah, that’s far from being the worst part. Limbs are severed, heads are chopped off, heads are stabbed, holes are made in people, a guy blows up at one point, and there is plenty of slicing and dicing from our lead man and girl. It’s very violent and very graphic; which just makes the action more sweet, shocking and satisfying. It is also there to accompany the story, which it does excellently. This is a darker story, with darker characters, darker humour and deeper themes. So, I do think that the violence was completely necessary for Logan.
All the actors did what is easily the best performances in the whole series so far. Patrick Stewart as Xavier is a heart-breaking role; he has dementia, which causes more problems than you can imagine with his mind-control abilities. He is a man who wants to hope again, but fear that he will not, so when the chance for happiness comes along he jumps at it. Stephen Merchant as Caliban was a surprisingly good choice and his character did add a lot to the film. He’s not a bumbling idiot like Merchant usually plays, he’s a charming, hopeless character who still has a big heart, despite all that happens to him. Our villains are played by the amazing Richard E Grant and up-coming talent Boyd Holbrook. Grant could play a great Satan one day with the way he portrays his character; a puppet master with great charisma, and more dangerously ambition to boot. Holbrook plays more of the henchmen type villain, but he’s so deliciously devious, charismatic and passionate for the evil stuff he does that it’s honestly hard not to love-to-hate the guy. And finally there is Dafne Keen as Laura, or X-23. I thought the kid in A Monster Calls was great, and he is but Keen might very well have surpassed him. There is nothing wrong with her performance, from silence, to speech, to curious and calm, to wild and doing insane choreography; this girl was one of the most impressive performances of this year, and I include adults in that! It’s rare you can say such a thing, but there is no other actress who could do better than her in this role. She easily outshines the other kids of the film, who are not that good sadly. But they’re not the focus, she is.
Returning to the director’s chair is James Mangold, director of The Wolverine and Copland. It’s clear that Mangold had a vision for this film, and he was thankfully allowed to bring that vision to life. Logan looks and sounds amazing. The filming reminded me of those thrillers from the ‘70’s; Death Wish, Mad Max, Hang ‘Em High, Dirty Harry, The Gauntlet, that kind of classic film making. Not one image displays only one thing, ever shot contains everything that it needs to convey the story in a visual way. The graveyard bit from the trailer, which is very early on in the film, tells you everything you need to know about Logan as a character. The music is sombre and kept in the background, to the point where you don’t really consciously notice it but you feel it adding to the scene anyway. And, unlike The Wolverine, the tone is constant and it never falls into generic comic-book territory. The pacing is slow, not boring just slow, but it makes the action when it happens all the more exciting. But what really sold me on Logan, is that what it does well (and better than any other comic-book film I’ve seen since The Crow) is emotion. The film has sad moments, angry moments, exciting moments, tense moments and happy moments; each and every single moment is carried in you. You feel what the film shows, and that is what you need in a film like this.
And let us end on Hugh Jackman himself. This is his last film as Logan; I’ll believe that when I see it. But let’s say that it is his last go at it. Well this is as perfect as send off as can be imagined. This is Jackman’s best performance as Logan and one of the best he has ever given. Never before have we seen Logan like this, and Jackman takes us on the ride of a lifetime with it. He is the only actor I can ever see as Wolverine, and now he has certainly perfected it. The violence did help a lot with finally showing us Wolverine’s animal side, and his true rage; not just, you know, screaming a lot. There is also some very interesting “what if” scenarios with Logan and Xavier. What if Logan got old? What if Logan was too ill to heal? What if Charles got dementia? What if Logan was to be a father figure? What if Logan was in a 15 rated grown-up action film? Well now we know all of them, and they are all glorious results.
Logan is easily the Dark Knight of the X-men series, and is just as easily the best superhero film I’ve seen in 5 years. I’ll admit, my hopes were high for this one; of all the 13 or so superhero films coming this year (and isn’t that a depressing number) this was one of only 2 I was looking forward to. And it exceeded my expectations. I loved this film, and it has been a long while since I’ve been really able to say that about a superhero film. Go and see Logan when you can, that’s my advice. Unless you are a child, then don’t because this film is not for you.