A neo-western told through the prism of a comic book movie, James Mangold’s Logan takes Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and breaks him into a thousand pieces, rebuilding him as a tragic character approaching the twilight of his life.
Jackman’s Wolverine has always been the highlight in the X-Men movies in which he appeared, but his own spin-off movies have failed to bring out the best of the character. 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a heavily compromised affair, while Mangold’s own The Wolverine (2013) almost got things right, but was hindered by a CGI heavy finale. However, Mangold and Jackman have joined forces again in Logan to give the character the end-off he deserves, creating a film that relies heavily on western motifs, using films like Shane and Unforgiven as tonal touchstones. Stripping away his superhero moniker Wolverine, Mangold’s film firmly puts the focus on the man behind the legend.
Logan sees Jackman scraping a living as a chauffeur in order to pay for medication for Patrick Stewart’s ailing Charles Xavier. When a nurse offers him enough money to take a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen) to a promised land named ‘Eden’ in Canada, Logan begrudgingly takes the job and he and Xavier hit the road as Boyd Holbrook’s evil mutant hunter is hot on their tail.
In an age where the maxim for comic book movies is ‘bigger is better’, Logan strips everything back and keeps the special effects to a minimum, simply putting the focus on character. Keeping the budget under $100 million (still huge but slight for this type of movie), Jackman and Mangold have been allowed the freedom to play with darker themes here. Logan is as much a contemplation of life and death as it is about slam-bam action. We’re used to seeing heroes in their prime, but this depicts Logan as a broken man, unable to keep up with the rigours of fighting for good. This is Jackman’s best turn as the Marvel character and he skilfully uses his seventeen year tenure as the character to deliver a performance which resonates beyond the comic book genre. He’s isn’t just great as Wolverine – he’s great full stop. Patrick Stewart has also been paying Charles Xavier since 2000 and he also brings pathos to his character – this isn’t the confident man we met back in Bryan Singer’s franchise starter and like Jackman’s character, he’s also a shadow of his former self.
The western themes are very resonant in Logan however it also plays nicely into Mangold’s own filmography. Logan’s broken hero isn’t a million miles away from Sylvester Stallone’s Freddy Heflin in Cop Land and his self-destructive nature riffs heavily on Johnny Cash in Walk The Line (Cash’s Hurt was used to market the film and The Man Comes Around closes the film). It’s a credit to Mangold that he was able to bring all this to play within Logan.
An exceptional character study and surely one of the finest superhero movies ever made, Logan is incredibly fresh – quite startling considering the character first hit screens nearly 20 years and nine films ago! It’s $600 million gross show there’s a thirst for this type of comic book presentation but I doubt that many will have James Mangold’s skill or Hugh Jackman’s dedication to pull it off.
Logan comes with a selection of deleted scenes and an exceptional commentary from James Mangold. He comes across affable and knowledgable and whole thing is very well structured.