Director: James Mangold
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Doris Morgado, Richard E. Grant, Boyd Holbrook
Runtime: 2 hrs 17 mins
Rating: M18 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Opening Day: 3 March 2017
Synopsis: In the near future, a weary Logan cares for an ailing Professor X in a hide out on the Mexican border. But Logan's attempts to hide from the world and his legacy are up-ended when a young mutant arrives, being pursued by dark forces.
Hands down, Logan is one of the bleakest movies ever made in the X-Men series, possibly even within the long-running Marvel franchise of superhero movies. Yet for many reasons it’s one of the best.
For one, although this reviewer has been a longstanding fan of Marvel Comics’s X-Men, he has always preferred comic book adaptions where the film revolves around one central character. A constant problem with celluloid depictions of the X-Men universe has simply been this: too many characters, too little screen time to devote to any single one. This means opportunities for character-centric stories sometimes wind up capitulating to a greater focus on meta-themes of good versus evil, mutantkind versus humankind – all against a backdrop of crowd-pleasing CGI action sequences.
Nothing wrong with that, of course, but those seeking a bit more depth beyond their regular popcorn superhero action flick will be pleased with what Logan has to offer. Admittedly, the Wolverine spin-off series has been somewhat hit-and-miss in terms of capitalising on the potential for character-driven storytelling greatness. The first in the series, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (directed by Gavin Hood, 2009), received mixed reviews for its flimsy plot. Fortunately, helming the director’s chair this time is James Mangold, who also directed the well-received second chapter, The Wolverine (2013). However, it is with this third and final instalment that Mangold truly works his magic.
The film is set in 2029, in a dystopian world now largely bereft of mutants, with no new ones having been born in the last two decades. The brash, fearless Wolverine (also known by his titular namesake, Logan; played by Hugh Jackman) we’ve all come to know is visibly older, depressed and struggling with his mortality – his self-healing abilities have also retarded. Eking out aliving as a limousine-for-rent driver, Logan leads a difficult existence with Professor Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart) and mutant outcast Caliban (played by a virtually unrecognisable Stephen Merchant), who shares caretaker duties of Professor X with Logan. The Professor is now a nonagenarian slowly losing his mentality faculties to senility and, without timely medication, increasingly prone to seizures that launch psychic mayhem on anyone who happens to be within his immediate vicinity.
Gone are any lofty ideals of enacting poetic vengeance on adversariesor saving the mutant world from obliteration by humans. All Logan really desires at this point, wearily, is to stay low and raise enough money to fulfil Professor X’s wish of buying a boat so they can literally sail into the sunset together to live out the rest of their days. None of this is quite what we’ve come to expect from the indomitable superhero figures that we’re so used to watching on the big screen, and it’s certainly refreshing, albeit unsettling, to watch.
Of course, trouble soon arrives when their paths cross with that of Laura (played by Dafne Keen), a young mutant girl who bears strikingly similar abilities to Logan – from her agility and self-healing abilities to her ability to grow adamantium claws. We soon learn about her origins and why a corporation named Transigen and its lackeys, the Reavers, are hot on her heels to capture and destroy her.
Logan begrudgingly finds it thrust upon him to protect her from the evil powers-that-be – it’s not unlike that familiar dramedy arc where unwitting bachelor wakes up with new baby on doorstep and has to deal with daddy duties, except this version of that story is beefed up with ten times the adrenaline. The task at hand is to escort her to a safe place in North Dakota called "Eden" and Logan takes Professor X along on the ride. Suffice to say, blood is spilled along the way, and let’s just say much of the movie is grim.
The story is not a complicated one at all. Most of the plot can be simply summed up as a big chase by the bad guys to nab the good guys; a frenetic rush to deliver the remainder of mutant progeny to safety so they get a fighting chance in a dreary, humancentric world. It’s how the story told that makes all the difference. Apart from directing duties, Mangold also shares screenplay-writing credits with Michael Green and Scott Frank and it is clear the extent of his creative control over the material has benefitted the film tremendously. Running at over two hours, the pacing still feels measured and thoughtful as Mangold takes his time to tell the story, but it never feels laborious for the audiences. There are subtle references to the previous movie instalments, but by and large you will not need to have watched them to comprehend what is going on.
This is the also first film in the Wolverine series to be given an M-18 rating, owing to its violence (think adamantium claws gleefully slicing off heads or impaling them), as well as some profane language. But it’s clear the makers of the film did not make it with the kids in mind anyway. Scenes with brutality are visceral enough to titillate, but they don’t feel excessive. The action sequences are not as flashy as what we’ve come to expect from comic book movies, but they are delivered with panache and still manage to please. Which works great of course, considering ostentation is not what this movie is after, and thankfully so.
Indeed, this is no run-of-the-mill, light-hearted action flick. Much like its direct, no-nonsense title suggests, Logan is at its heart amature, back-to-basics character study. Here we see Jackman fully fleshing out his role as the Wolverine, baring all of the persona’s vulnerabilities and insecurities. And most importantly, these vulnerabilities are essentially human. It’s the message that the X-Men comics have tried to underscore since day one of their inception, that despite our mutations and differences, we are all pretty much the same in terms of our human wants, fears, and need for love.“So this is what it feels like,” says Logan in one pivotal scene where he tenderly bonds with Laura,and it is utterlyheart-breaking. Heck, this might just be one of the best performances of Jackman’s career.
It’s still difficult to imagine that 17 years have already elapsed since Bryan Singer’s X-Men (2000), when both Jackman and Stewart first appeared on the big screen as their mutant characters. Both Jackman and Stewart have expressed that it’ll likely be their last time reprising the roles, and they should be very proud to be bowing out with the kind of tasteful, elegiac send-off that is Logan. And with this movie, there’s no doubt they’ve cemented their legacies in cinematic history as definitive versions of their characters.
(Not your average superhero action film,Logan delves deep into the titular character’s psyche on the last of his heroic journeys. Don’t miss this chance to say farewell to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in theatres)
Review by Tan Yong Chia Gabriel