Hugh Jackman’s seventh outing as Marvel’s cigar-chomping, claw-wielding mutant takes place in the near future. The remaining mutants are few and the landscapes are as bleak as our protagonists outlook. Logan is a tired limo driver, caring for Professor X (Sir Patrick Stewart) who’s mind grows unstable, to the point where it is considered a weapon of mass destruction. When a young mutant is thrust into their care they must transport her across the country to an alleged mutant haven.
This is a superhero movie with claws, in Jackman’s seventeen year stint as Wolverine we’ve seen varying degrees of action: from cartoonish CGI in Origins to bloodless but better in X2. Logan isn’t gratuitous but is the first time that the adamantium coated claws seem truly dangerous. It shouldn’t matter as much as it does… but it does.
The violence has its appeal, as does the language, as do the boobs. But Logan’s selling point is its heart. Although the X-Men movie timeline is notoriously messy, it can be estimated that Logan is around two hundred years old and two centuries of scraps have left him physically and emotionally weathered. On the run from a typical X-Men baddie (a gene-harvesting scientist and his squad of mercenaries), Logan learns what it is to have a family; something that has always evaded him. He also confronts, possibly a little too literally, his demons and finally accepts himself as a hero. The plot is in many ways similar to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009): shady scientists, dark reflections and dinner with unfortunate farming families. It is director, James Mangold’s, courage to finally take the character and the source material seriously that differentiates the two and makes for a sympathetic and tragic film.
X-23, or Laura, is a show stealer. Played by Dafne Keen in her film debut, she is the only down-side to Logan being R-rated. She could be a real icon for young girls who aren’t interested in princesses as she has the vulnerability of one with all the attitude of Wolverine himself. Logan, though, makes it clear within the first five minutes that it is definitely not for children.
A fitting send off to the character who was, as the core X-Men film roster got younger and younger, increasingly out of place. The draw of Wolverine and Jackman’s performance has always stolen the spotlight so it will be interesting to see future X-Men movies give a fair shot to the rest of the team and make it the ensemble from the comic books. Many call for Tom Hardy to replace Jackman, I say make it Dafne Keen. Jackman is the only actor who’s ownership over a comic book character is indisputable, keep it that way, let there not be another Logan but pass on the mantle of The Wolverine to Keen.
The future looks promising, comic book movies have become formulaic and that seems to be changing. Fox have proven with Deadpool and Logan (and Legion on TV) that if creators can take these characters seriously then audiences will, as fans always have. As well as this, in the seventeen years since X-Men (2000) was released, its audience has grown up so it makes sense that the franchise has grown up with them. Grown-up doesn’t always mean dark or violent (Todd McFarlane take note), it means drama, it means pathos, it means taking risks.