Logan: A brutal, magnetic character study
Logan is the tenth film in the X-Men franchise and it follows Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) in the year 2029. Old age is taking its toll on him and his health is slowly slipping away. Alongside Steven Merchant’s Caliban he gives everything he has to protect his closest friend – Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart).
RIGHT OFF THE BAT the film earns its “over 16” rating with a brutal scene where we see the quintessence of Logan’s character. It is simple in execution but masterfully lit with a neon blue illuminating the whole scene. You get the two most important things about Logan in just the first fight sequence – he is ageing and he doesn’t care much about anything.
We then follow him to his desolate home in the middle of the New Mexico desert. The introduction to Patrick Stewart’s Charles takes me aback. We see him in a very poor state of his life – he’s suffering a brain disease, which humanises him even more.
After all the mutant fighting in the previous nine X-Men films where he was the most powerful, the smartest, the one with the plan, he has become a shell of a man. He swears, he has become more selfish and his sickness makes him spontaneously act abnormal. It is a drastic change from anything the character has ever been in film or in comics. Both he and Logan are shadows of their former selves.
Then we are introduced to Dafne Keen as Laura, a young girl who doesn’t talk much but is somehow affiliated with the worn out Wolverine. Xavier senses that she is a mutant and that Logan should protect her no matter what.
However, the dangerous corporate rangers called “reavers” want Laura back as she had escaped captivity. You sense that something is fishy with her character until you realize she has powers quite similar to Wolverine’s. She has metal claws and can heal faster than you can injure her.
A lot of the film’s realism hinges on Keen’s action performance – and she pulls it off. Just at 11 years old she manages to perform intricate action scenes with just the right amount of feral rage you would expect.
The film succeeds in presenting a narrative that is easy to follow and yet, is saturated with layered characters. It is more a character study than a superhero film. Many describe it as a sci-fi western which happens to take place in a superhero universe. And that’s what it is.
Of course, the same was said about Guardians of the Galaxy, however it focused more on the sci-fi, rather than the western. Logan is just the opposite – it is quite obviously an action with some slight near-future tech inserted. It is a believable world which through Logan’s eyes is a bleak remnant of past glory.
James Mangold and Hugh Jackman had to put up a fight to win the studio over the “16 and above” rating. This usually means that the film will bring in less money, but will contain more f-words and bloody violence.
The results are stunning as the action is never repetitive and often surprises the viewer. The action serves a purpose here, it is not just a gimmick that makes a few million on top. The brutality is used to show how bare a man Logan has become. He is set on protecting Charles at any cost, because he is all that Logan has left from a time he was once happy.
Probably the most magnetic aspect of the film is the relationship between Logan and Xavier. They share a long history together and have been through a lot. It makes every exchange that more powerful because it has been building up over 17 years of X-Men films.
VERDICT: Logan is a film of consequence – something that is long lost nowadays in comic book adaptations. Unlike the formulaic Marvel franchise it breaks barriers and challenges tropes. However, the brutal nature of the action could be a downside for the faint of heart. Hugh Jackman and especially Patrick Stewart bring a powerhouse performance which should deservingly receive some award recognition.