If ever you need to win the argument for long-form cinematic storytelling, point now to Logan. James Mangold’s film would not exist were it not for perseverance, error and fortitude. A seventeen-year payoff, over ten movies, for the Wolverine, a character Hugh Jackman has cemented himself as in popular culture on a level matching only perhaps Sean Connery as Bond or William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Jackman is the first Wolverine and for many he’ll be the definitive one for decades to come. Logan truly cements his as a mythic journey, one not without narrative and production trials and tribulations over the years, but one they have absolutely stuck the landing on, in a way no other entry to the X-Men franchise has successfully managed to date. Mind you, that’s probably because this is 95% *not* an X-Men movie at all, with a far greater dash of Sergio Leone and even JM Barrie for good measure. It’s unique.
It’s also often moving, especially if you’ve been following Jackman’s character and the bigger franchise for nigh on the last twenty years. Endings are powerful and Logan is perhaps the first true ending to a superhero saga yet, even if the X-Men franchise has become so convoluted and prone to reboot that it can never truly end. For this iteration of the Wolverine, however, it’s the final chapter, and Mangold’s picture is acutely aware of the meaning in discovering true inner peace, discovering life, in the face of inevitable conclusion and overwhelming odds.
It’s pointedly not called The Wolverine 2 because it’s not *about* the Wolverine, it’s about Logan. It takes a cue from Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy in more ways than one, his films being more about Bruce Wayne than his alter ego; Logan is about James Howlett, the broken man behind the adamantium claws, and how he’s struggling to find meaning in a life which is solely about duty. The world around him is free of the majority of people he ever cared about, a world filled with greed & gluttony, in which his only tether is his oldest friend, Professor Charles Xavier.
In many respects, Sir Patrick Stewart’s role here is the master stroke and the key to why Logan is so profound. You could have left the aged Professor in the ‘perfect’ future changed at the end of Days of Future Past, continued solely with James McAvoy’s younger alternate timeline version, but Charles’ role in Logan’s final journey is truly meaningful; partly for us as viewers, having seen Stewart almost as definitively in the role, but also as a man suffering from a degeneration of the mind who not only provides Logan with a constant in a grim, washed out world, but also a sense of hope – especially when Laura, played excellently by newcomer Dafne Keen, enters their lives.
Her mutant powers are a vindication for a Charles at the end of his own journey, one now with as much redemption as Logan’s. There are strong hints Charles may have accidentally wiped out the other X-Men who meant so much to both of them as a consequence of his dying mind; indeed the scenes where Charles has seizures are magnetically conveyed by Mangold, specifically one breathtaking & tense moment in a Vegas hotel which allows for a genuinely riveting & unique action sequence. Charles’ journey is almost as mythic and tragic as Logan’s.
The other master stroke is how Mangold chooses a different texture to tell this loose adaptation of the famous ‘Old Man Logan’ comic-book. If the X-Men films are colourful with layers of depth, and The Wolverine was a play on the Samurai genre, then Logan is a full-on spaghetti Western; indeed in one scene, Charles & Laura watch Alan Ladd in Shane, as if to make the point. Logan is the damaged, reluctant, lonesome hero, almost a man with no name, charged to protect the innocent from Transigen, a powerful corporation with endless resources. It’s David vs Goliath in the most archetypal way and Jackman revels in playing Logan as a beaten, angry ball of rage, constantly weakened, constantly fighting titanic odds, and battling his own inner demons to find the will to carry on.
It’s all about Logan’s catharsis, after the great struggle he has faced between man and monster, James and the Wolverine, and he finally, literally confronts his darker id in action sequences as visceral and brutal as anything in pictures such as The Raid or John Wick Chapter 2, and more violent than any superhero story to date. Mangold plays the very meaning of the X-Men themselves into Logan’s psychology by mythologising their adventures into the world of the franchise itself – he doesn’t quite break the fourth wall but he draws a line between Logan’s journey and the overblown adventures of the mutant heroes. This is a world without heroes.
Or a world where Logan finally is able to find peace alongside the Wolverine, through the prism of his relationship with a young girl who represents a better, more hopeful future. Logan in the end isn’t just a picture about death but also life, about hope, and ironically for such a violent film, about peace. James Mangold, in tandem with Hugh Jackman, craft a truly meaningful and mythic ending to the first incarnation of the Wolverine, and in doing so have managed to deliver the most powerful journey since Nolan’s Batman. It lacks a yard of pace in the mid-section, and the villains are as hammy and unmemorable as in the majority of superhero movies, but frankly this isn’t a superhero film. Not really. Nor is it an X-Men film. It’s rich and different and with a strong understanding of its filmic inspirations and history, not to mention a great end to a long, winding story. Hugh, we’re gonna miss ya, bub.
★ ★ ★ ★
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