‘Logan’: his heart is bigger than his bite

Charles Britton is impressed with Hugh Jackman’s last hurrah as the most famous X-Man

Source: Wikimedia Commons

As a self-confessed Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) fanboy, I had previously consigned myself to ignoring anything produced by Twentieth Century Fox which did not feature a certain Ryan Reynolds. Imagine my surprise when, after a maligned first attempt and a mediocre sequel, the final Wolverine film surpassed all my expectations and made me reconsider what a superhero film could be. Logan is a fitting conclusion to the tale of the mutant mascot, and though it relishes in gory extravagance, it balances this with a compelling and heart-wrenching story, one which elevates it from a violent romp to an emotional marvel.

The year is 2029 and, since the X-Men have disbanded, the titular Logan has fallen into decrepitude, caring for a similarly ailing Charles Xavier (with Patrick Stewart reprising the role) in an obscure region of Mexico. As Logan’s remaining strength decays, he is pursued by a stranger who pleads with him to take a lone mutant girl to the Canadian border. What ensues is a perilous road trip with a corrupt private organisation bent on weaponizing infant mutants ruthlessly stalking the trio.

To synopsise Logan in such a way is, to some extent, to do it an injustice. The film is steeped in a gritty atmosphere, from the makeup artist’s uncanny ability to make even Hugh Jackman look downright terrible, to the frequent brutal murders, from the dark filters to the close-up shots of people looking tormented every couple of minutes; the tone is oppressive, and makes a pleasant change from the more laid-back attitude of Disney’s MCU.

For all of Logan’s grittiness, however, it still manages to punctuate its story with frequent comic and touching moments. As a testament to Jackman’s nuanced performance, one scene where Logan experiences a taste of family life is particularly noteworthy and was so well-executed that it had me close to tears.

The Wolverine’s swansong is not without its own flaws, however. The villains in the film are uninspired to say the least, serving purely as adequately threatening fodder for Logan to slash his way through and as a catalyst for his character development. Shaky camera angles in some action sequences mar close-quarters combat encounters, muddying the detail. The MCU films handle this better, which is impressive considering how CGI-intensive they are by comparison. Finally, the structure and pacing of the narrative is formulaic and quickly becomes predictable: I learned to expect armoured vehicles to arrive out of nowhere for an obligatory action set-piece if there had been a lull for more than ten minutes.

Related  Two lonely people, one heartrending production

Undoubtedly, Logan’s greatest quality for me was that, at times, I completely forgot I was watching a superhero film. I was so enchanted by the poignant storytelling that I forgot that this was a film about a man with claws and regenerative abilities tearing up faceless military types. Instead, I was watching a cynical, tortured character develop into a father figure, overcoming all odds to protect those he loves. As the simple title suggests, Logan is the raw, stripped-back tale of a flawed man.

Overall, Logan represents a bold move in superhero cinema. By acknowledging that Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine inevitably had to end, Logan is allowed to grapple with themes of mortality, ageing, family, and identity. In a world where the MCU’s momentum is guaranteed by seemingly endless contract deals, origin stories, and crossover spectacles, Logan is brave enough to end an era in style. It is an intimate character study which champions the idea of fighting for something, even if that something does not seem real, for the people one loves. With how remarkably that message is presented here, it could not be more potent. In fact, Logan might just be one of the greatest ‘superhero’ films of all time.