Regular Epigram Film & TV writer James Turnbull reviews Logan, Hugh Jackman’s last appearance as Wolverine
I just about managed to hold off the waterworks when I watched Moonlight, the stunningly realised coming-of-age tale of a young gay black man in Miami. Full of confidence in my emotional stability, I sat down to watch Logan, Hugh Jackman’s final outing as Wolverine.
In it, a bearded, battle-scarred Canadian sat alone in a modestly lit room, wincing audibly as he wrenched a single metallic claw from deep inside his fist. Cue the welling of tears in eyes – including my own.
Logan is a very emotional film. Putting aside the context of waving goodbye to one of the most iconic portrayals of a comic book character in the history of film, there’s still a lot here that tugs at your heartstrings.
Wolverine is still jumping in front of bullets, but only so nobody scratches the limo he’s renting for his job as a chauffeur. He still gets up after each shot, but barely has the energy to squeeze the bullets back out of his body. The wounds still heal, but his body is a wretched canvas of scars.
Also a shadow of his former self is Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) whose crippling seizures have left the world’s most powerful telepath waiting for death in a desolate bunker just over the US-Mexico border.
After handing him enough drugs to get his brain back under control, Xavier claims Logan too is just waiting for him to die. Heavy stuff from the man who gave Logan everything he had to live for once upon a time.
It’s little wonder that Logan carries an Adamantium bullet in his pocket. He once had a philosophical reason for doing so – it reminds him of what he is, i.e. a killing machine with a metal skeleton – but now it’s more of an escape route. An oddly comforting reminder that the pain might end someday.
Everything changes once Laura (played with brilliant, steely efficiency by Dafne Keen) enters the fray. She’s a young mutant smuggled from the clutches of a sinister organisation that aimed to turn children like her into superweapons, and her powers mirror that of Wolverine.
Logan is, in so many ways, a triumph
After years spent waiting for death to put an end to the life he’s wasted fighting for other people, Logan (with Xavier in tow) has to deliver this young girl to a mutant refuge on the other side of the continent and do the right thing one last time.
Logan makes use of its age certificate (15 in the UK) from the get-go; there’s an uncompromising brutality to every action beat that perfectly captures the inner turmoil fuelling Logan. The choreography is fluid and far more memorable than the turgid procession of set pieces one might expect to see in a solo Wolverine film.
None of the strong character development from other scenes is cast aside for the sake of a thrilling fight scene – instead, it makes the conflict worthwhile. Stripping away the near invulnerability these characters might have enjoyed in other instalments makes their struggles all the more captivating. Their pain finally makes some sort of sense.
James Mangold’s careful, thoughtful direction means Logan shines brightest in its quietest moments. Light and shade fight for space on the faces of Logan and others as they consider the paths they took to end up in such wretched circumstances, and struggle to confront the dark secrets that threaten to swallow them whole.
— Logan (@WolverineMovie) March 7, 2017
Xavier’s finest hour, perhaps, is a heartbreaking moment of introspection where he ponders his role in what (for the sake of sparing you from spoilers) I will only call an atrocity in Westchester. Another highlight has the three characters joining a family of farmers previously stranded on the side of the motorway for dinner.
As they sit down to eat, the audience gets to see these characters enjoy the simple act of living. With the future of their subspecies sitting a few places across from them, moments like these remind them of the better future they could yet fight for.
Logan is, in so many ways, a triumph. It offers Hugh Jackman the closing chapter his portrayal of Wolverine deserves, and once again proves the versatility of the superhero genre.
Charles Xavier tells Logan that “he still has time” to appreciate real life and the quiet dignity it affords those who partake in it. For all the bleakness of this dystopian tale, that might be the film’s most prominent message: there’s always something worth living for, if only for a moment.
What did you think of Logan?