(Originally posted 11th March 2017 - complete and total spoilers)
In our episode looking at Wolverine, I said I wanted to see something that dealt with the psychological aspects of living with these powers rather than just a series of action pieces. That is exactly what Logan brings us. In fact, if anything it goes too far. Great for me but it may well put off the base demographic of action fans. But considering the emotional investment in this character over the years, it will be interesting to see how the fans react to it.
The film is set in the not too distant future but where exactly it fits into the X-Men universe, I don't know. I've stopped trying to keep up with all that, and this film very much exists as a stand-alone piece. It's ultimately about the ravages of time and how age affects those even with mutant abilities.
Logan can still heal but those regenerative properties are slowing down, and there's an implication that the adamantium inside him is poisoning him. Charles Xavier is losing control of his mind, and that has disastrous consequences for everyone around. Logan has become carer and provider for Charles and it is this dynamic that is the real draw in the first two acts. Patrick Stewart is having enormous fun now he finally has some proper character acting to do and Hugh Jackman, as always, plays a delicate balance between strong and vulnerable.
Otherwise, the casting is fairly unremarkable. Boyd Holbrook doesn't get much to work with as a by the numbers bad guy and Stephen Merchant feels miscast, as he always does, mainly because he's not a very good actor. Richard E. Grant pops up from wherever he's been hiding for the last few years but then doesn't really get to do much either.
First major positive for me; no superheroes. There are still a few people knocking around with superpowers but they're not played out in the same way and even then it's mostly Logan and his young protégé who are really just super strong and good at fighting. The superpowers are kept so low key that it starts to become incongruous to the plot – the mutants on the run should be able to escape very easily if they just powered up.
But the important part of the story is Logan. He's not the Wolverine anymore, now he's just a regular guy with a metal skeleton trying to keep a low profile. His long term plan seems to be something to do with retiring and getting a boat, but the important thing is that he's broken. Not just physically, but mentally. He's been through wars and watched his friends die.
This emotional storyline is obviously crucial to this character driven plot but they do unfortunately make a bit of a mess of it. The weakest part of the whole film is a heavy-handed attempt to give Logan a paternal instinct so that he has something to live for. And more importantly, something to die for. Instead of having him and the little girl bond over their shared troubles and for him to develop a reluctant protective instinct towards her (we've already set precedent for that with Rogue in the first X-Men), they try to make it as if he should have some kind of in built genetic connection with her. It never works and it leaves the ending feeling very cheap.
What is good about the ending, however, is that they actually followed through with the ultimate sacrifice storyline that we have seen repeatedly bottled in recent years. It was necessary, it was appropriate, and they did it. Well done. No doubt that's more down to Hugh Jackman than the studios but whatever, it still counts.
The Deadpool R-Rating was in full effect and this is indeed much more bloody and sweary than previous Wolverine outings. It's something of a relief and certainly suits the more grounded and realistic tone that the filmmakers are going for. They do get a bit carried away though, as we see what must be about thirty different people get stabbed through the head and there are at least two decapitations. And as for language, Logan sits very comfortably with a fuck in his mouth but hearing Professer X dropping f-bombs doesn't exactly fit his character. But like I say, Patrick Stewart clearly having a lot of fun here.
The film is far from perfect and it definitely runs a little long in the second act. There is a very quickly abandoned sub-plot about a farmer who's getting grief from a local conglomerate who are trying to put him out of business by sending over some goons. But Logan soon A-Teams that situation. And then everybody dies. I guess we're reinforcing that Logan feels like everyone he gets close to is brutally murdered and so he tends to be a bit cagey on the emotional side. But we could have got there a bit faster, you know?
I don't think there are many superhero characters that could lend themselves to this level of introspection and character work and that's really down to the excellent foundation set by the first X-Men film and the complete commitment to the character by such a perfectly cast actor. Maybe we could see an ageing Tony Stark in a similar kind of situation but not many superhero properties would be able to pull this off. Hopefully that means we won't see a rash of slow films about retired heroes, because they would inevitably be awful.
I enjoyed it, but probably will work better as an anomaly than as a trend setter.
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