In an early car chase scene in Logan, the title character (also known as Wolverine) is trapped, so he speeds his car towards a wire fence. “Hang on!” he shouts to his passengers. But the car doesn’t make it through. “Of course it won’t,” you think. “Real fences aren’t as flimsy as they are in the movies.” Except you’re watching a movie. You’re watching a superhero movie, based on a comic book – and real-word physics apply?? Yip, it seems Logan isn’t your average comic book movie.
Logan is set in 2029 – after all the other X-men movies you’ve seen (even the alternate timelines). The world is a tough, semi-futuristic place (trucks no longer need drivers and some people have robot hands), mutants have mostly died out, and Logan/Wolverine/James Howlett (Hugh Jackman) is making survival money as a limousine driver while taking care of an often-delusional nonagenarian ex-professor (excuse the pun) Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). As usual, peaceful times don’t last long, because Logan crosses paths with a young mutant girl called Laura (portrayed excellently by Dafne Keen). While Logan and Charles are haunted by the past, Laura is being hunted by mysterious men, and this (along with the car chase mentioned above) kick-starts an unusual family road movie: Invincible mutant Logan whose health and healing powers seem to be fading, aging and out-of-control telepath Charles Xavier, and the deadly but mute pre-teen Laura head to the north of America to find a mythical mutant haven called Eden.
Even though the X-men film series is pretty famous for swapping out colourful blue-and-yellow spandex for black leather suits, not even the ‘modernised’ superhero outfits made it into Logan. The film is very firm with its slightly science-fictionised real world setting, with costumes, locations, and props reminiscent of classic American Westerns. Charles even watches Shane on television at one point – a wink to anyone who missed the homage.
Shane is famous for being one of the first films to attempt to accurately recreate the intense loudness of real gunshots. Somewhat similarly, Logan is the first in the X-men series to not be limited by a blood-and-swearwords limiting age restriction, and you can really tell. There are limbs and heads that get chopped off, adamantium claws burst through several skulls, and sullen swearing enhances the film’s melancholic, somewhat depressing tone. Because as much as this is an action-packed superhero movie, it’s about real characters that we’ve gotten to know over the last 17 years, actually aging and slowly inching towards death.
Logan has more gravitas and actual drama than all the previous X-men films combined, and it’ll probably be heralded as a game-changer for superhero films. Similar to how the original X-men irrevocably changed the landscape for superhero and comic book films, Logan simultaneously feels like an end to that series, and a potential foundation for years of spin-offs to come. With a strong character journey, I can’t help but think that this is how The Wolverine might have turned out if original director Darren Aranofsky stayed on the project. It has beautiful cinematography that shows off the magnificence of American landscapes, while also reminding the viewer of classic films where framing and composition were designed in excruciating detail.
Although Logan is a much more realistic, dramatic film than the average superhero fare, it’s not a complete departure from tradition. It’s a little grey at times, but you can clearly tell who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and there’s a fairly predictable sense of what’s going to happen. It’s great that they didn’t go the X-men: Apocalypse route and try to overdo the last film’s climax with a world-encompassing event, but you still know that Logan leads up to an ultimate showdown between good guys and bad guys. It treats a fairly silly concept (indestructible mutant with metal claws) as a real, relatable hero, but also sneaks in some classic X-men sci-fi concepts (though they neatly avoid using the word “clone”, instead opting for terms like “genetic source” to reach the same end). And as much as “road movie” is an unconventional genre for a superhero story, it follows the same action sequence/dialogue sequence pattern that we’ve become accomplished at predicting.
Logan isn’t a world-changing revival of the superhero genre, but it’s a welcome, fresh look at old characters (seriously, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart have been playing these parts for 17 years). It’s well worth your time and money, and could be seen as a fitting conclusion for the 9-film series. Logan is a touching character-based film that doesn’t spoon-feed the audience, includes action aplenty, deals with personal demons, and even manages to give us a few fights and chase sequences that don’t feel ripped off from other movies – in short, it’s exactly what X-men Origins: Wolverine was supposed to be. Finally, the man comes around.
Logan is directed by James Mangold, and stars Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen. It is in cinemas from Friday 3 March, with preview screenings from 1 March.