“When the man comes around”
At last – a superhero movie with real heart… (and not just the chunks over the knuckle blades!). Logan is a bit of a revelation. I was reluctant to go and see it, since a) I’m a lukewarm X-Men fan at best and b) I hadn’t seen either of the previous two Wolverine spin-off films. (Seeing the other Wolverine films, by the way, is not a pre-requisite for enjoying this one). After a long day at work, my choice was “Logan” or “Kong: Skull Island”. I voted for this one, and I’m so glad I did.
It’s now 2029. Hugh Jackman plays Wolverine, but this is not a Wolverine we have seen before. This is an aged and deteriorating superhero: his self-healing powers are waning; a limp is developing; and his fighting prowess (although still legendary) doesn’t show the stamina it once did. This is a Wolverine that is also an unlikely carer, looking after a mentally degenerating Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), now 90 years old and finding it increasingly difficult to keep his devastating mental superpowers under control. This is a Wolverine trying desperately to avoid the limelight, working diligently as a limo-driver in an effort to save money for the dream of buying a ‘Sunseeker’ and sailing off with Xavier into the sunset, gaining true anonymity among the boating fraternity.
Life doesn’t play ball though. A brutal encounter with a gang on the highway outside El Paso advertises Wolverine’s presence and brings him into contact with a strange eleven-year-old girl (Dafne Keen) with impressive powers of her own. The girl is being pursued by a “reiver” (Boyd Holbrook, “Run all Night”) supported by a small private army. Against his will, Wolverine is forced into a memorable road trip with the old man and the young girl that leaves a trail of bloodied bodies behind them.
For, be warned, this is an *extremely* violent film, with much dismemberment and ‘blade work’ that must have kept the prosthetics department busy for months. It’s also quite emotionally brutal, particularly within a central segment set in a “Field of Dreams” style idyll (featuring Eriq La Salle from E.R.) that you know in your gut is not going to end with “Goodnight John Boy” pleasantries.
The well-choreographed and frenetic action within the road-trip segment reminded me at times of the harsh cinematography and dynamics of “Mad Max: Fury Road” – a great compliment.
But the film also takes time to pause, in uncharacteristic Marvel-ways, for character development and genuinely intelligent dialogue. These interludes allow the acting to shine, and it is first-rate. We all know (from “Les Miserables” for instance) that Hugh Jackman can act, but this is arguably his best-ever performance: a meaty role (he actually has two in the film) that affords him tremendous range and emotion. At one point towards the end of the film I thought “this has genuine Oscar show-reel potential”. He will surely never get nominated – a Marvel film? Get Away! But wouldn’t it make a refreshing change if he was? Recognizing good acting, regardless of the context.
Patrick Stewart is a great Shakespearean actor, and here he also gets given full rein to impress as he hasn’t had chance to in most of his movie roles to date.
Claiming the prize so far this year for the most unusual casting decision is Stephen Merchant as the albino helper Caliban, unrecognizable to me at first until he had some lengthy dialogue to flex his Bristol accent on! A non-comic and dramatic role, Merchant does really well with it.
Finally, I can’t leave the acting without doffing my cap to young Dafne Keen whose mesmerising feral stare would probably put the fear of God into every parent of a pre-teen girl! Even though she has only a handful of lines, this is an impressive feature film debut. I predict we will see much more of this young lady.
Less convincing to me was Richard E Grant as the evil mastermind behind the scheme, who never quite seemed nasty enough to me to be believable: in one scene he could be calling back a dog that’s run off down the beach rather than desperately trying to gain control of an out of control situation!
Directed by James Mangold (“Walk the Line”, “Knight and Day”), who co-wrote the piece with Scott Frank (“Minority Report”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”… yes, really!), this was a gritty and well constructed movie. If you can stomach the gore and the body count (I would see it as very lucky to have got away with its UK ’15’ certificate) this is a rollercoaster of a movie that is recommended.
By the way, to save you from sitting through the end titles (although you do get a Johnny Cash classic to enjoy) there is no “monkey” at the end of this Marvel film. (I’m no stranger to still be sitting there as the lights come up… but many of the crowd that were left looked vaguely embarrassed!)
In terms of my rating, I’m not a fanboy for Marvel or DC properties, but here I award a rating I have only previously bestowed on two superhero films before: the quirky “Ant Man” and the anarchic “Deadpool“….
Fad Rating: FFFF.