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Review: Logan – “We finally get to see Wolverine unleash his fury”

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While I have enjoyed most of the X-Men movies, they have never captured the essence of the comic books upon which they are based. Marvel Studios have done it many times with their Cinematic Universe. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow manages to capture the ludicrous idiocy and joy of those comic books that were never at the top of your buy pile, but you always enjoyed the hell out of them. Yet, the X-Men films and solo outings always seemed to miss the mark.

The recent Legion TV show has got off to a good start and is the closest in feel to an X-Men comic book.

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was always a highlight in the movies, but again we never really saw the character fully off the leash. There were moments throughout his many appearances when it seemed it was going to happen, but they were all too brief. Logan does this in the first few minutes, and does it so well.

This is apparently Jackman’s last time with the claws (although he could still possibly turn up in Deadpool 2). This time we see him in the near future. He is tired, old and driving a limousine. He is also caring for the elderly Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart – another highlight of the X-Men films), whose once brilliant mind is being ravaged by the onset of dementia.

First of all, let me just say that the many trailers and TV spots for the film showed only a very small part of the story. There are many surprises and events throughout the film that have not been mentioned. Don’t worry, I will also be keeping it spoiler free.

This is a dark, brooding film interspersed with scenes of brutal violence, that kind of plays like a Superhero Western. We have the old fighter, Logan, trying to do the right thing for his remaining friends. Something happened in the past meaning there are no more mutants or X-Men. They do a great job just drip feeding the information about the past through various comments, news reports and the like. Great to not have huge chunks of exposition thrown at you. The world we are in may be the future, but there is little difference to our present day.

It is a character study of an old man suddenly thrust into having to protect others and doing the best he can. As he is also the best there is at what he does, there are also some explosive moments of violence. Not too many, but when they do happen we finally, after all these years, get to see Wolverine unleash his fury. Having the higher rating for the film was the best thing they could do. We always knew Wolvie was a killing machine, but the previous X-Men and Wolverine films never really showed it. We always saw the aftermath. However, Logan is a different beast entirely.

As with actual comic books, the films based on them can go two different ways. They have have a close continuity with the previous films, building on what has gone before, or they can tell a self contained story that doesn’t rely on older films. Logan sits mainly in the latter type, but does have a few mentions of Wolverine’s past. Director James Mangold also took a little bit of Marvel history and placed X-Men comic books within the film. This is nothing new from the comics – the various characters have had comic books based on them within their universe. Hell, comic book writer and artist John Byrne was a character in the Fantastic Four story, The Trial of Galactus – but it does help build a sense of history and show the effect that these characters have on the world they live in. If superheroes showed up in our world, you can bet there would be comics based on them, telling exaggerated tales of battles and adventures.

As previously mentioned, within the first five minutes of the film we see Logan slice and dice a group of car thieves. Later battles have claws going through heads, slicing off faces and so much more. It is brutal, violent and true to the character. This is what Wolverine fans have been wanting to see happen for such a long time, and it does not let you down. When violence erupts it is swift and often surprising. Best of all it makes Wolverine scary again. This is a comic book character who is not nice. If you saw him battling bad guys in real life, you would be just as scared of him as you would the villains.

Yet, these are only small moments in a much longer film. At over two hours I was wondering whether they would lose steam, but the long run time works well. It means they can take their time setting up various characters and the world they live in. Everything has a chance to breath, with some great scenes that just give everyone a chance to shine. Although it is a small story with a few people involved, we do see that it is a living, breathing world around them with chilling repercussions for the actions and ideas of the heroes and the villains.

Boyd Holbrook (Narcos) is one of the bad guys, but the actor makes the most of what could have been a shallow two-dimensional role. Sir Patrick Stewart is supremely good as the elderly Xavier. This time he is not the confident leader, but an old man who has been worn down and broken by the past. Stephen Merchant plays against type as the mutant known as Caliban. Again, a small supporting role, but he does it well.

Then we have Dafne Keen as Laura, the young girl who gets everything moving. This is her first big screen role and she does an incredible job. She balances action with character moments so well. She captures moments of innocence with a simple glance and then flips everything on its head by just widening her eyes.

So we have a great story, an amazing supporting cast, but what about Hugh? How does he do in a role he has been playing for so many years?

Unsurprisingly, he absolutely nails it. There are many moments of raw emotion within the script and Jackman just does it all so perfectly. He knows the character inside and out, but he finally gets to bring everything to the fore. You can often forget what a great actor he is, but this is a storming achievement for him. Logan is a haunted, sad, lonely, tragic figure at the beginning of the film – a lone samurai, an elderly gunslinger, a man who just wants to be left alone, yet yearns for the past and the friends he has lost. Jackman plays it all beautifully. His scenes with Dafne also play so well. Wolverine has always been a father figure to various characters in the Marvel Universe, and in Logan we see just what he will do to ensure the safety of those he loves.

The only complaints I have with the film are that some of the shots don’t quite work. We go too close to the action or faces in a few scenes, when you want it to pull back and open up to take in the huge scenery and the events happening within it. However, that is a small complaint for an X-Men movie.

Definitely not for children, this is a film to sink into and be carried along on the road-trip through America. Then you will gasp when the claws go snikt and body parts go flying, before smiling at a father / daughter dynamic that brings humanity to the grizzled warrior.

If you are not a fan of comic book movies, then have no fear, Logan is that rare beast. A comic book film that will appeal to those who are not particularly a fan of the genre. The films are like the comics, they are not all just for kids and not always about superheroes. Sometimes they are just about a man trying to find his place in the world and do the best he can for his friends and family.

This is not just the best Wolverine movie, it is the best X-Men film and just a great piece of filmmaking.

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