Logan

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Release date: 1st March 2017/Watch the trailer here

Logan opens in the year 2029, with its reluctant eponymous hero – best known as Wolverine to most – as an ageing, alcoholic chauffeur, who still manages to make short and bloody work of a gang attempting to steal the wheels from his car. The sadness of Logan’s situation is tinged with echoes of reality – Hugh Jackman has been playing the role of the adamantium-clawed mutant for seventeen years now, and Logan is his ninth and final outing as Wolverine. While the X-Men films have been known to vary in quality from excellent to awful, the two past solo ventures of Wolverine have notoriously sat closer to the awful end of the scale. With Logan, however, director James Mangold (whose varied past credits include The WolverineWalk the Line, and Girl, Interrupted) has not just created the best X-Men film to date, but one of the best comic book movies in recent memory.

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Also returning for the final time is Patrick Stewart as the telepathic Charles Xavier, now ninety years old and frail, suffering from Alzheimer’s and terrible seizures that are powerful enough to temporarily paralyse anyone in the vicinity. He is being cared for in an abandoned farm on the Mexican border by Logan and Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a fellow mutant with a tracking ability. Their solitude is disturbed when Logan is approached by a nurse working for a shadowy company named Transigen, who asks him to escort an eleven-year-old girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) to North Dakota and a safe haven she calls ‘Eden’. After begrudgingly accepting the task, Logan, Charles and Laura end up on the run from Transigen, who used mutant DNA to breed an army of enhanced soldiers made up of children such as Laura.

The inclusion of Transigen conquers the first hurdle that many Marvel films falter at: the villain. Richard E. Grant’s doctor heads the company, but it’s his band of murderous cyborgs known as Reavers, led by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), that present the real threat. Even so, Logan is a character-driven film, and its villains are less of a priority than its heroes. With the once-powerful Charles now unable to use his powers, it is down to just Logan and Laura to fight back, making for an interesting dynamic; Laura – who shares her mutation with Logan – is humorously capable but ultimately just a child, while Logan is not only ageing and an addict, but losing the healing powers that once made him near-enough indestructible. It’s refreshingly risky for a superhero film to have all of its heroes so vulnerable – particularly when pitted against Transigen’s X-24, a weapon which is revealed in one of the most giddily spectacular plot twists in comic book movie history.

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This huge emphasis that Logan places on its characters and their relationships – be it between Logan and Charles, Logan and Laura, or even Logan and himself – makes the equal emphasis that it places on action feel well-earned. After Deadpool paved the way for R-rated superheroes last year, Logan certainly doesn’t shy away from the opportunity for the language and violence that had always previously been watered-down to suit the X-Men movies’ PG-13 nature. As with Deadpool, the R-rating for Logan feels necessary rather than gratuitous, and it’s incredibly satisfying to finally witness the true extent of the damage that those metal claws can cause, in all their bloody glory.

If there are faults to be found in Logan, they all occur towards the end of the second act, when the pacing starts to drag along a little too slowly and a moment that should have been monumental instead feels disappointingly inconsequential. Still, the third act is remarkable enough to make up for these flaws; a welcome exercise on how to make a finale small-scale and personal (with not one imminent apocalypse or half-destroyed city in sight) while still maintaining a sense of threat and tension. Logan is a stripped-down take on the superhero genre, with the grit of a Western rather than the flash and flare of a Marvel movie, but still every bit as fun. No other film could have possibly made for as perfect a farewell to Hugh Jackman as this, from beginning to emotional end, and one powerful final shot, that hopefully brings a smile amidst the tears.

★★

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