Entertainment Magazine


Posted on the 13 March 2017 by Christopher Saunders
LoganHugh Jackman's played Wolverine in assorted X-Men adventures for seventeen years. The role's served Jackman well for money and name recognition, but rarely offered him a chance to stretch his acting chops. Fortunately, his apparent swansong in the role, Logan (2017) gives Jackman latitude for a nuanced, haunted performance more befitting a gritty drama. Then again, this isn't your average blockbuster.
It's 2029 and Logan (Hugh Jackman), Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and their albino aide Caliban (Stephen Merchant) hide out in the Southwest, some of the last mutants on Earth. Logan works as a chauffeur while trying to cure Xavier's telepathic seizures. Then Logan comes across Laura (Dafne Keen), an 11 year old mutant (and probaby his daughter), who wants his help fleeing to Eden, a mutant paradise in North Dakota. Initially reluctant to help, Logan reluctantly signs on as they become targets of scientist Zander (Richard E. Grant) and nefarious mercenary Pierce (Boyd Holbrook).
Unusual for a superhero tent pole, Logan opts for a surprisingly hard R. With gruesome adamantium eviscerations and constant profanity, it's a world-removed from its crowd-pleasing predecessors. Director James Mangold matches this with weary, downbeat pessimism; when characters aren't killing each other, they're musing over mortality. Between its graphic violence, moody existentialism and the road trip, it's probably the closest we'll come to a Cormac McCarthy superhero tale.
Hugh Jackman still has the imposing physique and acid humor which has served him well in eight previous Wolverine outings. Yet here, Wolverine is a beat-up old timer, slower to heal, easier to bring down, drinking booze and obsessed with Xavier. Jackman plays Logan with a weary, sick resignation, the classic antihero looking for a purpose yet reluctant to accept reality. His violent outbursts and occasional jokes are only an echo of his younger, happier days; he seems resigned to being the end of his line, until Laura enters the picture.
Jackman's beautifully matched by Patrick Stewart, who plays Xavier as hovering on the fringe of sanity, haunted by fragmented memories of an atrocity he unwittingly perpetrated. Stewart has fun bickering with Jackman and dispensing his usual koans, yet he's most endearing savoring fleeting moments of normalcy: watching Shane on a hotel TV with Laura, enjoying dinner with friendly farmers. He gets a sendoff that's both devastatingly emotional and shockingly abrupt.
If there's any significant fault to Logan, it's a story that occasionally bogs down in subplots and sidetracks. The long interlude at the farm offers some warm character moments yet seems superfluous and predictable: we know the family's doomed the moment they show up. While Boyd Halbrook, sporting a gold tooth and bionic arm, makes an engagingly slimy villain, Zander and his evil Reavers are poorly woven into the story. When a Logan clone shows up late in the movie, we wonder why the villains bothered with all those expendable goons. The final act in Eden often seems an obvious, torch-passing set up for sequels more than a fitting climax.
Nonetheless, Logan excels when focused on its killer fight scenes and character drama. As the movie marches towards its bleak endgame, Logan wonders whether his seemingly endless life was a waste, and whether his impromptu mission offers a shot at redemption. In most movies, this would be a trite enough character arc, but for someone we've watched for a decade-and-a-half, slicing, dicing and reluctantly brooding, it's positively heart-rending.

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