Hugh Jackman made his name by playing Wolverine in the first “X-Men” film; he wasn’t the studio’s first choice for the role and at the time he was far from a household name. Seventeen years on Jackman has become known as a dependable box office draw as well as a talented actor in his own right, with lead roles in films like “The Prestige”, “Prisoners”, and “Les Misérables” solidifying his position as one of Hollywood’s best. With that in mind “Logan” had a lot riding on it; it was always going to be Jackman’s last turn as Wolverine – his last chance to play the character that made him famous – so it really was a career-defining film for him.
Thankfully his performance is filled with heart, soul, emotion, and most importantly a thorough understanding of the character that he helped to create. In this movie we see Hugh Jackman the actor rather than Hugh Jackman the movie star, just as we see Logan rather than Wolverine, and his performance makes it the most powerful film I’ve seen this year.
It’s rare that I leave the cinema completely satisfied; there’s always something that could’ve been better or something that didn’t really work the way that I wanted it to, but in my opinion “Logan” is as good as faultless. It’s not technically perfect because no film ever is, but it’s better than anyone could ever have dreamt it would be, especially given how average the last two standalone Wolverine films were. There’s a sense of clarity in every scene, and there’s a feeling of finality to the whole thing that you can’t help but be captivated by. You want to know what’s going to happen and you don’t want to take your eyes off the screen in case you miss it, which at the end of the day is the art of telling a good story and something that so many filmmakers fail to translate onto the screen.
It helps of course that Wolverine as a character has been well treated in the past – we’ve seen him go through hell and back in the previous “X-Men” movies, and even in the films which didn’t hit their mark he was the shining light, so when we see him stripped back we immediately sympathise with him and want him to succeed.
However, this film doesn’t only work because of what has come before it, it works because the story is clear, precise, and directed firmly towards a satisfying conclusion. There are only two options for how the story can end and anyone paying attention knows exactly what they are; either 1) Logan dies a hero; or 2) he gets to live happily ever after. He gets what he wants either way because it’s said throughout the movie that he wants to die, so the only thing left to do as an audience member is to sit back and hope that whichever way the plot goes it does justice to the character – thankfully it does.
The story is magnificent, starting by reducing Logan to a shell of himself and then gradually building him back up into the man that we know he can be. It’s quick to highlight that Logan is still a force to be reckoned with, showing us exactly how vicious he can be and making the most of its R rating in its very first scene, but there’s also a clear indication that he isn’t a well man.
In “X-Men” Logan explains to Rogue (Anna Paquin) that it hurts every time his claws come out, and this is graphically displayed to us very early on in this film as the camera pans down to his hands which are covered in blood and puss. The film doesn’t tone itself down at any point; it’s a bleak tale filled with tragedy and pain, pushing the idea that no matter what we achieve in life we’re all heading towards the same destination. For some audience members this won’t mesh neatly with their expectations for what a superhero movie should be, and as such the experience may be slightly jarring for them, but from my perspective the tone that this movie creates makes it feel more significant than any other film in the genre.
My biggest complaint about the genre as a whole is that the end of the world materialises every other week and the heroes seem more interested in spitting out one-liners than fixing the problem, but “Logan” does away with this. It invites the audience to see what it would really be like to be a killer with metal cutting through your hands every time you lose your temper – spoiler alert, it wouldn’t be very nice.
In my opinion “Logan” should be a benchmark rather than an outlier; this is what can be achieved in the superhero genre if filmmakers aren’t held back by studios looking to market towards a pre-teen demographic, and as such it’s not just a great film but an important one as well. You can take a larger-than-life idea and turn it into something real, something that can move people and entertain them without the need to lower the tone, you just have to be brave and make decisions which enhance the movie rather than the contents of your wallet.
Of course, you can have the best intentions in the world but if your film isn’t well made then those intentions are irrelevant. With that in mind, what makes “Logan” great are its lead performances; those of Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, and Dafne Keen respectively.
I’ve touched on Jackman already, but it’s worth reiterating that he is fantastic in this film. He knows the character so well and he’s able to express his emotions without ever overacting – he just does everything right from start to finish. Stewart is a brilliant actor and there’s not a lot more to say about him that people don’t already know. In this film he’s given more to work with than he was in the previous “X-Men” films which allows him to make the character seem worthy of the adoration that Logan has for him. He draws every ounce of emotion from the lines that he’s given, and he’s able to create some much needed comic relief in the middle of the film when things become a little overwhelming.
Then there’s Keen in her feature film debut. This was a make or break role, because if Keen had been your typical example of a child actor nervously delivering her lines then “Logan” would’ve fell apart. No matter how good the script or the other actors were the film rested squarely on her diminutive shoulders, because the film is as much about her character (Laura) as it is about Logan. She held her own with two of the best actors alive today and she stole a number of scenes without even needing to speak. Her performance was assured and aggressive, fitting her character perfectly, and she deserves just as much praise as Jackman.
After gushing about the performances and the narrative it should be pretty obvious what I think of this film. It’s exceptional from start to finish and I was enthralled throughout. The ending was perfect, Jackman was incredible, and I really wouldn’t change a thing about it.