Movie review: should you see … Logan?

Hugh Jackman in Logan. Photo: Supplied

Hugh Jackman in Logan. Photo: Supplied

What’s it about?

In a dystopian (dare we say “Post-Trump”) America, Wolverine (now simply Logan) has left his superhero past behind him to work for Uber.

When he’s not ferrying jocks and jerks around town, he’s sneaking down to Mexico to look after his old mentor Charles Xavier.

His past comes back to stick in its claws when he finds himself having to care for a young girl, who is being hunted down by sinister government forces.

 

Who’s in it?

Our Hugh is Wolverine, for reportedly the last time ever. Here, Logan is showing his age, stricken by some mysterious illness and unable to heal as rapidly as he once could. Always gruff, he has become brutal and cynical – a more embittered version of the outlaw he was at the beginning of the X-Men franchise.

He’s joined by Patrick Stewart as nonagenarian Professor X, whose dementia has rendered his telekinetic powers “weapons of mass destruction”. Both are broken men, superheroes whose glory days are long past and whose legacy is questionable at best.

The jaded friendship between the two is played beautifully, laying bare the bruises, disappointments and love that characterises such a long acquaintance, without resorting to sledgehammer cliche. Equally affecting and underplayed is the relationship between Logan and his “daughter” Laura, played with spark and savagery by newcomer Dafne Keen.

Also worth mentioning is Richard E Grant as main villain Dr Rice. Never afraid of chewing the odd bit of scenery, REG delivers a performance all the more creepy for its restraint – more corporate cog than moustache-twirling uber-nasty.

Why should I see it?

Put simply, this is the best comic book film since The Dark Knight.

Where recent DC efforts have mistaken overblown sturm und drang for “seriousness” – and ended up boring and lifeless – Logan takes it cues from sci-fi classic Children Of Men. Its world is bleak but convincing, with the majority eking out hand-to-mouth lives at the mercy of the wealthy and multinationals.

Mutants such as Logan are a now a relic of a less complicated past. It’s a world that has turned its back on heroes, after an unspecified disaster involving the X-Men team (there’s no need to have seen any of the previous X-films and certainly no reason to watch the earlier Wolverine movies).

These days, we can’t move for screen dystopias, but — as with Children of Men — it’s the proximity to our own world that makes this setting so affecting. That and the fact that it’s populated with the most rounded bunch of characters to yet grace a Marvel movie. Gone is the tiresome Joss Whedon-style banter that defines most of the oeuvre, in its place tender portraits of old age, redundancy and a still flickering hope.

A post shared by Hugh Jackman (@thehughjackman) on

 

The payoff is immense. I can’t think of another comic book film — Marvel or DC — that has brought me this close to tears (aside from a few tears of despair during Batman V Superman). There’s a genuine sadness to be reaching the end with characters who first graced the big screen nearly 20 years ago, characters who are no longer the invulnerable, spandex-wearing supermen they were then.

But it’s not all about getting weepy.

The fight scenes are exhilarating and dangerous. Frantic, gory and shockingly violent, they rarely descend into the tedious punch-swapping of most comic films, where nothing is really at stake.

Even early on, there’s no guarantee our heroes will survive — let alone triumph.

Patrick Stewart in Logan. Photo: Supplied

Patrick Stewart in Logan. Photo: Supplied

On the other hand…

You could argue the simple story doesn’t quite earn its two-and-a-half hours running time. But that would be to miss the fact that the plot mechanics are — quite unusually for a comic book film —secondary to the character work.

Much has been made of the film’s debt to screen Westerns (with Logan as the last good man in a wild world that thinks it doesn’t need him), but the featured snippets of Shane hammer the point home a little too hard.

Still, these are mere quibbles. Logan isn’t just a great comic book film; it’s a great film full-stop.

In five words or less.

Children of X-Men.

Four and a half stars.

 

Image: Supplied

Image: Supplied

 

 

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