“LOGAN’ IS THE final, tremendous, outing of the wonderful character created by Hugh Jackman seventeen years ago. Seventeen, would you believe? When we first met the wolverine, he was cage-fighting for money. It was a fitting symbol of the character he remained: a caged animal; a savage killer, driven by the demons of his mutant body, all barely held in check by the enduring humanity and basic decency of his ravaged soul.
What made that first outing of the X-Men such an engaging piece of pulp moviemaking was not only the superhuman heroics of its mutants, but the strong relationships that drove the stories: the father/son relationship between Logan and Professor Charles Xavier; his paternal relationship with Rogue etc. In “Logan”, this final fling, these same strong, surprisingly tender relationships – between Logan, Xavier and Laura, a (badass) ten year old girl – give the movie its heart and its impetus.
When we again meet Logan and Xavier (Patrick Stewart), they’re holed out, like bums, in El Paso. Logan’s a limo driver; and a carer to a decrepit Charles Xavier. Xavier, now ninety, has to be helped to the loo and regularly fed a regimen of meds to keep his destructive mental abilities in check (He’s prone to generating earth-shattering, mind crippling storms). Logan himself is a shadow of what he used to be: he’s old, tired, aching and slowly dying of the adamantium that’s cemented to his skeleton.
When these X-Men movies succeed (many haven’t) and why “Logan” works so well, the people and the emotions feel real. This emotional credibility enables the audience to accept as ‘real’, the hokum of endangered mutants battling corporate enterprise. The quasi father/son family group of Logan and Xavier, is served by a strange, bandaged albino creature, Caliban (Stephen Merchant, in a marvelous, barely recognizable role), whose abilities warn them of the approach of danger. Into this tortured trio comes Laura, a hissingly vicious ten year old mutant, also with adamantium claws, who has managed to escape from the lab in which she was created, using Logan’s DNA. (Daphne Keen, an Anglo-Spanish actor, in her first movie role, is Laura. She has a tremendous screen presence, and there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more of her)
They must all find their way to safety, either South on a boat or North in a new Eden, and escape the thunderous, scorched-earth approach of Transigen -The Corporation – armed with a new and improved clone of wolverine. Many battles, and huge loss of life ensue. (There are always sub-texts to these movies; in “Logan”, our heroes must escape one place of safety, Mexico, for another place of safety, Canada. The real danger lies in the US. Hmm)
Director James Mangold (whose oeuvre is a mixed bag: the awful “Knight and Day” and the tremendous “Girl, Interrupted”, plus the laborious “The Wolverine”) and co-writers Scott Frank (“The Minority Report”) and Michael Green (“Green Lantern”) give Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart very meaty, almost theatrical, roles. Gone is the imperious, haughty arrogance of their youth. They’re now crumbling, all too mortal men battling to stay the inevitability of death (a first for movies of this sort?) But it’s by no means a somber, lugubrious film. Mangold’s flair for well-staged action set-pieces, and the breathless momentum of what is essentially a single long chase sequence, keeps the energy high and the adrenaline pumping.
I guess next we can look forward to “X-Men. The New Generation”. But that script, no doubt, is still “in the works”
LOGAN. Dir: James Mangold. With: Hugh Jackman, Partick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook (“Morgan”), Stephen Merchant (“The Office”). Cinematographer: John Mathieson (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E”), Production Designer: Francois Audouy (“The Wolverine”)