In the age of evergreen comic book franchises, director and co-writer James Mangold has made a strikingly stand-alone piece that dials down the action and ups the stakes. ‘Logan’ is an emotional tour-de-force about ageing and the power of familial bonds.
The year is 2029 and the X-Men are no more. No new mutants have been born in the past 25 years either. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is working near the Mexican border as a limo chauffeur, after decades of immortality his regenerative abilities are still intact but not functioning as completely as they used to... Rendering him pain-ridden and aged.
The perennial loner has also turned caregiver to the ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) who is suffering from a brain disease in his old age. Logan’s plan is to save up enough money and sail away from all their troubles and, as is gradually hinted at, very painful memories. That is not to be for these heroes of old, as a mysterious young girl named Laura (Dafne Keen) comes into their lives pursued by nefarious forces causing the trio to go on the run and begin a road journey to the Canadian border.
They make up a family of sorts, Stewart and Jackman playing notes of exasperation and protective love for the other beautifully as surrogate father and son. Naturally, Laura takes after her father and communicates best with Grandad Xavier.
Remaining mute for the most part, Dafne Keen’s performance is pivotal to the success of the film, conveying a great deal with her facial expressions and body movements. In every which way possible, she is Wolverine’s cub with all of his rage, guilt and fearlessness.
A lot has been made of the R-Rating but, far from a gimmick, it effectively allows them to show the inherent violence of fighting with steel claws although swear words are indulged perhaps too much.
The action while on a smaller scale from previous ‘X-Men’ films is never short of exciting and little choices reveal some of the film’s humour. However there are real consequences to violence in this film and that makes the potential cost to beloved characters very real.
Anybody who has ever cared for an ailing loved one or reconnected with an absent parent may be surprised to see moments of familiarity in this comic book movie but will be no less moved. ‘Deadpool’ last year appeared like a breath of fresh air with meta humour and an anarchic attitude. 20th Century Fox now releases a different type of superhero movie again on the other end of the emotional scale but no less anarchic, an elegiac moving Western set in the future.
In an industry populated by ongoing franchises and mandatory sequel/crossover potential, this swansong reminds that a good story can be told in one film and when finality hangs in the air things matter and have weight.
Not a bad thing to have in a movie, even a comic book one.