As film fans, there’s always a handful of films that we allow to pass us by. This isn’t usually a comment on their quality or our willingness to enjoy them – sometimes, we’re just a little late to the party.
Despite being a lifelong X-Men fan, Logan was a film that eluded me for a number of years. Part of my reasoning for avoiding it was that I simply wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Hugh Jackman’s turn as the titular character, and another part was that I really didn’t believe it could live up to the hype. Four years on from its release and my expectations finally seemed to have lowered enough to watch Logan.
From its opening scene, Logan is far more visceral than its X-Men predecessors or its MCU counterparts. This is evident not just in its action sequences – which are brutal and serious in a way that superhero films traditionally steer clear of – but also in its handling of its characters and visuals.
Jackman’s performance as Logan offers further insight into the character which was only hinted at in previous films. In Logan, Jackman showcases just why he’s one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, bringing a depth and vulnerability to the role that sets him apart from the ever-growing legions of cinematic superheroes.
Not only does Logan enrich the existing X-Men characters it uses, but it adds an extra layer of context to previous films that retroactively improve upon them. In this age of Hollywood reboots, remakes, and ever-shifting canon, Logan makes no attempt to rewrite or hide from the cinematic history of its characters, but simply improves upon it while disregarding its narrative as unimportant to this particular chapter of Logan’s life.
Jackman isn’t the only one excellently realizing his part in Logan, though. The titular character is just the central point of a multi-generational core cast, and each actor brings something unique to the film that enhances everything about it. Patrick Stewart’s 90-year-old Charles Xavier is frail and sweet, which provides an early contrast to Jackman’s guarded, jaded heroism. Despite his failing health, Charles remains hopeful, which Stewart portrays brilliantly. The third member of the core cast is Dafne Keen as Laura, Logan’s (sort of) daughter. As an 11-year-old girl playing a child mutant raised in a lab by evil scientists, Keen brings a staggering presence to the role, capturing the feral qualities of Wolverine (her biological father) while still somehow maintaining an air of youthful innocence.
The way in which these three characters are linked brilliantly captures the essence of the paternal relationships between Charles and Logan, and between Logan and Laura. Laura and Charles also share a softer, warmer relationship without the tensions Logan shares with them both. This triangle alone is enough to keep the film intriguing and touching, particularly as its cast clearly understood the assignment so very well.
Logan is more Western than comic book. Its raw emotional scenes and powerfully tense action sequences feel so far removed from other superhero films that to classify it as such cheapens its power. It’s an exploration of familial responsibility, but also of the fight against time that everyone one day loses.
Squaring out the story of Jackman’s Wolverine in outstanding fashion, Logan is a powerful film that carries all the more weight for what came before. Its deeper themes sit just below the surface, and are never forced to the forefront of the film. Instead, they shine through in key moments, making Logan emotionally impactful even as its titular hero (and his daughter) are slashing their way through hordes of bad guys.
Really, I needn’t have worried about Logan living up to its hype. It’s a beautifully conceived sci-fi Western that delivers a satisfying conclusion to the narrative arcs of one of the most iconic cinematic superheroes out there – and it does it without ever feeling like just another superhero film.
Summary: Logan breaks the mold by pushing the boundaries of its perceived genres, simply delivering a powerful and emotional story of an ageing man coming to terms with his legacy.
Highlights: Jackman’s nuanced and vulnerable performance highlights just how perfect a casting he always was for the character, and this shines through in practically every scene.